Bell & Ross BR02

Bell & Ross BR02 (Photo by TimeCaptain)

Bell & Ross… a brand to watch.  Pun intended!

I have blogged before about the need to know a brand’s history before buying on of their watches.  When you buy a timepiece, you are really buying the brand.  And with Bell & Ross, this was easy.

I first noticed Bell & Ross when a buddy of mine showed up to a meeting wearing a gi-normous, black with gold, chronograph on a big, bad black rubber strap.  It was…a BR02-94 pink gold.  It was bold, loud and….almost vulgar.  I thought it was magnificent!  My pal would later refer to this piece as his “F— You” piece and this inspired me to acquire the BR02 that I own today. But more on that later.

So after that meeting, I started looking at many B&R watches and the first ones that really caught my attention were actually the vintage military models- the round, 41.5mm BR123 and BR126.  Beautiful.  Simple.  Elegant.  Then, of course, there were the famous B&R instrument pieces- the  BR01 and BR03.  Eventually, I started to read about Bell & Ross and here is what I found.

Unlike Blancpain, Breguet or IWC, Bell & Ross is not even 25 years old.  And, despite the British-sounding name, the company is actually French and headquartered in Paris.  Bell & Ross is named after its founders, Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo.  Apparently, these guys designed their first watch as a university project and then had their first designs manufactured by the German watchmaker, Sinn.  Now how cool is that?  If you are looking for a cool watch brand history, this is it.  Young.  Hip.  Modern.  Fantastic.  I read that the very first B&R piece was the Hydromax, which set records for water resistancy.

And here is another aspect of Bell & Ross that appealed to me.  I blogged previously that I prefer “professional” type watches to jewelry-type watches.  I prefer divers and pilot watches to gold cases with tiny hands and Roman numerals.  Since the beginning, Bell & Ross have designed watches for professionals.  Just check out their marketing.  Their BR01 and BR03 instrument pieces are actually designed to look like cockpit displays in a plane.  Bell & Ross’s design principles are maximum water resistance, simple and functional designs, clear indicators, very high legibility and accurate movements.  This really appealed to me- I really liked these values and the beautiful, bold, simple designs that they inspired.

So I liked the styles and many different models.  The brand history was way cool.  The brand’s design philosophy was consistent with my own tastes and values.  It was time to find my own Bell & Ross.  I zeroed in straight away on the BR03 steel model, which is the simplest and cleanest model with a gorgeous black rubber strap.  But by this time, my collection needed something much more oversize.  While I was trying on the BR03 at my local authorized dealer, I noticed the BR02 Steel Fiber, which reminded me of my pal’s BR02-94 gold chronograph.  It was the same size and shape, albeit with a stainless steel case and a carbon fiber dial.  Wow.  A carbon fiber dial.  The AD actually gave me a better price on the BR02 than on the square BR03 instrument piece.  It seemed like a much better buy- carbon fiber dial, larger piece, more distinctive strap… The BR03 is more easily recognizable as a Bell & Ross and maybe even stands out more.  I really considered it.  But in the end, the BR02 Steel Fiber ticked all the boxes and it was mine. So I had it.  A Bell & Ross.  A massive Bell & Ross.

So why is Bell & Ross a brand to watch (pun intended)?  To my knowledge, they have not yet started doing their own manufacture movements yet.  But they are making beautiful stuff.  Google them.  Check out their ads in magazines.  Their newer watches seem to be getting more and more high end, like the new Monopoussoir.  They have a lot of retro military-style pieces which appeal to me (see my previous blog).  They also have all of the high-tech modern stuff like my BR02.  Bell & Ross have a cool and young history and a nice philosophy.

If you are in the market for a new timepiece, perhaps Bell & Ross is worth a look.  I think that Bell & Ross carries sufficient snob value.  It ain’t Rolex, but I don’t think you’ll be embarrassed if you show up to a party wearing a BR03 instrument piece.  The pleasure, of course, is always in the search.  Happy shopping.

Yours truly,

TimeCaptain