One of the Owners of the Bell & Ross Watch Company
The following is an e-mail interview conducted in February, 2000 by Michael Disher of TimeZone and Carlos Rosillo (“CR”), one of the owners of the Bell & Ross watch company.
MD: Tell us about the history of Bell & Ross.
CR: The Bell & Ross story involves designers specialising in watchmaking and manufacturers of on-board timepieces for the aeronautics and space industries. Originally manufacturing purely for the professional and military markets, it was only in 1994 that Bell & Ross began marketing its French designed, Swiss made products to the general public.
MD: Does Bell & Ross hold any patents?
CR: Today, Bell & Ross own several patents:
MD: What is the relationship between Sinn and Bell & Ross?
CR: The relationship between Sinn and Bell & Ross is today a collaborative agreement. Sinn is, in fact, one of our assemblers.
MD: Is Bell & Ross now producing watches that are unrelated to Sinn?
CR: Today Bell & Ross produce various models themselves:
MD: What is you own background? How did you get into the watch business?
CR: After an MBA in Paris (HEC) and in strategy consultancy, I entered the watchmaking business out of sheer passion for the job.
MD: Are you a watch collector?
CR: Yes, I collect all kinds of watches, from the oldest to the most modern designs. I collect old models of Jaeger- Lecoultre, Omega and Rolex watches. I also own Ventura and Swatch watches.
MD: Tell us about the development of the Hydro Challenger.
CR: The creation of the hydro was the result of the following question: how could one improve the readability of a watch under water?
MD: Can you describe the use of silicone in the Hydro Challenger?
CR: The hydro 11100M watch is a direct application of the physical principle by which all liquids are incompressible. By introducing silicon into this watch we have obtained record-breaking water-tightness (1110 atm. i.e. 11,100 metres) but also incomparable readability, the suppression of the mirror-effect under water, silent running which is unique for a quartz watch and extremely hardwearing.
MD: Tell us about the development of the Space One, Two and Three. Did that involve working with any pilots, astronauts or space agencies?
CR: The creation of the space 1, 2 and 3 watches is the result of close collaboration between engineers, watchmakers and users. With regard more specifically to the Space 3, Bell & Ross used the efficiency of CATIA software. This software, developed by Dassault aeronautics for aeronautical design, offers a 3D representation of the prototype being studied, as well as its reactions to various simulations.
MD: What special considerations are there when developing a watch for use in space?
CR: In order to optimise the use of a watch in space, Bell & Ross have re-edited the Space 1, which was the first self-winding timepiece worn in space. More recently, and in order to avoid any risk of shock to buttons or the crown, Bell & Ross have developed a system of telescopic crowns for the Space 3 known as the “T-Crown system”, as well as buttons which are completely integrated into the case.
MD: How many space missions have Bell & Ross watches been on?
CR: The Space 1 accompanied Reinhart Frrer, the German astronaut, on the Spacelab mission in 1983.
MD: What special considerations went into the development of the Bomb Squad?
CR: At the request of the French civil defence bomb squad, Bell & Ross developed the bomb squad expert’s watch based on extremely precise specifications. Because of its usage, this watch has reliability and functional characteristics, which meet the demands of these operations:
MD: Does B & R supply these watches to any police department or bomb disposal squads?
CR: This watch is now used by the French civil defence bomb squad.
MD: Did you work with NATO Pilots in developing the Military M-1?
CR: The M1 was designed according to the specifications of the German army. All the technical and functional characteristics meet D.I.N. (Deutsche Industry Norm) standards.
MD: What was the inspiration for the B&R Vintage collection?
CR: In order to offer a larger range of designs to Bell & Ross enthusiasts, we have developed the Vintage collection. These fifties-style watches resemble the meters used on aircraft control panels, whilst respecting the brand’s design and manufacturing principles.
MD: Do you feel the Vintage watches represent a move away from professional or technical watches, toward a more casual or dress watch?
CR: The Vintage collection is not a turning point compared with the technical watches collection. Quite simply, this new range means that we meet the demands of our customers who wish to wear a Bell & Ross watch more easily, on an everyday basis, whilst retaining the characteristics of reliability, design and manufacture of professional watches.
MD: What movements does B&R use?
CR: Bell & Ross, like the vast majority of watchmaking companies, purchases a movement base which is then re-worked in our workshops in terms of precision, appearance and function, in order to offer the watch its own complexity.
E.g. Vintage 126 movement: basic chronograph Valjoux 7750 movement with improvements. Removal of the counter positioned at 6H. Minute counter shifted to 9h. using a 3-wheel bridge. The date is at 5h, etc.
MD: Are there any movements used by B&R that are exclusive to B&R?
CR: The specific characteristics of certain movements are reserved for Bell & Ross (Space 3 GMT 24h, Vintage 126). Some movements can be found in Frank Mueller and GP watches.
MD: How many watches does B&R produce annually?
CR:Our annual watch production is higher than that of Brguet and lower than that of Tag Heuer!!! We keep these figures confidential.
MD: What is B&R’s philosophy?
CR: At Bell & Ross, marketing accompanies design and never precedes it. The design principles for a model are always chosen in order to meet the expectations of our users: readability, function, precision and water-tightness.
MD: Is there one watch you feel best reflects that philosophy?
CR: The Vintage 123 for its simplicity.
MD: What do you feel distinguishes B&R in a crowded marketplace?
CR: What makes Bell & Ross stand out from other brands on the watch market is their coherence and their difference. Today our collection also includes a classic range and an extremely futuristic range.
MD: Do you feel the future of the mechanical watch is safe?
CR: Watchmaking combines precision craftsmanship and new technology. I believe, therefore, that today these two aspects can preserve the mechanical watch market whilst leaving a good share to quartz watches if the end-use of the watch so requires.
MD: How do you see the internet affecting the watch industry?
CR: We are extremely interested by the potential of Internet. This media is very important, a fact, which we observe on a daily basis, since our site receives over 200 visits per day. However, final decisions have not yet been taken and I believe that we will lean towards the development of a selective network.
MD: Do you ever visit TimeZone?
CR: TimeZone is amongst my top 5.
MD: What do you think of it?
CR: TimeZone is a site for lovers of beautiful watches, with a real forum and lots of ideas with no commercial aim and that’s what we find interesting.
MD: Do you have any new watches coming out that you might be able to tell us about?
CR: See you in Basel!