There is a natural synergy between fine watches and fine automotive machines and Bell & Ross is revved up about the Baselworld launch of the new B-Rocket collection.
Alfa Romeo's heavenly-looking 4C two-seater might have been voted 'most beautiful car of 2013' at January's International Automobile Festival in Paris – but it was watch brand Bell & Ross that caused the biggest stir of the event by pulling the wraps off a wild-looking motorcycle. The same vehicle that will take centre stage on the Bell & Ross booth at this year's Baselworld.
The retro-futuristic 'B-Rocket' is the work of British custom bike builder Shaw Harley-Davidson, which first collaborated with Bell & Ross three years ago when Shaw's chief sales executive, Steve Willis, proposed creating a unique machine as a promotional tool for the brand. The result was the 'Nascafe' racer, which came third in the 2011 American Motorcycle Dealer world custom championships and has subsequently served as an irresistible crowd puller at Bell & Ross events around the world.
Indeed, it was the success of the Nascafe that prompted B & R founder Bruno Belamich to commission Shaw to build the even more radical B-Rocket which is – as the photographs demonstrate – heavily based on the watch brand's associations with aviation.
“Our only significant input into the Nascafe was to set one of our watches into the fuel tank and add the Bell & Ross logo,” Belamich told Plaza Watch.
“But we have taken it everywhere from Las Vegas to Asia, and it has proved to be such a fantastic marketing tool that we decided to commission a second bike featuring more of our own ideas. I did the original sketch, which gave Steve an idea of roughly how I wanted the bike to look – in other words, like one of the early military jets – and he and his team worked from there.”
At the star t of the project, Willis developed a series of mood boards incorporating objects ranging from aircraft to coffee machines in order to find inspiration to create the desired look.
“One of the really interesting aspects of the project was having to set aside all our modern thinking about aerodynamics in order to capture the spirit of the past,” says Willis.
“The idea of building the bike so it is ridden in a prone position came from a 1930s Brough-Superior speed record machine that we saw at the Salon Prive car show in London. It had leather pads to support the rider's knees, and high-level air intakes which we re-interpreted as side pods that look like jet turbines – although they are actually functional, with one directing air to the carburettor and the other to the oil cooler.”
The basis of the B-Rocket (which, as well as incorporating the Bell & Ross initials, also stands for 'Bonneville Rocket' in relation to the speed record venue of Bonneville salt flats) was a standard Harley-Davidson FXS Softail Blackline cruiser – which was promptly stripped to the bones in advance of receiving the custom treatment.
Shaw's in-house fabricator, Dave Rollison, crafted the steel, jet-like bodywork entirely by hand while design and build genius Neil Sefton carefully pieced everything together to create the beautifully finished product.
Indeed, it is only by looking closely that the meticulous attention to detail can be fully appreciated. The tailpiece, for example, was built by Rollison using 30 separate pieces of steel with Plexiglass lowers covering the chain, rear brake and solid wheel covers. Hand-made brass grilles help to cool the 10-inch brake discs, while the front end of the bike features a pair of small, ad-