AIR AND LAND
What possessed aviation experts Bell & Ross to design a motorcycle?
A land rocket and WW1 fighter pilot hero Guynemer provided
the inspiration for Bell & Ross B-Rockets.
TWO FRIENDS once had a dream of owning an aviation-themed watch company. That dream came true in 1992 when Carlos Rosillo and Bruno Belamich launched Bell & Ross. Though they have dabbled in the grand complications watches such as the PW1 Argentium Minute Repeater in 2013 and a few tourbillion in the BR series, their mainstay is to reinterpret old wartime watches, updating them with modern technologies and materials and creating watches for today’s aviators. Over the years they have collaborated with several airforces and aviation companies in producing some of the most stylish and stunning aviation watches ever. This year veering slightly from their usual modus operandi, but still leaning very strongly on their DNA, they collaborated with Shaw Harley-Davidson to design a motorbike that looks like a rocket. And the end result is nothing less than a stunner.
Motorcycles and watches appear to have more in common than meets the eye. Both require precision and skill in their manufacture. This is why Bell & Ross commissioned Shaw Harley-Davidson to design and create the B-Rocket concept bike. Although Bell & Ross’s DNA is firmly intertwined with aeronautics—many of its current collections pay homage to military timekeepers which require absolute precision and reliability—this collaboration with Shaw Harley-Davidson, a name synonymous with easy riders and cool rebellion, marks the watch brand’s shift from air to land. Inspired by covertly designed US jet planes in the 60s, the B-Rocket concept bike combines a neo-retro aesthetic with the sleekness of aeronautical design.
This one-of-a-kind airplane-motorcycle pierces the air with its eye-catching conical jet nose, cabin, fin and propulsion turbines. Having worked on the design for over a year, both the designers at Bell & Ross and Shaw Harley-Davidson had a clear vision of what they wanted to create—an aerodynamic and performance driven superbike which incorporated elements of aviation and referenced 1960s experimental American jet planes and speed bikes. They have succeeded brilliantly. This dream airplane-motorcycle is destined to become a legend in its own time and an instrument of speed highly desired by connoisseurs.
In conjunction with the launch of the B-Rocket, Bell & Ross has launched two new watches which reflect the spirit and aspiration of this airplane-motorcycle.
The BR 01 is the definitive watch for drivers. Measuring 46mm in diameter, it is designed to pair with the B-Rocket motorcycle. The quality of the chronograph is unparalleled when it comes to accuracy and precision. Perfect for the driver who wishes to time his speed, the large minute counter, with a tachymetric scale located on the outer edge of the dial, allows the wearer to measure shorter time frames and permits the performance to be instantly displayed. There is also a 60-second, 30-minute and 12-hour counter which is helpful at a quick glance.
The BR 03 on the other hand is a more elaborate watch contained within a 42mm satin-brushed steel case with two complications. A unique feature of the BR 03 is the cut-outs in the sub-dial which reveal the discs operating the date window. The large power-reserve counter positioned at six o’clock is reminiscent of the fuel gauge seen on racing motorcycles or cars.
As for their finishes, nothing has been spared or overlooked. With the predominant colours of black, white, silver with a touch of red thrown in, the two models are stunning and visually striking. The satin-brushed steel case contrasts with the matte black dial and the graphic display draws references from an instrumental panel on an airplane. The skeletonised hands are coated with a photo-luminescent material visible in the dark and to emphasise its association with driving a red triangle, the only pop of colour, marks 12 o’clock, mirroring the B Rocket’s tachometer and turbines. Fitted with a padded leather strap, lined and edged in red, just like the seat in the B-Rocket, these two stunners are water resistant to a depth of 100 metres and fitted with anti-glare treated sapphire crystal.
Had Captain Georges Guynemer been alive today, he would
no doubt be proud to sport his namesake watch by Bell & Ross, the WW1 Guynemer. Passionate about flying, Guynemer wanted to join the army but was rejected because of his weak disposition. Not ready to give up, he managed to enrol as a trainee mechanic in the air force. He soon became a military pilot in 1915 and very quickly made a name for himself, becoming a fighter pilot by shooting down an enemy aircraft. He was awarded the prestigious Legion of Honour on his 21st birthday. He contributed to the building and design of the combat aircrafts for the army, specifically SPAD, which became one of the most well known in that era. Sustaining injuries in the battles of Verdun and Somme, he took to the air for the last time as head of the Cigognes squadron, having been promoted to the rank of captain. At the tender age of 22, after incessant combat, he passed away.
As a tribute to Guynemer as well the other unsung heroes of his generation, Bell & Ross created the WW1 Guynemer watch, following the debut of the Pocket Watch 1 which was launched in 2011. The WW1 (WW stands for wrist watch) has a distressed gunmetal grey steel finish, opaline dial and sand-coloured numerals which give it a vintage vibe. Wire handles hold the natural leather strap which will gain a patina over time, adding to its antique appeal. A silhouette of a stork, considered a lucky charm by pilots of that era, is emblazoned at six o’clock. The finishing touch of this limited edition of 500 pieces mechanical movement automatic winding watch is a portrait of Guynemer himself engraved on the back of the case. Something the celebrated captain certainly didn’t envisage when he was first turned down by the French Army.
BR 03-92 CARBON CERAMIC
Practical for both professional use and everyday utility, Bell & Ross’s BR 03 Instrument watch is inspired by a plane’s cockpit clock. Having sealed its reputation as a hard-wearing and performance-driven watch for those working under extreme conditions such as astronauts, fighter pilots, diver, mine-clearing experts and elite police forces, Bell & Ross has embarked on a quest to create and design an ideal utilitarian watch. And so they debuted the BR03-92 Carbon Ceramic which utilises ceramics for its casing. Ceramics are the material of choice in aeronautics, especially aerospace because it can withstand high temperatures, exposure to acids, and resistant to corrosion and erosion. For this reason, ceramics are often found in thermal cladding or used in the nose cone of space crafts.
The BR 03 Carbon Ceramic utilises a specially reworked ceramic which is scratch-proof, fade-resistant, light-weight and hypoallergenic. Having a ceramic case meant the designers at Bell & Ross had to redesign the construction for the BR 03 case completely. Eight screws on the case ensure that this new watch is completely water resistant. Sized at 42mm, the matte black finishes gives it a stark and modern visage, while the white numerals, shape of the hands and the photoluminescent coating, allows the time to be read in all kinds of conditions, from pitch dark to the brightest conditions.
Left: BR 03 B-Rocket.
Clockwise from left:
Guynemer, PW1 Heritage pocket watch, Guynemer caseback .
Left: BR03-92 Carbon Ceramic.