It starts with an airplane.
How could it not? After all, Bell & Ross has been turning out fine timepieces inspired by flight decks and cockpit gadgetry for decades. The magic doesn’t lie in the concept—watch companies have long looked to the skies for inspiration—but rather in the execution. Whether it’s the square-jawed BR Instruments collection, the stealth-fighter BR-X Experimental series, or the retro-chic feel of the BR Vintage line, Bell & Ross offers a singular focus on aeronautical themes.
If the brand were a person, it would speak entirely in NATO phonetics and wear aviator shades in the shower.
The Racing Bird BRV2-94 doesn’t stray from that mission. But it does ratchet up the authenticity factor. This new chronograph is styled after the BR-Bird (pictured above), a concept aircraft designed by Bruno Belamich, the cofounder and creative director at Bell & Ross. His single-seat novelty plane recalls those competing in the National Championship Air Races, employing a 12-cylinder propeller engine and wearing blue, white, and orange livery.
The watch’s color scheme follows suit: white dial, blue bezel, and strap, high-contrast orange detailing, with pops of gray to evoke a checkered flag. Aviation buffs will appreciate the typeface, borrowed from traditional on-board counters. Also that the date window shows three digits, another overt reference to classic flight instrumentation.
The BRV2-94 is powered by a self-winding mechanical movement, offering a 42-hour power reserve and set inside a 40 mm steel case. The pièce de résistance, the BR-Bird’s silhouette, appears on both the caseback and dial. It’s a subtle reminder that, while plenty of Bell & Ross watches start with an airplane, these special editions hang in rarified air. To wit, production will be limited to a run of 999 pieces.
(Note: That number includes a streamlined, three-hand version, the Racing Bird BRV1-92, which is fractionally smaller and priced from $2,300.)
Before the Racing Bird’s debut in Geneva, Mr. Belamich gave Watch Journal an exclusive peek behind the scenes.
On the idea behind the BR-Bird and Racing Bird watches…
“Speed is a key source of inspiration. We also have a passion for technology. These factors constantly push us to excel, to develop highly complex mechanisms. By extension, we are interested in all extreme machines. Our concept vehicles [the B-Rocket motorcycle, Aéro-GT supercar, and BR-Bird aircraft] become a source of inspiration. Our universe is a world of enthusiasts. Our stories tell men about their universe, their machines, their uniforms and accessories, watches in particular. Time is a transversal element, common to all the universes of the extreme. These two new Racing Bird pieces are symbols of our passion for aviation and creativity.”
On the importance of being based in Paris…
“Paris has always been the heart of high-end luxury goods. We are honored to be crafting high-quality luxury goods in this beautiful city. It’s part of our DNA, and influences many of our design choices. But we are not in the fashion or trend business. We develop watches that serve a purpose: Delivering the clearest and most reliable time to professionals working under extreme conditions.”
On the essential elements of an aeronautical watch…
“We have four basic principles: Legibility, functionality, reliability, precision. We are inspired by the world of pilots and aeronautical instrumentation, the ultimate reference point for legibility and reliability. We regularly support elite units by designing watches that perform specific functions so we are able to see how they perform. Some examples include working with the bomb disposal experts of the French Civil Security, the Intervention Unit of the French National Police, and the French Naval Aviation and French Air Force. Our founding idea is that time is essential for professionals working under extreme conditions.”
On a Bell & Ross smartwatch styled after modern touchscreen fighter jet cockpits…
“We believe that smartwatches are a completely different experience than a traditional timepiece. Swiss watches have emotion. It is a craft to make a watch. Over time, [an analog] watch keeps its value—often it even increases in value because of the beauty of that craft. Tech devices become obsolete because their design is constantly being reinvented, the technology upgraded. In the future, it’s possible that Bell & Ross would incorporate some sort of technology. But our brand will always be Swiss-made. We will never create a disposable watch.”