While there are many prestigious brands out there producing versatile ‘tool watches,’ few do it as well as Bell & Ross.
Despite a formidable reputation, Bell & Ross is still a relatively young company. Founded in 1993 as a university project by two friends, Bruno Belamich and Carlo A. Rosillo, Bell & Ross is a shortened, Anglicised combination of their surnames.
From the outset, the two Frenchmen knew the key to success was in collaboration. Knowledgeable, yet relatively inexperienced, they assembled an expert team of designers and technicians, each with useful skill sets to complement the brand’s ethos. They also formed a strategic partnership with the manufacturer Sinn, which helped them make their first forays into luxury watchmaking. In 2002, that arrangement came to an end when fashion brand Chanel bought a large stake in Bell & Ross. Concerns that the focus would shift to aesthetics rather than utility proved unfounded. Every model is a classic tool watch, and Bell & Ross never strays from the principles of Swiss luxury watchmaking: reliability, elegance, and accuracy.
To date, Bell & Ross has released three collections: Aviation, Marine, and Vintage. Each offers excellent water resistance, supremely legible dials, and precise mechanical movements. They are trusted for their timekeeping by people working in the most difficult and dangerous conditions, worn with confidence by astronauts, deep sea divers, and bomb disposal experts.
The Bell & Ross Aviation collection is no exception. As the name suggests, the collection was inspired by the aeronautical instruments found on cockpit display panels. The iconic and eye-catching design ensures that Aviation models suit both formal or casual dress, while also serving as an essential tool for pilots engaged in potentially life or death situations.
The Bell & Ross BR01 Aviation
The first Bell & Ross Aviation model and still the best-recognised was the BR01, released in 2005, with the BR01-92 considered the obvious classic. As attractive as it is functional, it has a distinctive square case that brought it instant attention, but there’s also plenty going on under the surface to prolong the interest. A 46mm diameter case houses an automatic mechanical movement, water resistant to 100m. The dials, either black with large white numerals or the reverse, have three hands, and allow pilots to check their flight duration or speed of ascent with ease. Everything about the BR01-92 suggests this is a watch you can count on, from chunky cases of carbon finished stainless steel or ceramic, to robust straps of rubber, leather or synthetic canvas.
Also set in that iconic square case, the BR01-94 is a chronograph with three subdials for even greater precision, for 60 seconds, 30 minutes and 12 hours. Bell & Ross expanded the options for case materials for the BR01-94 to include titanium and stainless steel cases.
The BR03 Aviation
At the same time, Bell & Ross introduced the BR03-92, a slightly smaller version of the BR01, at 42mm, making it a good fit for men with thinner wrists or those looking for a striking watch for formal occasions. The Bell & Ross BR03-92 continues to balance form with function, keeping legibility and precision at the forefront of the design process.
The BR-S Aviation
In 2008, the Bell & Ross Aviation collection was expanded with a third line, the BR-S. At 39mm it has the smallest case yet, which also features several designs aimed at women. Cases are of 18kt pink gold or ceramic, with ivory, black, or pearl dials and straps made of alligator leather. While these watches are clearly suited to formal occasions, their design remains indelibly linked with aviation and adheres to the Bell & Ross principles of legibility and functionality.
Despite their growing reputation as luxury watchmakers, no-one could ever accuse Bell & Ross of treading water. They’ve recently launched a 610HP concept Formula One car, drawing inspiration not only from automotive history but also aviation, as can be seen from its aerodynamic lines and features such as the glass roof and twin exhausts reminiscent of jet fighters. Could a B&R Automotive line be on the way?
More than simply a stylish watch, a Bell & Ross Aviation serves as an indispensable survival tool. This is tactical timekeeping.