Bell & Ross
Bell & Ross (Est.1992 -) The friendship between two ambitious and entrepreneurial young men is a recurring theme in the history of watchmaking. A relatively recent addition to this list began in 1992 when designer, Bruno Belamich and business manager, Carlos A. Rosillo, two boyhood friends, joined forces, combined their names and launched Bell & Ross. From the beginning, the firm has been a specialist in military watchmaking. Today, the company’s collection retraces military history.
When the two inventors started their business, they began by collaborating with Sinn, already a highly reputable manufacturer specializing in the production of dashboard meters. Bell & Ross identified their newly created brand as a highly efficient chronometer.
The Company gathered a group of designers and aircraft control specialists whose goal was to create watches specifically designed for military and professional use. Bell & Ross watches are extremely durable and its designs were, from the outset, based on aviation instrumentation.
It did not take long before NATO and the French Air Force recognized the brand’s appeal and reliability. The French security service’s bomb disposal squad also became an early client.
To satisfy these initial customer’s needs, Bell & Ross created Hydromax, the most reliable watch in the world for deep underwater work. It claimed a record 11,000 meters of water resistance.
Simultaneously, the company began a successful resurgence of pilot watches that had been popular in the 50s and 60s, but had been since then relegated to the sidelines by the watchmaking industry.
Bell & Ross’ first watches were re-issues of Sinn models but carried the Bell & Ross logo as well as Sinn’s. The two companies ended their partnership in 2002 when Bell & Ross began its own independent production at its factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
In February 2015, Y-Jean Mun-DeSalle, a contributor to ForbesLife, recounted the company’s evolution.
“Since Bell & Ross’ launch in 1992, [the] goal has always been to create timepieces suitable for professional use that adhere to strict military specifications where function creates form, [earning] the confidence … of highly-demanding experts [who encounter] extreme situations: the French Air Force, RAID French police intervention unit, French Civil Security mine disposal experts, naval aviation forces, parachutists from the US Airborne section and deep-sea divers. [This strategy also opened the company] to a much wider audience of enthusiasts and collectors. Bell & Ross draws inspiration from World Wars I and II. (It was during the First World War that the military watch was born.) With [its] functional and utilitarian vocations, [Bell & Ross] timepieces propose an instantly-recognizable style (designs firmly rooted in the military watch tradition with dual complementary affinities for the retro and contemporary) matched with four essential principles: readability, precision, reliability and functionality.”
Between 1994 and 2005, Bell & Ross re-issued the Space 1 (1994), the first automatic chronometer to be worn in space by the German astronaut Reinhart Furrer on the Spacelab mission in 1983. In 1998, the Space 3 chronograph brought together many Bell & Ross proficiencies. It was outfitted with a screwed down, telescopic retractable winding crown – known as the T-Crown system – that enabled the winding crown to be fully incorporated within the depth of the case.
Also in 1998, Chanel Horlogerie brought a shareholding presence in Bell and Ross and, in 2000, bought a second increase in its stake in the company while Bell & Ross retained a majority holding.
In 2001, Bell & Ross unveiled a modern multifunction men’s watch Function to combine classic style with the modern movement’s analog and digital display. By 2002, they produced their first jumping hour hand watch with power reserve indicator. The Vintage 123 Heure Sautante was the result of cooperation between Bell and Ross and the Swiss master watch craftsman, Vincent Calabrese. Equipped with an automatic movement, this grande complication offered an easy, original way to tell time.
In 2003, Bell & Ross began marketing to women with the Mystery Diamond that concealed the secret mystery of its weightlessness where a diamond floats and turns between the crystal and the dial to show the time.
But, it was in 2005, with the introduction of the BR 01 Instrument, a wristwatch resembling an airplane clock, that the company truly hit its stride. The high-performance BR 01 reflected both modern time and a return to basics. It was inspired by both onboard flight instrumentation and presentation in a square-shaped case, with round dial, oversized dimensions, flawless legibility, and efficient functional design. Bell and Ross transferred the dials from a plane cockpit – the epitome in legibility and reliability – and adapted them for the wrist. These features have reappeared in numerous variations of the model in the years since.
Today, Bell & Ross offers a variety of watches ranging from the square BR-01 and BR-03s, diver’s watches that include Hydromax and BR-02, and the more traditional collections from the Vintage and Geneva lines. Men’s square watches are offered in women’s styles in the elegant BR-S collection.
Bell and Ross watches are available in gold, steel, PVD, titanium, and ceramic in a wide variety of sizes and strap materials such as rubber, carbon fiber, and leather. Bell & Ross watches are available in three distinct series, including Bell & Ross Aviation, Bell & Ross Vintage, Bell & Ross Marine. Bell & Ross replacement straps are also available.
Bell & Ross luxury timepieces are manufactured with precise GMT, Grande Date, automatic, and automatic chronograph movements, crafted to demanding standards. Men’s watches are also available with Quartz movements for those who prefer exacting precision in time keeping. Even as trends move toward larger watches, most women opt for the smaller size that customizes men’s favorite designs into excellent women’s watches.
In May 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that Bell & Ross will release 99 copies of its limited-edition Vintage WW1 Edición Limitada, a timepiece whose rich brown colors and Spanish text were inspired by a Cuban cigar. Its ebony Makassar case can even be transformed into a humidor. The Bell & Ross Vintage WW1 Edición Limitada watch was priced at the time at $24,000.
Only a month earlier, Bell and Ross presented the BR-X1 line that is headlined by the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Carbone Forgé. In the early 21st Century, forged carbon has been utilized in the watchmaking world and has become known for offering a different aesthetic while still remaining comparably light and rugged. Carbon fiber displays a checkered pattern resulting from the layering used in its construction.
Forged carbon is manufactured in a different way. Its irregular, unique surface is the result of how the countless short, string-like pieces of carbon fiber are “forged” into one solid piece, as they are exposed to extreme pressure and heat inside a mold.
Unlike most other materials used for watch cases, forged carbon always results in a completely unique and irregular surface – something that tends to work really well on more technical looking pieces like the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Carbone Forgé. The forged carbon body is sealed by a black PVD case back in titanium, while its unique silhouette is made complete by ceramic and rubber additions on the side.
The most striking visual elements of the BR-X1 Carbone Forgé in addition to the forged carbon case and bezel – are the protruding pieces on the four corners of the square shaped case. The 45mm-wide case appears to have a larger footprint because this design while also appearing more complex, high-tech, and modern.
Bell & Ross watches are painstakingly engineered, mercilessly tested and extensively evaluated. Representing an incredible synthesis of form and function in a finely made Swiss watch, each Bell & Ross timepiece is not only a statement of superb quality, but is also a useful companion for life.
From its very beginnings, Bell & Ross timepieces reflect the simple operating principle: “Function shapes form.” Efficiency, legibility, and reliability are the three words that define the Bell & Ross brand.