View all articles

Review: Tudor Heritage Chrono vs Bell & Ross BR V2-94

If you’re in the market for a sporty, vintage-inspired chronograph for around the £3,000 mark, the default choice is most certainly Tudor’s excellent Heritage Chrono. Well, it was. Now there’s this: the Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Racing Bird.

For a long time since its 1926 inception, Tudor sat in the shadow of Rolex. If you wanted a Rolex but didn’t have Rolex money, Tudor was the obvious alternative. Shared cases, dials, hands and bracelets—basically identical apart from the movement. Tudor was a practical choice, a sensible choice—but not necessarily a fun choice. That is until 1970, when the OysterDate chronograph hit the scene.

It was a striking watch to say the least, taking full advantage of the extreme 70s colour palette to inject some life into the otherwise plain and utilitarian brand. The most eye-catching of the bunch was the watch this Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue owes its existence to, the OysterDate Monte Carlo. Resplendent in blue and orange, decorated with chunky markers and generally offering a much more interesting alternative to Rolex’s ailing Daytona, the Monte Carlo demonstrated that watches could indeed be fun.

And the same is true today. The Rolex Daytona is suffering an altogether different kind of problem; instead of making too many and not being able to sell them, there aren’t enough, and everyone wants one. For Tudor, however, the story is much the same as it always was: great looks, great colours, great price. Whilst your wallet will squeal to the tune of £9,550 for the Rolex—if you can find one for that price—the damage caused by a Tudor Heritage Chrono Blue will be just a third of that.

Just in the same way you can buy an Audi R8 and pocket the difference between it and it’s Lamborghini cousin, the Tudor offers a less financially intense alternative, but unlike the Audi-Lamborghini comparative, it’s arguable that the Tudor is in fact the more fun, the more exciting. The bright blue aluminium bezel, the cream dial bisected by mirrored multi-coloured sub-dials, the slash of orange that is the chronograph seconds—it’s a package the Daytona offers no competition for.

And so it has been for a long, long time. Others have come and gone, tried and tried again, but nothing else really offers the same casual, comfortable, rugged wear that gets away with being both refined and laid back in quite the same way as the Heritage Chrono. Well, none until now, because there’s a new contender, and one that we perhaps did not expect: the Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Racing Bird.

The Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Racing Bird; there’s no question as to where the French brand sought its inspiration when it came to making this. Built to acknowledge a fictional, avant-garde racing plane also devised by the watchmaker for some reason, the BR V2-94 Racing Bird has landed on the exact same format, give or take semantics, as Tudor’s Heritage Chrono.

And there’s no surprise back story, no tale of a secret watch revealed to have come before the Tudor Monte Carlo that led to the inspiration of this Bell & Ross, justifying its originality and exonerating its shameless mimicry—it just quite simply looks the same. Given that Bell & Ross was established in 1992, some sixty-six years after Tudor was founded, there’s no innocent excuse.

It costs the same too; in fact, £50 more. £250 more if you want the bracelet. It’s what people who’ve seen TV shows about lawyers call an open-and-shut case. There can’t be any possible reason to go for the Bell & Ross over the Tudor, and that’s that, finished, over, done. Unless …

Okay, so there’s no competing with brand and heritage and all that jazz, but let’s be reasonable for a moment. The Tudor is built on a foundation of practicality and usability, so why is it 42mm wide and, more surprisingly, almost 13mm thick? It won’t be a problem for everyone, but for anyone who’s tried a Daytona on and turned their attention to its cheaper brethren, it’s going to be a bit of a shock.

The Bell & Ross, however, is substantially thinner. Even with its deeply domed crystal—a nice vintage touch, I must say—it stands noticeably shorter than the Heritage Chrono, and a millimetre less in diameter, too. They’ve got virtually the same movements, the ETA 2892, only the Tudor’s has a Dubois-Depraz 2054 chronograph module on it and the Bell & Ross’ an ETA module, making it a 2894 instead.

We’re not done with proportions yet; the Heritage Chrono Blue is a handsome watch no doubt, but side-by-side with the very expansive dial of the Bell & Ross, it can feel a little crowded. A broad chapter ring and small sub-dials give it a centre-weighting the Racing Bird avoids, which balances its own in a more equidistant manner.

It’s not all puppy dogs and sunshine with the Bell & Ross however, the controversial date window and aeroplane-tipped chronograph seconds flavours for a rather eccentric palate. But in terms of wearability, practicality, comfort, style—it’s solid. Okay, so the shade of aluminium anodising on the bezel may be literally identical to the Tudor’s but if the watch sits better on your wrist, who’s to complain?

It’s been almost fifty years since the Tudor OysterDate showed us that its watches could be more than just a timekeeper, and it’s enjoyed most of that in isolation. But now there’s competition, and as we all know, competition is good. The Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Racing Bird may or may not be for you, but with it nipping at the Tudor’s heels, one thing’s for sure—what we’ll see next is going to be even better.

Looking for a Tudor watch? Click here to shop now

Looking for a Bell & Ross watch? Click here to shop now