Bell & Ross

Precision, Winter 2022

Bell & Ross has primarily been known as a maker of aviation-inspired watches since the introduction in 2005 of its instantly recognisable BR-01, an horological behemoth measuring 46mm which was intended to look as though it had been ripped from the cockpit of a military aircraft.

The BR range has since become a signature of the brand and numerous variations on the theme have emerged, ranging from chronographs that follow the original ‘tool watch’ aesthetic to tourbillon versions, slim dress models and even scaled-down, gem-set women’s pieces.

Among the more interesting takes on the BR theme, however, have been the automotive–inspired pieces that have flowed from the pen of the brand’s designer, Bruno Belamich, who launched Bell & Ross during the early ’90s along with entrepreneur Carlos Rosillo (hence the name Bell & Ross).

The first such automotive watches appeared in 2011 following a collaboration with the Speed & Custom division of UK motorcycle dealer Sykes Harley-Davidson in Lewes, which was commissioned by Bell & Ross to make a unique machine to display at watch shows and other events.

The Nascafe Racer proved to be such an effective marketing tool that the brand developed a watch inspired by it and then commissioned a second bike based on sketches by Belamich – who went on to create a design for a concept car called the Aero GT that, although it was never produced, incorporated features that were used to ‘reverse engineer’ the BR-03-92 Aero GT timepiece.

Alpine F1 car

Bell & Ross’s 42mm BR03-92 A522, top, limited to 999 pieces, takes its name from the Alpine A522, above

That was back in 2016 which was when, coincidentally or not, Bell & Ross became the official timing partner of the Renault F1 team.

The deal resulted in a swathe of round and square-cased special editions with detailing and highlights in the team’s signature yellow – but since its re-branding last year as Alpine F1 Team, Belamich has had to go back to the drawing board and create new models dedicated both to the race team and the Renault sub brand after which it is named.

The initial BR-03 94 A521 limited edition chronograph has now been followed by the BR 03-92 A522 – named after the current F1 car – which is again based on the smaller, 42mm BR 03 model range but is made from ceramic in a nod to the high-tech materials used in the grand prix world.

The case is therefore light and scratchproof as well as being water resistant down to 100m.

Inside, there’s a reliable, if unremarkable, three-hand automatic movement and a dial that’s loosely based on a car dashboard gauge with details that reference Alpine – Alpine blue, a seconds-hand counterweight in the shape of an ‘A’ and a tiny French tricolour above the date window that references the home of both Alpine and Bell & Ross.

Finished off with an example of the rubber strap that’s specific to the Alpine collection, the watch is limited to an edition of 999 examples.

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 A522