WHAT WE BUILT
A CHAT WITH CARLOS ROSILLO, THE CO- FOUNDER OF FRENCH WATCH BRAND, BELL & ROSS.
It’s around 25 years ago now that two ambitious young Frenchmen, Carlos Rosillo and Bruno Belamich, set out to create a new watch brand famed for four things: functionality, legibility, precision and reliability.
To establish their credentials in the space, they partnered with German company Sinn, famous for its manufacture of sturdy and highly reliable navigation cockpit clocks and pilot chronographs. As Bell & Ross, they started producing timepieces with Sinn which they wanted ‘professionals’ with extreme callings - military men, pilots, divers, bomb disposal experts – to wear and use on their wrists.
Fast forward 25 years and the Bell & Ross story remains faithful
to those original principles, as cofounder Rosillo is keen to point out as he chats to Men’s Style from his Paris office. But Bell & Ross has also evolved remarkably over the quarter century, from ending the Sinn relationship and beginning autonomous production at the Chanel facility in La Chaux-deFonds in 2002, through to the introduction of its landmark square-faced BR 01 watch in 2005 and, in more recent times, high complication pieces such as the BR-X1 or the stunning BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-rotor introduced at Baselworld this year.
Along the way Bell & Ross’ melding of practical, utilitarian ‘instruments’ with design innovation and boundary pushing has turned it into something of a cult watch brand, loved and followed by aficionados – “we are like a club”, says Rosillo.
“Innovation is a constant element of the brand,” he continues, “but despite that commitment, we are also about staying faithful to the principles we established in the beginning. Journalists who follow the brand say to me, ‘you stay true to your core pricinples but you’re able to regenerate yourself in a very creative way.’ This is a very nice compliment because I wouldn’t want Bell & Ross to be creative just for the sake of being creative, where you end up being so different that you don’t recognise the brand from one year to another.”
The iconic square shape Bell & Ross adopted with the BR 01 in 2005 has been the springboard for the development of a deep and impressive collection – 22 models in the BR 01 family, 17 in the BRX1 line, chronographs, tourbillons, multiple materials, plus vintage and marine lines.
“For more than 10 years we have evolved our production to produce these high-end complications and become reputable and recognised, and of that we are very happy and proud,” says Rosillo. “There is outstanding design and the iconic square shape, of course, but it’s not just about the e form, it’s also what’s inside, the e mechanical side. We love movementment and the technical tradition of f watchmaking. It’s not just a question on of creating a manufacture movement,ement, but building a manufactureure movement that stands out.”
Rosillo cites the BR-X2 R-X2 Tourbillon Micro-rotortor introduced at Baselworld this yearar – in which the movement plate is housed not in a case but a ‘frame’ame’ of two machined pieces of sapphireapphire crystal – as an example of thehe brand’s mission to create unique,que, designled pieces which are nevertheless always functional. “Itt captured the attention of people who care about watchmaking,” states Rosillo, which is an insight into he and Belamich’s desire to both pay ho homeage to the heritage of me mechanical watchmaking and pu push its limits.
Another source of pride for Rosillo has been the heightened profile of Bell & Ros Ross in Australia, with a standalone boutiquebo in Melbourne’s Block A Arcade and a dedicated Instagram channel (@bellross_australi (@bellross_australia) for local fans of the brand.
“With [Australian distributor] Lion Brands we hav have an incredible partner who from d day one understood the brandbran and operated on its behalf in Aust Australia in a very professional way,” sa says Rosillo. “We share the same spiri spirit and we both have a very professional approach. Maybe we can hope for a second store in Australia soon, but it’s no coincidence the brand has been a success in Australia – good product and good brand, of course, but Lion Brands also know how to handle it.”
The international profile of the brand, with boutiques and distribution around the world, is something neither of the founders expected when they started, says Rosillo – “we thought we may have some success in France, was all.” The brand’s new ‘Watch Beyond’ campaign is indicative of the direction Bell & Ross will continue to take, says Rosillo. “It’s a good way to show that we are always loyal to our DNA but that we are able to go further and push the same idea in a very creative way. People who appreciate the brand know we always seek to go one step further.”
‘It’s not just about form - we also love the technical tradition of watchmaking.’
New Bell & Ross release BR V2-94 Garde-cotes (above, left); the BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-rotor (above); BRX1 RS17 Tourbillon (left).