“Be Prepared.” The Boy Scouts motto suggests that in order to avoid mishaps, you must be ready for any type of emergency that might arise. Designed for action, this selection of military-inspired watches truly are ready for anything—from the frontlines of Hollywood to a weekend of hunting, camping, and fishing. Never be taken by surprise again, and always remember to bring snacks.
Photographs by Junichi Ito Styling by Stephen Watson Prop Styling by Linden Elstran
About the photographer:Junichi Ito was born and raised in Tokyo. Based in New York since 2005, he has photographed major commercial campaigns for Armani, Barneys, Estée Lauder, Moët & Chandon, Nike, and Victoria’s Secret. He has also shot original editorial content for Allure, Fast Company, Real Simple, Vogue Japan, and Wallpaper. His Instagram is a must-follow.
The website Mr Porter is best known for its selection of fashionable menswear, supplying modern shoppers with deftly chosen clothing by a range of labels, from Acne Studios to Z Zegna. It’s built a loyal following since launching in 2011. But recently, the site has been gaining recognition for offering designer wares of a different ilk: luxury watches.
“Our view on watches is the same as it is with fashion,” says Toby Bateman, Mr Porter’s managing director. “We’re trying to create a selection of brands that represents different aesthetics and different price points so that ultimately we’ll have something for everyone.”
Log on to mrporter.com, and you’ll find pieces from Montblanc and Baume & Mercier, starting at under $1,000, running up to investment-grade Piaget and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Mirroring the clothing side, which carries discovery labels such as And Wander and Herno Laminar as well as mainstays such as Gucci and Prada, insider watch brands like Ressence and Weiss are included in the mix.
All told, Mr Porter has hundreds of watches from more than a dozen brands. But the selection isn’t overwhelming. Like everything else on the site—and on its womenswear sister site, Net-a-Porter—what’s stocked is a concise, targeted edit instead of a scattershot.
“We’ve got buyers who can whittle down what can be a complicated and quite daunting shopping process for customers,” Bateman says.
His curation includes multiple iterations of classic pieces, quite a few exclusive styles and limited editions, the occasional desk clock, and even adventurous one-offs, like Bell & Ross with a transparent crystal sapphire case (priced at $480,000 and, as of this writing, still available.)
“We can talk about watches in the context of style . . . no one else in the market, online or offline, is really able to do that.”
– Toby Bateman, mrporter.com
But unlike a dedicated jeweler or watch retailer, Mr Porter’s overall breadth of stock—in addition to clothes and shoes, sunglasses, briefcases, neckties, and jewelry—helps shoppers imagine how a timepiece could fit in with their wardrobe. Bateman sees this as a major advantage.
“We can talk about watches in the context of style, and pretty much no one else in the market, whether their online or offline, is really able to do that,” he says. “If you go to a jewelry store on Madison Avenue or on Bond Street, you just see watches—you don’t really [get] ‘This is how you wear that diver’s watch,’ ‘This is the one for the office,’ ‘This is the one for jeans and a T-shirt over the weekend.’”
In terms of ushering high-end menswear into the e-commerce realm, Mr Porter’s has been a trailblazing force, and the site’s upscale look was crucial to its breakout success. Even judged by those lofty standards, timepieces get special treatment in terms of imagery and text. Every watch is photographed in-house with dedicated cameras; more details about each are included than would be with, say, a pair of trendy sneakers or a bomber jacket. Some pieces are even offered with multiyear warranties.
“When you actually see how professional and well-done Mr Porter is, it was a little bit of a no-brainer,” says Nick English, the co-founder of Bremont, the first brand to partner with Mr Porter when it began carrying watches, in 2013. “The whole experience is pretty amazing—they just do it really well. It’s the closest thing to going in there and talking to someone in a shop.”
Some watch companies view the site’s unique position—egalitarian and accessibilible, but still upmarket—as a bridge. Put simply, Mr Porter represents a medium to showcase items to shoppers from around the world that might be intimidated by a traditional watch store, or simply unfamiliar with their brand.
“We felt this is a good opportunity to potentially connect with a new clientele in a very convenient way,” says Giovanni Carestia, North American President of Panerai, which has been carried on the site since last year. “This is great way to raise the bar.”
Nearly five years in, Bateman describes the site’s watch business as being “in its infancy.” He says a Luxury Watch Guide expansion is planned, and Mr Porter did stock the new Cartier Santos when it launched in April. Still, the site’s catalog largely leans away from formal dress watches, emphasizing versatility. Zenith, IWC, and Nomos Glashütte are featured heavily. TAG Heuer and Montblanc smartwatches have been popular thus far, but—ironically, for a digital-only retailer—a broader range of tech watches will be added only if they fit well into the overall mix.
(Bateman: “It will depend on what comes to market and whether it’s got a good U.S.P. [unique selling point] that we can talk about with our customers.”)
Regardless, he says timepiece category has already helped broaden the site’s customer base. And whether or not Mr Porter becomes a major player in the luxury watch market, Bateman believes that it’s positioning the site as a more holistic retailer for the shopper of the future.
“Having watches on the site has enabled us to reach guys who don’t consider themselves to be ‘fashion guys,’” he says. “They come to Mr Porter and see the watch selection, but in the process they’re discovering Mr Porter. What they then see is that we create really great content which isn’t overly fashion-led—it’s quite lifestyle—and we have a very diverse product offering across all our categories. [Those shoppers] hopefully will become Mr Porter customers in other aspects.”
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.”
Looking for a new timepiece to match your new hot rod? Look no further than the Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker, a collection inspired by early Land Speed Record racecars.
Danger and speed are central to the Bell & Ross ethos, so when it came time to create a pair of special edition watches, the brand decided to honor hot-rod impresario Bill Burke.
Burke, a U.S. Navy veteran, is widely credited with building the first Land Speed Record Bellytanker, repurposing a P-51 Mustang spare he purchased for $35. The resulting creation, once equipped with a hopped-up V8 engine at the nose, was capable of reaching 130 mph. (For reference, an average Ford sedan of the era struggled to manage 65 mph.) But Burke soon realized the 165-gallon tank couldn’t accommodate a full-size driver seat. So he welded in a bicycle seat.
Repeat: These guys went 130 mph, inside a scrapped steel airplane part, sitting on a bicycle seat.
And wherever there’s history, airplanes, and lunatic speeds, Bell & Ross is sure to be nearby. The company honors Burke and his breed of hot-rodder with Bellytanker editions of two pieces from the Vintage collection, the time-and-date V1-92 and the V1-94 chronograph. The former offers a simpler, plain-bezel look and smaller 38.5 mm size, while the latter measures 41 mm and features a fixed-position tachymeter. Both employ an automatic mechanical movement, boast a satin-steel-polished case and a gorgeous gilt metallic copper dial, offer 100m water resistance, and feature a too-cool custom casebook design. Unsurprisingly, these Vintage Bellytanker watches are a limited-run proposition; Bell & Ross will make just 1000 examples total.