ROCKET MAN

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.

Plaza Watch International - - Rocket Man - WORDS SI­MON DE BUR­TON

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-

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