I’m a lumatic. I like nothing better than wearing a highly luminous watch looking out across a glittering nighttime cityscape (a lume with a view). I depend on a luminous watch when I wake up in the middle of the night wondering how much time’s left before daybreak. Like Racer88, a glowing watch fills me with childlike wonder. So why don’t I like the Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-94 FULL LUM? Let’s start with my antipathy to chronographs . . .
I don’t see the point of a watch with a stopwatch function. It’s not that I don’t time pasta. I simply prefer to wear a [highly luminous] watch with a rotating bezel (the B&R’s bezel’s fixed). Or tell Siri or Alexa to ping me when Al Dente is In Da House. Repeatedly peering at little subdials that I can’t read without removing my glasses and bringing the watch face two inches from my eyeballs? Hard pass.
Not to belabor the point (much), tri-compax (three subdial) chronographs are particularly vexing. Six-handed watches like the OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional Chronograph make reading elapsed time more challenging than Finnegans Wake, and eliminate time-at-a-glance-ability.
The Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-94 FULL LUM dodges that bullet with its far its bi-compax (two subdial) layout. Chrono legibility is vastly improved, but it still doesn’t flick my BIC.
Is any of that important? I’m a cantankerous curmudgeon and die-hard minimalist. Equally, people don’t buy chronographs to time things. Just as divers use dive computers rather than dive watches, people who need to time an event precisely rely on electronic technology.
Chronographs are a vintage play, just like watches equipped with the poster child for useless complications, the tourbillon.
Consumers buy chronos up and down the price ladder ($53,100 Audemars Piguet [Re]Master One above) because they harken back to a time when horse trainers had to measure doped-up equines’ speed with a mechanical device. And/or they heart subsidizing the skills needed to make such an antiquated machine.
Don’t get me wrong: upsized neo-vintage timepieces offer classic style with modern reliability. Hats off to anyone who uses their hard-earned money to patronize (in the nice sense of the word) old school watchmaking. For whatever reason, upsized horological neo-nostalgia is all the rage. B&R knows this well enough to serve-up no less than thirteen 41mm BR V2-94 “vintage” chronographs.
Ah, but one of these things is not like the other, and I’m not talking about a $600 price premium or limited availability (250 pieces). I’m referring to the fact that the FULL LUME chrono doesn’t look vintage.
Well, it can’t look vintage. Watch luminosity dates back the early 1900’s (beginning with deadly radium). Longines released the first wrist-borne stopwatch in 1913. While there’ve been luminous chronographs in the intervening 108 years, only the hands and indices got the glow-in-the-dark treatment.
Full dial illumination wasn’t a big thing until Timex’s Indiglo Ironman. “OK Boomer” me all you want, but I don’t consider a watch whose style dates back to 1992 “vintage.” If I want a watch with a pseudo-vintage + glowy face combo, it’s a Timex Easy Reader all day long (and well into the night). Sure it’s as common as muck, bland as toast and cheap as chips. But at least it doesn’t look like canary sick.
If I have to describe the Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-94 FULL LUM’s cognitive dissonance in a word, I’m going with “cartoon.”
In its “review,” HoDinkee used a B&R product shot showing a model wearing a lurid lime colored jacket – a piece of sartorial splendor that only a drug-crazed soy boy would wear. What does that tell you? It tells me that the Vintage FULL LUME isn’t a good match for normal clothes and the words “attention grabbing” don’t mean what HoDinkee and Bell & Ross want them to mean.
In natural light, the watch’s luminescent green face, pale yellow Super-LumiNova-filled indices and black markings create a vibe that’s as subtle as a signal flare. In the dark, the dial loses its green face – thankfully – the major indices remain metallized pale yellow, and the 30 minute chronograph counter turns blue. Why blue? Why not? In other words, cheap sensation.
Not so cheap, eh Mr. Bond? The BR V2-94 Full LUM costs $5100. That’s a lot of coin for a watch powered by a modified ETA 2894-2 movement. [Note from watchwiki.com: “Unlike the Valjoux, which can be serviced by a watchmaker, the 2894-2 chronograph module is only serviceable by the factory. Repairs typically consist of replacing the module entirely.] A watch whose light show wouldn’t be out of place at a country fair.
Oh it’s comfortable enough on its waterproof rubber strap. Sporting screw down pushers and crown, the Chrono FULL LUME is good-to-glow down to 100m. That said, the 300m water resistant dual tone Diver FULL LUME serves an obvious purpose: underwater legibility. B&R’s glowy green chronograph makes about as much sense as colorizing Citizen Kane.
Lighten up (so to speak)! It’s fun! Fair enough. If you’re looking for a well-made novelty watch for novelty’s sake, the Bell & Ross Vintage FULL LUM is a sensible choice – assuming sense and sensibility has anything to do with it. Just remember there are less expensive, more coherent horological night lights. And you don’t own any lime colored clothing.
Model: Bell & Ross Vintage BR V2-94 FULL LUM (limited 250 pieces)
Case: Satin-finished and polished steel
Bezel: Fixed anodised black aluminium ring with 60-minute scale
Crown/pushers: Screw down
Dial: Luminescent green Super-LumiNova®. Numerals and indices coated in Super-LumiNova®. Metal skeletonised Super-LumiNova®-filled hour, minute and seconds hands.
Crystal: “Ultra-domed” sapphire with anti-reflective coating
Movement: Automatic mechanical Caliber BR-CAL.301 (modified ETA 2894-2)
Power reserve: 42 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock and date. Chronograph: 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, central chronograph seconds
Water-resistance: 100 metres
Strap: Black rubber
Buckle: Pin, satin-finished and polished steel
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Cartoonish, slightly sickly hues on a vintage vibe chrono.
Legibility * * * * *
Gotta admit, it’s easy to tell the time.
Comfort * * * * *
A bit thick, but then who isn’t?
Overall * *
Nicely made novelty watch that has no business existing (hence limited edition) that costs a bomb (five grand). Still, if you’re a well-heeled lumatic who wants something different, here it is.
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I was actually expecting a positive review, but happy to hear the truth about watches. The LE 250 have been gone for a bit of time now, maybe only to reviewers but I tend to doubt it. I agree about the superfluousness? of the chronograph complication and only own one that sees little to no wrist time. But to have a useable stopwatch in the dark? $5100 seems like a deal, NOT. It is about the lume though isn’t it. Is it fun enough, bright enough, cool enough, interesting enough for the price and cachet of the brand? Eh, not for me. I almost pulled the trigger on a cheap Chinese double tourbillon though, so my opinion counts for diddly squat.
Hodinkee did a pretty neat trick of offsetting the lemon chiffon dial color via a lemony backdrop. I might not have caught that chicanery if the hue were not pointed out here.
To be fair, it’ a Bell & Ross product shot.
It didn’t think that looked like the H’s house style. Regardless, that color choice seems very deliberately chosen to lessen the true hue of the dial.
I have never had the lume work at night on a mechanical watch, how does yours hold up throughout?
Hit it with a high powered flashlight before you turn in.
Or get ya one of them there nifty ultraviolet flashlights. (I have one)
I see the YouTubers using the UV light for quick charging. I have one from Harbor Frieght, SKU 63931, and it clearly does the job well, but I don’t know why.
Harbor Freight?! Heresy!
Luminescent materials glow as a reaction to ultraviolet light. The advantage of a UV flashlight is that is a much higher concentration of UV light than full-spectrum sources. That’s why the sun is better than artificial “full spectrum” light (incandescent / fluorescent lamps)… higher concentration of UV light.