Watches / August 2018

Bell & Ross x The Rake x Revolution Bellytanker Chronographs

Limited to 100 pieces each, the exclusive Bell & Ross x The Rake and Revolution Bellytanker Chronographs are the ultimate tropical-themed timepieces and are available to purchase now.

Left: Bellytanker “Dusty” Chronograph, Bell & Ross X The Rake and Revolution. Right:Bellytanker “El Mirage” Chronograph, Bell & Ross X The Rake and Revolution.

I have always cherished masters of self-invention, from David Bowie to Archie Leach. But what do Ziggy Stardust, and the irrepressibly suave Cary Grant have in common with the watch brand Bell & Ross? They’ve never let history get in their way. Rather they captured and bottled the zeitgeist of their respective eras, plotting an unfailing course to capturing our hearts and keeping us entertained beyond all others with their irrepressible charm and inimitable style.

Bell & Ross was born out the vivid imagination and unique vision of two of the nicest men in the Swiss watchmaking industry, Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo. “We knew each other at school and we immediately got on,” said Rosillo. “Bruno was only in Paris for one year then his family moved back to Burgundy. But one year was enough to know that we were destined to work together.” Their paths crossed again after Belamich had graduated from design school and Rosillo had finished his business degree and had worked for some years in finance. Together they envisioned a watch brand based on the military and aviation style watches that had captured their imagination since childhood.

In 1992, they started Bell & Ross with a $20,000 investment. Initially they often collaborated with Sinn, who fabricated their watches for them during these early years. The brand made big news in 1997 when it created the Hydromax, a liquid-filled quartz watch that descended to 11,000 metres below sea level. The buzz they generated brought suitors and that same year Chanel made a strategic investment into their brand.

FLYING HIGH

In 2002, they were able to build their own manufacture and gain valuable autonomy from Sinn. Constantly inspired by aviation, in 2005 the brand unveiled a square watch based on cockpit aviation instruments called the BR-01. The watch has since become one of the most recognisable designs in modern horology. It has since been extrapolated into versions ranging from a very cool and functional diving watch, to a sapphire crystal-cased flying tourbillon.

I got to know Belamich and Rosillo around 2004, by which time the Hydromax had already become something of a cult collector’s watch. I owned one and wanted to meet the innovators behind it. Despite being a complete Basel neophyte they greeted me warmly and took the time to guide me through their collection. That, as Claude Rains says to Bogart at the end of Casablanca, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Because I cannot think of two men who better embody the perfect balance between creativity and drive, but also the unique capacity to pause and appreciate the beauty of lives that have been blessed by a great deal of success along the way.

One of our favourite topics of conversation always related to Star Wars and the way in which the narrative of the film franchise shatters the traditional storytelling time line. Rosillo said: “You start with Leah and Luke but actually you realise there is an entire prequel to the war between the Jedis and the Empire. Bruno and I loved the creative liberty of this. After our success with the BR-01 we wanted to create our own prequels, watches that could be the heritage icons from our past.” With this mission Bell and Ross created the aforementioned Vintage Collection, which includes the WWI a watch that is inspired by the pocket watches that were transformed into wristwatches for military duty at the outbreak of the Great War and even an actual pocket watch, which I feel is one of the most underrated timepieces around.

Contributor

Wei Koh

The Rake's Founder & Editorial Director.

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