Last time we talked here at WCL about Bell & Ross was back in 2017 when the brand had just released its BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire —you can read our review here. Disappointed by seeing the brand trying too hard to conquer uncharted territory in a price point that doesn’t match their brand essence and product offering, we decided to take a hiatus at reviewing any of their watches. However, with the release of the BR V2-94 Garde-Côtes, the brand picked our interest one more time by going back to their basics and what they’re well known for, making good looking watches that won’t break the bank and that give you a little bit more than a TAG Heuer, a Longines or a Baume & Mercier would give you just to name a few.
The Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Garde-Côtes sticks to the brand’s association to aviation, by honoring the French Coastguard —Garde-Côtes— who are known to pilot grey and orange rescue helicopters. Available with a stainless steel bracelet or a tropic rubber strap like the one we have here, the watch is flawlessly executed with a nice vintage and somewhat military look and feel.
Things to Know About the Watch
Not only the Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Garde-Côtes features a beautiful color combination with grey, white, black and orange but this watch also capitalizes on its vintage feel thanks to its ultra-domed sapphire crystal and its steel bezel with anodised black aluminium ring with a very vintage pulsometer scale. The case measuring 41 mm in diameter —in reality 41.6 mm—, features screw-down crown and screwed-in pushers. The icing on the cake here is the pulsometer bezel with a scale for 30 beats.
Originally, designed for the medical field, a bezel with a pulsometer scale allows for someone to easily calculate the heart rate —without waiting a full minute— of a person by starting the chronograph, counting a predetermined number of heart beats —in this case 30—, stopping the chronograph and then looking at the scale on the bezel for the right reading. I.e. If someone has a heart rate of 120, the time elapsed between the start of the chronograph and the count of 30 beats would be of 15 seconds.
As far as the dial, the grey matte dial is very nicely done and well-balanced with a 30-minute chrono register at 9 o’clock, running seconds at 6 and a conveniently located date aperture between 4 and 5 o'clock. Both registers are recessed and snailed. Creating a highly contrasting symphony, the dial features an orange outline on its periphery that is further enhanced by a nice white minute track. The central chronograph seconds hand as well as the minute chrono hand are orange to add to the visual appeal. The 12 and 6 numerals as well as the indices and hands are coated and filled with white superluminova.
Also available on a stainless steel bracelet —for only $300 USD more—, the Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Garde-Côtes ref. BRV294-ORA-ST/SRB is equipped with a black tropic rubber strap with pin buckle that gives the watch a strong vintage sports watch feel. For those of you concerned about the quality of the strap, let us tell you that the strap is very soft, malleable and comfortable. For those of you with smaller wrists, Bell & Ross offers three different sizes for a perfect fit.
Under the hood, nothing impressive in terms of finishes and not an in-house calibre either. However, the calibre BR-CAL.301 powering the Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Garde-Côtes is a very reliable Swiss automatic movement with a 48-hour power reserve. While the movement doesn’t feature ‘haute horlogerie’ finishes, it is still very nicely finished in line with its price point. The sapphire crystal display case back bears a black imprint with an anchor and the words Garde-Côtes.
On the Wrist & Pricing
On the wrist, the Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Garde-Côtes wears comfortably but slightly larger and more like a 42 mm watch. A great modern watch with a vintage look and feel for those that want a cheap daily beater that can still strike up a conversation with other watch collectors. At first glance and without seeing the brand name on the dial, one would think that this watch is some sort of an old stock 'safe queen' from the early mid-60s. A great looking timepiece that won’t break the bank and perfectly priced in line with its lineage and craftsmanship.
Sticker Price $4,300 USD —on strap. Add $300 USD for the bracelet model which doesn’t include a rubber strap. For more info on Bell & Ross click here.