Bell & Ross Watches: From School Project to Horology Icon

Bell & Ross

Bell & Ross may not be as old as the other respected watch brands. Despite that, it has become an icon when it comes to aviation and horology. From being a mere school project, the brand has made its way to becoming one of the most trusted brands in the world.

If you’re figuring out which Bell & Ross watch is right for you, read through our primer below.

The Early Days of Bell & Ross

Bell & Ross was founded by two childhood friends named Bruno Belamich and Carlos A. Rosillo. In case you didn’t notice, the Bell from the brand name was from Belamich and Ross was from Rosillo. They started the watch brand as a university project back in 1992.

Upon starting, Belamich took the role of watch designer while Rosillo headed the operations. Needless to say, they complemented each other’s skills. And what made them a better team is their shared vision that function shapes form. With that said, the duo takes the military as their inspiration for their watches’ designs.

A Connection with Sinn

If you happen to see an old Bell & Ross watch, chances are it says “Bell & Ross by Sinn” on the dial. In contrast to popular belief, their first watches weren’t made in Switzerland as they were made in Germany by Sinn Spezialuhren. A lot of Bell & Ross watches back then were rebranded Sinn watches.

Eventually, the brand started making their own watches. In 2002, the company moved its headquarters to La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, where they started producing their own models.

If you’d ask fans of the brand, they’d say that pairing up with the German brand did a lot of good. Up to now, Sinn is a well-known watch brand that produces tool watches. That is to say, the two brands make a good match because they share the same principles of function over form. Indeed, Sinn has influenced Bell & Ross watches in a lot of ways.

The Company’s Innovations

Ever since they started, Bell & Ross showed a lot of promise. Here are a few of their achievements.

Bell & Ross by Sinn Watch, Bell & Ross Watches
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Space 1 (1994)

When the brand was still connected to Sinn, they made a re-issue of the Space 1. It was the first automatic chronometer that went to space. It was originally worn by Dr Reinhard Furrer, a German astronaut and physicist. This watch became the inspiration of many of the brand’s military-inspired chronographs.

Bomb Disposal Type (1996)

Two years after the re-issue of the Space 1, Bell & Ross designed the Type Demineur, or Bomb Disposal Type in English. French Security Services ordered it for the use of their bomb disposal unit.

The watch was anti-magnetic and a-magnetic. Apart from those requirements, it also had to be precise and durable to meet the demands of bomb disposal operations. In this type of situation, watches have to be in tip-top shape as it is a matter of life and death. Fortunately, the Bomb Disposal Type watch followed through and this caught the attention of some watch enthusiasts.

Hydro Challenger (1997)

Just a year after creating the Bomb Disposal Type watch, the Bell & Ross furthered its reputation by holding the Hydro Challenger event. With a quartz dive watch, they broke the world’s water-resistance record.

At this time, the watch managed to descend up to more than 11,100 metres underwater. It was considered the deepest water-resistance rating available on a dive watch. Eventually, the record was broken when James Cameron plunged into the Marianas Trench wearing the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller.

Bell & Ross Vintage 123 Heure Sautante, Bell & Ross Watches
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Vintage 123 Heure Sautante (2002)

Together with Swiss craftsman Vincent Calabrese, Bell & Ross announced the first jumping hour hand watch with a power reserve indicator. It also had an automatic movement.

At the top is a small circular window. This is where the hour is indicated. Meanwhile, the minute is displayed as usual. Lastly, the power reserve indicator is placed just above the 30th minute marker.

While the original version of the watch is hard to find, the picture above is a modern version of it.

Bell & Ross BR 01, Bell & Ross Watches
Photo from bellross.com

BR 01 Instrument (2005)

If there is one model that changed the game for the brand, it’s the BR 01 Instrument. Indeed, it is the watch that gave them international exposure. In fact, a lot of watch enthusiasts would say that this is the reason behind Bell & Ross’ success.

One of the reasons why this watch grew popular was because of its simple design. Staying true to its military theme, the whole face of the watch resembles an aeroplane dashboard instrument. To illustrate, the dial is round and is placed inside a square case.

Eventually, this formula became the brand’s signature. It also influenced the design of their future timepieces. This identity is what makes people distinguish Bell & Ross from the other watchmakers.

Trusted by Well-known Organisations

As seen above, Bell & Ross has built a good reputation. Their research and technology have impressed a number of professionals with extreme needs. From going to outer space to diving, these watches are no doubt capable of these activities.

At the present time, the company is the official partner of renowned organisations. Among them are the Lafayette Escadrille, Space Lab Mission, and the French Air Force. I must say, earning the respect of these organisations tells a lot about the durability of the Bell & Ross watches.

Recommended Bell & Ross Watches

Eventually, the brand tried to branch out their models while still retaining its military roots. In other words, some of the watches’ exterior may be unique, but deep inside, they still share the same durability of watches made for the field. With that said, here are a few models that are worth checking out.

1. Bell & Ross Vintage Collection

The vintage collection emphasises the brand’s feat when it comes to aeronautics. And like their ancestors, they meet specific standards and requirements set by the armed forces. A few characteristics that define this collection are the smaller dimensions and the classic round shape.

Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Military, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR V1-92 Military

Why is it good?

Bell & Ross has a strong connection to the military. Indeed, their early watches were inspired by the needs of the armed forces. To put it another way, functionality and durability are top priority. And with the BR V1-92 Military, the brand rekindles their military roots. 

Despite its simple and utilitarian approach, it still stands out. Its satin-brushed case comes in just 38.5mm, which is considered small. Meanwhile, its highly domed sapphire crystal is durable and reminiscent of government-issued watches during the World War.

Under the case, you’ll see a movement called the Calibre BR-CAL.302. It is an automatic movement based on the Sellita SW-200. Additionally, it has a frequency of 4hz, a power reserve of 48 hours, and a date complication.

To complete the retro look, this watch comes with a dark brown leather strap. It is slightly aged and perfectly matches the military vibe of the dial.

Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Racing Bird, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR V1-92 Racing Bird

Why is it good?

The BR V1-92 Racing Bird is a playful take on an aviator watch. And in case you couldn’t tell, Bell & Ross used their own BR-Bird racing plane design as the watch’s inspiration.

I bet the first thing that you noticed about the watch is its colour scheme. Indeed, the brand went with a playful approach. The Arabic numerals, the hands, and half of the minute markers are in blue. There are also hints of orange beside the open three-day date window and the outline of the strap. Enthusiasts believe that this was meant to resemble the feel of an aeroplane gauge.

A calibre BR-CAL.302 powers this aeroplane-inspired watch. It is based on the Sellita SW300-1 and has a total of 25 jewels. To add to that, it runs at a frequency of 28,800vph and can power the watch for 38 hours.

Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Bellytanker, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR V2-94 Bellytanker

Why is it good?

While it is true that Bell & Ross is connected to aviation, it is also a fact that they are associated with automotive. Proof of that relationship is the BR V2-94 Bellytanker. The term bellytanker originally referred to the emergency drop tank on fighter planes. But now, it is used to call hot rod race cars that were made from these tanks.

Like the other motorsports-themed timepieces, this one has a tachymeter bezel. Apart from that, it has a chronograph which is displayed via the sub-dials. The left sub-dial shows the 30-minute timer while the right one shows the small seconds. Impressively, the watch designers were able to keep the dial of the watch uncluttered despite the extra functions.

Under the hood, there’s a calibre BR-CAL.301. It is based on the ETA 2824 with a chronograph module. And if you turn the watch over, you can appreciate the movement through the sapphire case back.

Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Garde-Cotes, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR V2-94 Garde-Cotes

Why is it good?

Staying true to its military theme, the brand made the BR V2-94 Garde-Cotes in honour of the French coastguards. Its design comprises grey, white, and orange hues. All of which can be traced back to the colour scheme of their helicopters and diving suits.

This watch has characteristics similar to dive watches. For one, it has a 60-minute rotating bezel. It also has optimum legibility. Although we wouldn’t call it a true dive watch as it has a water resistance of only up to 100m. Its water-resistance rating is too low for professional divers. However, it is enough for a quick dip in the pool.

Inside, we can see the calibre BR-CAL.302. This automatic movement can power the watch for up to 38 hours and runs at a frequency of 28,800vph.

Bell & Ross BR V3-94 R.S.19, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR V3-94 R.S.19

Why is it good?

If there’s one model that cements Bell & Ross’ place in the world of motorsports, it’s the BR V3-94 R.S.19. In fact, it is the product of a collaboration with the famous Renault F1 team.

The dial of the watch screams motorsports. Wearing it is like having a small cockpit of a race car on your wrist. Its yellow, green, and orange accents are all vibrant. Moreover, the background features a carbon fibre pattern which is meant to copy the materials used in Formula 1 cars.

When it comes to features, its tachymeter is on the chapter ring instead of the bezel. Meanwhile, the bezel can be rotated in both directions. It also has a scale insert which can be used as a countdown timer.

The movement that it uses is called the calibre BR-CAL.301. It is based on the ETA 2892-4 which gives the watch a power reserve of 42 hours.

2. Bell & Ross Experimental Collection

Among the three collections, this one has the most unique style. Its design is very playful and avant-garde. With that in mind, the watches in this collection are perfect for those who are looking for a bit of flair. 

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire Black
Photo from bellross.com

BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire Black

Why is it good?

If you think you’ve seen it all, then wait until you see the BR-X1 Skeleton Tourbillon Sapphire Black. Indeed a head-turner, its crystal clear case allows the wearer to see everything inside the watch including the tourbillon and the movement. Despite its unique appearance, the gears inside the timepiece are arranged in an orderly manner.

The movement used is the calibre BR-CAL.288. It is manually wound and has a tourbillon escapement. All of its bridges are open-worked so you can watch it oscillate at 21,600vph. Additionally, the movement provides a whopping power reserve of 100 hours when fully wound. That’s double the average power reserve.

Lastly, the translucent rubber strap is like icing on the cake. It has a satin-polished steel pin and is comfortable on the wrist.

This timepiece is definitely a treat to look at. Needless to say, it is the perfect watch for those who want to stand out or make a statement.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon Instrument de Marine
Photo from bellross.com

BR-X1 Tourbillon Instrument de Marine

Why is it good?

As you would have guessed, the BR-X1 Tourbillon Instrument de Marine is based on marine chronometers used for navigation. As for the design, it features the signature square shape of the brand.

Upon closer inspection, the case and the bezel of the watch are made out of dark brown wood. Moreover, it uses 18K rose gold as accents. This colour scheme transports you inside a ship cockpit as if they took a brass chronometer clock and put it on your wrist.

Meanwhile, the dial is full of complications. Among those are the 30-minute chronograph indicator, 60-second chronograph counter, and a flying tourbillon. The tourbillon alone comprises a total of 282 parts. I can already hear watch enthusiasts salivating at the mention of the features.

Lastly, it uses the BR-CAL.283 calibre as its movement. It is manually-wound and has a power reserve of four days.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Hyperstellar, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR-X1 Hyperstellar

Why is it good?

The sky’s the limit? Of course not! Bell & Ross outdid themselves and aimed for outer space. And what better watch to prove it than the BR-X1 Hyperstellar? This beast has been developed to withstand extreme environments in outer space.

Bell & Ross made sure it adheres to some specifications. Among those are resistance to corrosion, extreme temperatures, shock, and vibrations. With that in mind, they used only the best materials like grade 5 titanium and blue anodized aluminium for the case. Furthermore, the whole watch is ergonomically-designed so that it can be easily adjusted while wearing gloves.

As for the movement, it uses a calibre called BR-CAL.313. What’s unique about this is that it has an x-shaped upper bridge with DLC (diamond-like carbon).

At the back, the case is made of satin-finished titanium. And instead of having a full exhibition, Bell & Ross provided a “planetary observation porthole”. Here, you can take a peek at the movement.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon White Hawk, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR-X1 Tourbillon White Hawk

Why is it good?

The BR-X1 Tourbillon White Hawk will remind you of fast and expensive private jets. In fact, it’s the main inspiration behind this model.

This timepiece comes in a refreshing white, grey, and red colour scheme. Meanwhile, its automatic movement can be viewed through the open-worked dial. The movement is called the BR-CAL.313, which has an x-shaped upper bridge and 56 jewels.

Moreover, its case is made of grade 5 titanium and is covered with a white ceramic belt. In order to minimise reflections, the ceramic used is matte while the titanium is micro-blasted. This greatly enhances legibility.

Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro Rotor, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro Rotor

Why is it good?

The BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro Rotor certainly has that flair that makes people’s jaws drop. Aside from its unusual design, its movement is complex.

At first glance, you’d know that the square case is solidly built. But it’s not built like the usual watch where the movement is encased inside the central container, bezel, and caseback. This timepiece, however, is made up of two sapphire crystals that are screwed together. One side acts as a bezel and the other one is the case back.

Furthermore, the dial is partly skeletonised so you can see some parts of the movement and the flying tourbillon at the 6 o’clock position.

Inside the dial is the calibre BR-CAL.380. It is automatic and has a total of 31 jewels. To add to that, it features a micro rotor and a flying tourbillon. It can also power the watch up to 42 hours when it is fully wound.

3. Bell & Ross Instruments Collection

Watches that are included in the Instruments collection pay respect to the BR 01 model. Which is why all of the watches in this collection feature a round dial inside a square case. And as the name suggests, these timepieces resemble the navigation instruments inside an aeroplane’s cockpit.

Bell & Ross BR-01 Laughing Skull White, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR-01 Laughing Skull White

Why is it good?

Every day is Halloween with the BR-01 Laughing Skull White. The photorealistic 3D skull is sure to amuse (or scare) people who are glancing at your wrist.

Staying true to the motif, the square case is made with micro-blasted steel. To add to that, it has an engraved clous de Paris guilloché design.

Speaking of performance, it uses the BR-CAL.206. This calibre is special as it was created with specialists at Concepto. It is manually-wound and can power the watch for up to 50 hours. Apart from that, it is skull-shaped and has a balance that oscillates at the 12 o’clock position. This movement can be viewed from the clear sapphire caseback.

But wait, the watch still has a few more tricks up its sleeve. If you wind it up, don’t be surprised when the skull’s mouth moves. And as its name suggests, this gives the impression that it is laughing.

Bell & Ross BR-03 92 Full Lum, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR-03 92 Full Lum

Why is it good?

Do you love anything that glows in the dark? If yes, then you’ll adore the BR-03 92 Full Lum. You’ve heard of the technology that allows the whole dial to be illuminated. But this time, Bell & Ross pushed their limits and made the whole watch glow. Yes, even the strap!

The watch’s dial is covered with Super-Luminova C3 luminescent pigments. According to the brand, it is the most intense and resistant variant. Meanwhile, to achieve the glowing rubber strap, they incorporated the pigment to the rubber which is then moulded and pressed. 

At daytime, it gives off an off white colour which is handsome enough to be worn casually. Moreover, its matte black case is robust and features the brand’s square-and-circle motif.

When it comes to the movement, it uses the BR-CAL.302. It is based on the Sellita SW300-1 and is self-winding. Additionally, it can power the watch for up to 42 hours.

Bell & Ross BR-03 92 Bi-Compass, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR-03 92 Bi-Compass

Why is it good?

Is it a vintage radio compass? No, it’s the BR-03 92 Bi-Compass! Staying true to their principles, Bell & Ross made this watch with aviation in mind. And this time, they tried to emulate an aeroplane’s navigation instrument as closely as possible, even the colour scheme.

The dial of the watch is separated into three circles. The outer ring features the minute tracker which has beige luminova markers every 5 minutes. At the middle, you’ll find blue Arabic numerals that serve as the hour markers. Lastly, the middle is a rotating disk with a blue triangle. The tip of the triangle indicates the time.

All of these are powered by the calibre BR-CAL.302. It is self-winding and has a 42-hour power reserve. Overall, this movement is efficient and accurate enough for everyday use.

Bell & Ross BR S Blue Diamond Eagle, Bell & Ross Watches
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BR S Blue Diamond Eagle

Why is it good?

If you need something elegant, you’ll fancy the BR S Blue Diamond Eagle. In fact, it is one of the most sophisticated models in the lineup.

Its dial features a navy blue hue that resembles the sky during the night. And to complete the view, seven diamonds are placed all around it. These precious stones represent the Aquila constellation.

To top it all up, the watch comes with a midnight blue alligator strap. Indeed, this watch is a great companion when it comes to dinner dates at fancy restaurants.

Bell & Ross BR-03 92 Diver, Bell & Ross Watches
Photo from bellross.com

BR-03 92 Diver

Why is it good?

The brand is known for its aviation watches. However, only a few people know that they also make dive watches. Enter the BR-03 92 Diver. While it is not Bell & Ross’ first dive watch, it is their first diver that comes in their signature square case.

Professionals will be pleased to know that the watch has a water-resistance rating of 300m. In fact, it surpasses the minimum requirement of the ISO. Additionally, it meets all the other requirements in order to be called a real dive watch.

Aside from its durability, this diver is also proud of its accuracy. It uses the BR-CAL.302 which is based on the Sellita SW300-1. It operates at a frequency of 4Hz and has a power reserve of up to 42 hours.

Final Notes

While Bell & Ross watches were originally known for their military-inspired tool watches, it is inevitable that they branch out their models. Nevertheless, the brand was able to retain the same durability and reliability that people love about their watches. Whether it’s a diver or a dress watch, rest assured that these Bell & Ross timepieces will withstand the demands of daily use.

 

While you’re at it, widen your options and check out our top MVMT picks for millennials!

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