WHAT WE BUILT

A CHAT WITH CAR­LOS ROSILLO, THE CO- FOUNDER OF FRENCH WATCH BRAND, BELL & ROSS.

Men's Style (Australia) - - Watches -

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.’

Car­los Rosillo

New Bell & Ross re­lease BR V2-94 Garde-cotes (above, left); the BR-X2 Tour­bil­lon Mi­cro-ro­tor (above); BRX1 RS17 Tour­bil­lon (left).

Bruno Be­lamich

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