Though its 43mm size is not particularly vintage, and its gold-hued appliqué accents convey a bit more luxe than hard-core sportiness, this Bell & Ross BR 126 Sport Heritage GMT & Flyback nicely echoes the look and feel of 1960s aeronautic models. What’s more, its feature set, namely the 24-hour second time zone subdial and the easy-to-read chronograph, combine to make the watch one I’d happily take aboard my next flight to Geneva.
Bell & Ross’s many BR 123 and BR 126 models offer a less contemporary (more retro) design as an alternative for fans of the company’s emblematic Instrument square-cased watches, which have defined the company’s style since their debut in 2005. And while Swiss Bell & Ross showed its very first Vintage 126 models in 1997, actually predating the Instrument collections, the current Vintage design debuted with the firm’s Vintage 126 reboot in 2010.
The fixed tachymeter bezel on this new model, absent on the sportier BR 126 versions, cements the vintage look in my eyes. The impressively domed crystal and the brown stitched calfskin strap further reinforce the watch’s Heritage title.
That retro appeal is laudable and well executed, especially for a relatively young firm. But Bell & Ross assuredly reminds the public who makes this watch. The company’s dials, with the large 12, 3, 6 and 9 on the non-chrono models, are consistent among the case variations and allow one to identify a Bell & Ross men’s watch model, whatever its case shape, from across the room. So too with this BR 126 Sport Heritage GMT & Flyback, with its large 12 and 6. And compared to its sportier Bell & Ross dive models or aviation designs, this limited edition (of 500) model offers subtler accents and lower-watt luminosity.
But there’s plenty that glows here, even if it’s not SuperLuminova, which here is strictly on the minute hand and seconds hand. The bright case, back dial and gold- appliqué dial and tachymeter markers create an enjoyably luxurious limited edition. Some might prefer greater contrast on the polished case, with perhaps matte or brushed finishing alongside the high sheen, but the polish is an aesthetic choice Bell & Ross clearly prefers here, possibly to emphasize the watch’s limited edition status. Statement clear.
Inside, module masters Dubois-Depraz enhance the ETA caliber base to create a chronograph and flyback that each function beautifully, with smooth pushers and satisfying clicks. I found myself frequently engaging the chronograph just to watch the golden jet plane glide that is attached to the chronograph minute hand glide its way, minute by minute, across the dial. (See the attached chart for a BR 126 Sport Heritage GMT & Flyback dial layout lesson.) The flyback here is a true bonus that is helpful in multi-event timing situations, while the easy-to-set second time zone (simply press the small pusher at 10) makes life simple when traveling. And, as noted earlier, this model would be an ideal multi-time zone travel companion–especially after scoring that seat upgrade.