The brand of Bell & Ross is most well-known for its aviation themed ‘flight instruments’, those distinctively large square cases designed like aircraft cockpit instruments. What is less known are their ‘vintage’ collection, introduced in 2010, and the ‘marine’ line, the third of their collections.
Last week I was invited to the opening of an exhibition of Bell & Ross watches at Gregory Jewellers featuring many of their 2012 Baselworld releases, and had the opportunity to try many B&R watches that I hadn’t seen before, including some much more classically styled and of a size more suited to those who find their ‘instruments’ a bit bulky.
Bell & Ross’ ‘vintage’ collection has two lines within it – ‘Heritage’ and ‘Original’, both with quite different aesthetics.
To start off with is, of course, the WW2 Regulateur Heritage. A 49mm sandblasted steel case with PVD finish, its bi-directional notched bezel’s ‘teeth’ are particularly large, allowing for ease of movement with gloves, and rendering it very distinctive. It’s actually quite a slim watch, so despite its size, it sits easily on even smaller wrists.
Also from Baselworld 2012 are the BR01 Alimeter, BR01 Horizon, and BR01 Turn Coordinator (left to right above). These form part of Bell & Ross’ more ‘experimental’ approach to the instrument range, and are limited editions of 999. One of them was actually a 1/999, which was an unexpected sighting.
The Turn Coordinator uses a disc system to tell the time, instead of hands; the wearer reads the time where the numbers line up via the vertical line that goes down the middle. There is a disc in the centre showing seconds, and the half-point cutoff looks like a plane (wings, tail etc) from the rear . The middle represents the pilot’s plane, and the original instrument on which this is based is relied upon by pilots to display the rate of turn, roll, and to keep the plane co-ordinated.
The Horizon mimics, as the name indicates, the cockpit instrument which monitors the aircraft’s position relative to the horizon, called the ‘attitude indicator’. The bar in the middle represents the pilot’s plane in the original instrument.
Unlike the other two, the BR01 Altimeter looks more conventional in comparison, with a large date display at 3 o’clock where the altimeter, which shows height above sea level, would normally appear.
If you look at the original instruments after which these are named, you will see the resemblance.
Another ‘flight instrument’, the BR01 Radar. Three circles showing hour, minute, seconds.
The 42mm BR03-02 Military Ceramic below is a matte khaki colour. This comes on a matching rubber strap and with a second khaki synthetic fabric strap with Velcro closing.
Two other quite different but still military-inspired watches in the exhibition are the WW1 Argentium Ruthenium and lighter dialled Argentium Silver have lugs reminiscent of the fixed wire lug military trench or officers’ World War One wristwatches. They are 41mm, manual wind, and very appealing elegant dress watches with beautiful grey alligator straps. These were some of my favourites from the exhibition.
The watch that I was drawn to the most was the WW1 Chronograph Monopoussir Heritage, which is the same case design, but in a 45mm size. It is automatic and, as the name indicates, a single-button chronograph, with 60 second and 30 minute subdials for this function. The chrono button is smooth and easy to use, and for me, more attractive than the stiffer chrono pushers used for the ‘instruments’.
Some of the other watches on display.
The Bell & Ross exhibition is on at Gregory Jewellers, 67 Castlereagh St., Sydney until 18 November 2012.