Bell & Ross BR 03-94 Rafale

 

You get your best ideas when you strip things down to the essence. That is literally what Bell & Ross did ten years ago, when it took a screwdriver to an aircraft cockpit to remove the clock, bracket and all, and attach it to a watch strap. The BR 01 Instrument generated a shockwave in the watch world and put the French watch house on the map once and for all.

 

This year the individualistic BR 01 celebrates its 10th anniversary. The extremely robust, 46mm BR 01 is an instrument as well as a fashion statement that is always able to evoke the right emotions in watch lovers with adventurous and non-conformist tendencies. When best friends Bruno Belamich and Carlos A. Rossilo start Bell & Ross in 1993 (the brand name is a combination of their last names), the BR 01 is still some way in the future. But the starting point of creating watches based on the ‘form follows function’ principle is the logical basis of the BR 01. The men want to create watches that imply and radiate masculinity. Time instruments for rugged divers and pilots.

 

World record

 

Equally rugged are astronauts. Because in the brand’s early years Bell & Ross didn’t have production capacity the company worked together with the German Sinn and in 1994 Bell & Ross brings out the Space 1, a reissue of the first automatic chronometer that was worn in space during the 1983 Spacelab mission. More extreme watches are introduced, like the Hydro Challenger. At first glance this model appears somewhat insipid, but upon closer inspection it becomes evident that the case of this quartz watch is filled with mineral oil, which makes this diver’s watch water resistant to an astonishing 11,100 metres(!), a world record.

 

World record or not, the company still hasn’t hit the big leagues. Still, the potential of Bell & Ross is being noticed. By fashion giant Chanel, because in 2002 this house becomes the co-owner of Bell & Ross. An important step is the realisation of a production line in Chatelain in the Swiss La Chauxde- Fonds and the subsequent refining of the collection with models like the Vintage 123 Heure. This watch, with its jumping hour hand, is created in conjunction with master watchmaker Vincent Calabrese. And yet, all this is only the run-up to the revelation of the modern classic in 2005; the charismatic BR 01 which, ten years later, still dominates the collection. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that the Vintage collections aren’t worthy of attention in their own right. The mix of historic functionality and carefully balanced aesthetics is highly attractive, and a wonderful contrast to the clunky BR 01.

 

Bell & Ross is available online in the Ace Jewelers eBoutique.

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