Bell & Ross Falcon 50th anniversary

Bell & Ross celebrates Falcon anniversary

Bell & Ross’ cockpit instruments take off again. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Falcon business jets, the French watchmaker has introduced a retro chronograph as a tribute to the beautiful jet designed by Dassault in 1963.

By Frédéric Brun

The telegram was terse but effective: “I’ve found our bird.” It was addressed to Juan Tripp, CEO of Pan Am and signed by Lindbergh. The “Lone Eagle” had just caught sight of an agile falcon. In the skies over the Gironde department in western France, a white plane was flying under the eyes of the legendary aviator. The small and manoeuvrable  twin-engine jet flown by René Bigand was performing graceful swoops in a clear sky. It promised a very auspicious beginning for the twin-engine business jet designed by the aircraft manufacturer Marcel Dassault. Let's be precise: it was 4 May 1963 , the time was 5:15 p.m.

Bell & Ross Falcon BR 126 chronographBell & Ross Falcon BR 126 chronograph

The watch brand Bell & Ross was on hand and on time to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of this watershed event in the history of aviation. It was, after all, always fascinated by the world of aviation, to which it has a direct connection. Recognising a half-century of technological and human success and adventurousness was a natural step.

Bell & Ross BR 126 Falcon in the cockpitBell & Ross BR 126 Falcon in the cockpit

A Falcon for the Lone Eagle

Lindbergh's fame rested mainly on achieving the first solo and non-stop flight from New York to Paris in a monoplane called the Spirit of St. Louis.  The flight took place on May 20-21, 1927 and lasted 33 hours and 30 minutes. But when he travelled across the Atlantic to land in Bordeaux-Mérignac in 1963, it was not to reproduce his original feat. Rather, he was looking for a new aircraft in his capacity as technical adviser to Pan American World Airways. At the time, the business aviation market was booming and Pan Am wanted to serve each American airport and it also intended to take on the company’s competitors in what is referred to as “air taxis” at the time. Lindbergh was assigned the task of finding the appropriate aeroplane. He was not convinced by North American’s Sabreliner and others, like the Lockheed JetStar, but he did open  but was immediately thrilled by the seductive Mystère 20.

Bell & Ross BR 126 Falcon engraved backBell & Ross BR 126 Falcon engraved back

Ten days after Lindbergh tested the twin-engine jet, Pan Am ordered forty aircraft, but requested that they be “Americanised.” In other words, the engines had to be adapted to the American norms at the time and the changed to make it more pronounceable by American mouths. It thus became the Fan Jet Falcon, because Lindbergh felt that it handled in the air with the agility of a falcon. Pan Am announced it was ordering an initial 200 planes to be delivered in 1965. In June of that year, the aircraft was granted its certificates of airworthiness. The name Falcon stuck to all models, from the small but agile Falcon 10, which was almost like a kind of civilian fighter plane, to the great 7X, which could take businessmen and heads of state on intercontinental flights.

Bell & Ross BR 126 Falcon for 50th anniversaryBell & Ross BR 126 Falcon for 50th anniversary

Falcon was designed as an efficient, rigorous and rational tool for professional trips, while remaining a most coveted and sophisticate object of desire that permitted the user to travel in great comfort. Bell & Ross chronographs offer the same attributes, i.e., luxurious timepieces designed as top-drawer measuring instruments.

The outcome of shared values

The partnership between Bell &Ross and Dassault Aviation is only natural, and grew out of a relationship of trust. “We have known each other for the past ten years and share the same love for civilian and military aviation”, says Carlos Rosillo, owner of Bell & Ross.

“We have also developed other timepieces with the French Air Force and its the army communications organization SIRPA. However, the timepiece we created with Dassault Aviation was the true outcome of shared values.

Ultimately, the publicity generated by the anniversary of the Falcon, amounted to a real acknowledgement for the release of the two Bell & Ross Falcon watches and represented a launching pad for the young French maison founded in 1994. It was one of those lucky strokes that is somewhat reminiscent of the two  major milestones in the Falcon’s history: the decision by FedEx and then by the US Coast Guard to use these aeroplanes.

Bell & Ross BR 126 FalconBell & Ross BR 126 Falcon

Recognition time

In 1971, Frederick W. Smith, a young American entrepreneur, devised a fast way of transporting air freight at night. He chose the Falcon 20 for the task and placed an order for 33 units with Dassault. His aim was to service twenty-five American cities. After its creation, Federal Express Corporation, operated exclusively with these aircraft for ten years. It was only in 1982 that they were replaced by the Boeing 727 and Douglas DC10. In 1971 as well, the Falcon was bestowed supreme recognition when the US Coast Guard ordered forty Falcon 20 Guardians. They were outfitted at Little Rock, Arkansas, in a factory that still builds custom cabins for the planes assembled in Mérignac.

Dassault Aviation and Bell & Ross both believe that quality is in the details, the finishing and the materials. Focus on the know-how, the goal of both companies, is also vital.

Bell & Ross BR 126 FalconBell & Ross BR 126 Falcon

Rather than create its own calibres, Bell & Ross chose the ETA 2892 and 2894, just like Dassault put its faith in the Silvercrest jets supplied by Snecma instead of manufacturing its own. However, the watch brand did not forget Marcel Dassault’s oft-stated motto: “For a plane to fly well, it must look good.”And so, the brand drew its inspiration from classic aesthetic codes to design a chronograph that recalls the finest hours of aviation in the 1960s. The watch is easily identifiable by its polished steel case, its antireflexive ultra-convex sapphire glass, its 60-minute graduated bezel and its sand-colored hands, index and numbers. It is already a future classic.

Bell & Ross BR 126 Falcon wristshotBell & Ross BR 126 Falcon wristshot

True to the sober fuselage of the Falcon, the Bell & Ross designers happily avoided placing an ostentatious logo on the dial of this  commemorative timepiece. Instead, it has an imprint of the Falcon’s silhouette at 6 o’clock . The slogan “50 years of Passion and innovation Dassault-Falcon” is engraved on sapphire crystal case back. The brown leather strap, with its warm shiny hue, evokes the springy and fragrant leather that used for the Falcon’s cabin, a dream haven for the privileged few.

An unattainable dream?

Travelling in a Falcon is a rare pleasure, and so is purchasing the Bell & Ross commemorative watch, which was produced in a limited edition of only 500 pieces. However, one must not lose hope. A Falcon 7X costs 50 million dollars, but it also perfectly possible to rent it for one trip from one of the charter companies such as TAG Aviation (, chartering of the one presented here.

Dassault Falcon JetDassault Falcon Jet

The Falcon 7X is the latest creation of the Falcon series. It was released at approximately the same time as the Airbus A380. Since its maiden flight on 5 May 2005, over 200 Falcon 7X have been produced. This trijet can travel con-stop for over 11,000 kilometres. Owners of the Falcon 7X tend to use this autonomy to save time by avoiding refuelling on a trip involving several short legs. Sitting comfortably in the Falcon 7X’s cabin, it is very tempting to check how long the ground crews need to service the plane on the chocolate-brown dial of your Bell & Ross. Ready, set, go!


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