Watch Review: Bell & Ross BR123 Aeronavale

From our friends at WatchTime Middle East — who recently launched their own English-language website — comes this review of the recently released Bell & Ross BR123 Aeronavale. The timepiece is inspired by the regal ceremonial uniform of French naval aviators, but how does it fare as an everyday watch?

Bell & Ross Aeronavale - reclining
The watch is inspired by the ceremonial uniform of naval aviators.

The Bell & Ross Heritage BR123 Aeronavale is not the typical fare you expect from the French brand, known for its strong, aviation design aesthetic. For one, it does not have a square dial and looks nothing like the military watches the brand is synonymous with. Instead, the watch takes its inspiration from the ceremonial uniform of French Naval Aviation officers – hence the blue and gold color scheme. The Aeronavale BR123 and its sibling, the BR126 chronograph, sit within the brand’s Vintage range, which references designs mainly from the watches used during World War I and World War II.

Despite the noble inspiration, the BR123 has sports-watch proportions at 43 mm in diameter. And with that distinct blue bezel, the gold accents and brilliant blue color scheme, this watch does feel like something that’s halfway between a dress watch and a sports watch. Is that a good thing? Well, that depends on what you are looking for; if you think a dress watch is a bit dull to wear every day, then this might be the kind of watch that takes you from boardroom to the beach effortlessly. The flip side is that you could argue that this is too big to be a dress watch and too dressy to be a tool watch. It’s all in the way you see it.

Bell & Ross BR123 Aeronavale - dial CU
The bright blue dial contrasts well with gilt accents

The polished, stainless steel case has lugs that taper down steeply from the case, making it easier for the watch to sit on the wrist. The case itself has an unusual construction. When viewed from the side, the bezel almost protrudes upwards from the middle case. You can’t help but think the watch could have done with a smaller case size, maybe a 40-mm or 41-mm. What works really well are the gold accents on the sunray-finish blue dial, with gilt hour markers and numerals. The dial also features gilt skeletonized hands that are filled with Super-Luminova. The anodized blue aluminum bezel has a 60-minute gradation scale. It’s a well-proportioned and legible dial, the only eyesore being the date window at 3:30. That date window throws the symmetry off on an otherwise striking dial. A petite seconds subdial sits at 6 o’clock. The dial clearly references the historic military watches produced in the 1930s and ’40s. The case is topped by a curved sapphire crystal.

This watch is available with two strap options. The one we tried was paired with a supple blue alligator strap that gives the watch a more formal look. There is the option of a more casual blue calfskin leather strap too, but we are more inclined to go with the alligator strap, given the whole ceremonial inspiration of the watch.

Bell & Ross BR123 Aeronavale - flat
The Bell & Ross BR123 Aeronavale on blue leather strap

A sapphire caseback allows us to view the BR-CAL.305, a self-winding mechanical movement based on the ETA 2892-A2. This is a 4-Hz (28,800-vph) movement with a 42-hour power reserve. In this watch, the movement is modestly decorated, it is machine-finished, with perlage on the bridges and Geneva stripes on the rotor. While the finishing is nowhere near the highest end, it is in line with the price point of the watch.

Over the course of the week that I had the watch on my wrist, I found it comfortable to wear. It’s an easy everyday watch and that gorgeous blue dial does get a fair bit of attention. It’s not the typical Bell & Ross watch that we’ve come to know, but that’s also what makes it interesting.

Bell & Ross BR123 Aeronavale - back
BR-Cal. 305 is based on the ETA 2892-A2.

Manufacturer: Bell & Ross, Rue Copernic 8, FR-75116 Paris, France
Reference number: BRV123-BLU-ST/SCR
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Movement: Calibre BR-CAL.305. Self-winding, 21 jewels, 4 Hz (28,800 vph), power reserve = 42 hours
Case: Stainless steel, polished case, domed sapphire crystal.
Dimensions: Diameter = 43mm
Dial: Blue sunray-finish dial, gilt hour indices and numerals, petite-seconds dial, date window
Price: $3,300

For more watch reviews and features by Nitin Nair, check out the WatchTime Middle East website,

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  1. John jones

    This looks absolutely gorgeous! My personal preference versus the typical B&R square dial

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