This new chronograph by Bell & Ross was introduced together with the Vintage Garde-Côtes Automatic, and it shares the same grey-orange-white colour scheme based on the equipment used by the French coastguard service. The Vintage Garde-Côtes Chronograph could be described as a “sports chronograph” with a water resistance of 100 metres with the crown and chronograph pushers screwed down. So, like most chronographs, you shouldn’t use the chronograph function in the presence of water. The pulsometer bezel adds a useful function appropriate to the service to which the watch is dedicated. The case is 41 mm in diameter, in steel with areas of satin and polished finish.
Minimalist dial design
The dial is simple, attractive, almost minimalist. The chronograph seconds and minutes hands are orange and are read off functional scales, though the photo shows that this piece suffers from a problem common to many chronographs: the nice fat hour hand obscures a fair part of the chronograph scale when it is at the 8 and 10 o’clock positions. But the subtly recessed subdials coordinate well with the circular date window and the circular-framed ampersand that is part of the Bell & Ross logo.
The steel bezel is fixed, marked with a pulsometer scale with white markings on a black anodized aluminium ring. You just find the patient’s pulse, press the chronograph start pusher, count thirty heat beats, press the stop pusher and read the heart rate from the scale.
Self-winding ETA movement
The caseback has a sapphire glass window that provides a view of the movement. It is engraved with the anchor and buoy, symbols of sea rescue. The movement is the self-winding BR-CAL.301, based on the ETA 2894-2. It has a power reserve of 38-42 hours and runs at 28,800 vibrations per hour. It is a modular design in which a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module with column wheel is placed on the base movement. The result is a surprisingly slim movement, total 6.1 mm, slimmer than the other classic chronograph calibre, the Valjoux 7750. Differently to the 7750, the ETA 2894-2’s chronograph module is apparently fiendishly difficult to reassemble and so in practice it can only be serviced by the factory, not by a watchmaker. But the modular construction means that in case of necessity, it can simply be entirely replaced. It provides the stop-seconds function.
Price and references
The Bell & Ross Vintage Garde-Côtes Chronograph is reference BR V2-94, available with rubber strap with pin buckle (BRV294-ORA-ST/SRB) or steel bracelet with folding clasp (BRV294-ORA-ST/SST). It costs €3,900 with rubber strap, €4,200 with steel bracelet. Further information from the Bell & Ross website.