Land, Sea, and Sky: Our Favorite Bell & Ross Pieces For Any Occasion
Inspired by automobiles, aquatics, and aviation, Bell & Ross' latest watches aim to make a splash wherever you find yourself.
Ever since students Bruno Belamich (Bell) and Carlos A. Rosillo (Ross) founded Bell & Ross in 1992 as a school project, they always had a strong point of view. Since its founding, Bell & Ross' has been on a mission to create timepieces built for professional use. And to achieve this goal, the company has drawn deep inspiration from military and aviation history.
Clearly, they have been successful — maybe too successful! As Bell & Ross’ brash, utilitarian designs have been much copied or outright knocked off. To beat the cheats, the brand opted to break new ground in 2018 by elevating the technical and visual aspects of their instruments.
Introduced at Baselworld 2018, the two new Racing Birds represent a big departure from the B&R brand. In fact, it’s quite a unique take on the pilot's watch.
Since Bell & Ross has previously designed racecars and motorcycles, the Racing Bird collection was announced alongside a new conceptual racing plane design from the studio. The strong suit of this timepiece, available as both a three-hander and a chronograph makes for a simple but fun design that you can practically wear anywhere.
With a 38.5mm wide stainless-steel case (tiny by previous B&R standards and nicely proportioned here) crisp display, the BR V1-92 and BR V1-94 Racing Birds are a refreshing alternative to all of the retro-looking pilot watches currently on the market. There are fun details too! Like the micro plane on the counterbalance of the second hand. They are also robust (after all, they are meant to be professional tools), set on either calfskin or stainless-steel straps and powered with an automatic Sellita SW300-1 movement.
BUILT FOR SPEED
With its R.S. 18 Collection, Bell & Ross is aiming to break some technical barriers as well. For 2018, the company has once again teamed up with the Renault Sport Formula One Team to create three high-tech, high precision chronographs: the BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph R.S.18; the BR-X1 Chronograph R.S.18; and the BR03-94 R.S.18.
These avant-garde timepieces use advances in mechanical engineering and technical skill from auto racing. The brand made the R.S. 18 series leaner by streamlining the case size (down to 42mm from 45mm) and making the body lighter materials such as micro-blasted titanium, carbon fiber, and anodized aluminum.
Visually, the collection is linked by the Renault red and yellow colors, matte grey cases are fitted with a distinctive black rubber strap. But technologically they are separated by complications. The Bell & Ross BR 03-94 R.S. 18 has a straight up chronograph face, is limited to 999 pieces and priced at $6,500. The BR-X1 R.S. 18 has a skeletonized dial, is limited to 25 pieces and costs $21,500. And the skeletonized BR-X1 R.S. 18 Tourbillon is limited to 20 pieces and will set you back $189,000.
In 2017, Bell & Ross offered up a see-through version of their signature BR-XI watch. The marriage of the watch’s functional aesthetic and the solid sapphire case made for a striking and much sought-after design.
For Bell & Ross' watchmakers, creating a case from a block of sapphire was a real technical challenge, requiring difficult machining, grinding and polishing processes. On top of that, adding a tourbillon was just the icing on this complex see through cake.
This year, the company continues to innovate with this collection by adding six new pieces, three of which mix transparency with color. B&R is also pushing marketing boundaries by making two of these timepieces online exclusives — an unusual move when it comes selling highly complicated watches.
Of course, such examples of haute horology come with a price: the BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire is $480,000; the Blue is $480,000; and the Gold is $500,000.
To most folks, Bell & Ross is most associated with the industrial-looking square case of its aviation watches. In 2017, the brand broke the mold by using a square for its marine line — the first time a square case was used for one of its dive watches.
While Bell & Ross has been making professional dive watches since 1997, adding the square-cased, black finished BR03-92 to its Marine line was a big and successful move. For 2018, the watchmakers are adding two new versions to the family: the BR03-92 Diver Blue and the limited to 999 pieces BR03-92 Diver Bronze.
True tool watches, both BR03-92s are water-resistant to 300m (exceeding ISO 6425 criteria of a minimum depth of 100 meters), and have a unidirectional rotating bezel with a graduated 60-minute scale, an operation indicator and Superluminovafilled hands, markers and indices and anti-shock/anti-magnetic protection. For extra legibility, the ultra-curved sapphire crystal also comes with anti-reflective coating. They are also quite reasonably priced with the BR03-92 Diver Blue coming in at $3,700 and the Bronze at $3,990.
The last of Bell & Ross’ 2018 introductions — the BRV2-93 GMT— may be its most elegant. Once again, the brand is in a less-is-more mood. This timepiece marries all the functionality of a pilot’s watch with a GMT. It uses a bi-directional 24-hour bezel to show three time zones. Its 41mm size makes it comfortable to wear, and its clean grey dial, grey/black bezel, luminous numerals and markers and hits of orange on the GMT hand and signature make it easy-to-read but also stylistically stunning. It also has a very discreet date display, because you need to know what day it is when you’re traveling but you don’t need to have a cluttered dial.
The BRV2-93 GMT is also nicely priced at $3,200 on the rubber strap and $3,500 on Steel.