Bell & Ross, a watch brand whose designs are rooted in aviation history, has in recent years entered into partnerships to produce aeronautically engineered land vehicles that the company in turn used as design templates for limited-edition timepieces — like the B-Rocket motorcycle in 2014, the AeroGT concept automobile in 2016, and last year’s Bellytanker. At this year’s Baselworld, the concept came full circle with the launch of an actual flying machine, called the BR-Bird, and its accompanying aeronautically inspired watches, the BR V1-92 and BR V2-94 Racing Birds.
The BR-Bird aircraft (above) is the brainchild of Bell & Ross co-founder and creative director Bruno Belamich. A high-speed, single-seat propellor-engine plane designed to compete in the famous Reno Air Races, it is made entirely with high-tech materials such as graphite, fiberglass, titanium, and aluminum alloy and powered by a V12 Rolls Royce Falcon engine on a Merlin base (the Merlins were used in the legendary Spitfire military planes). With a length of 9.5 meters and a broad wingspan of 10.31 meters, the BR-Bird reaches a maximum speed of 909km/h, or Mach 0.73. As with the watches released alongside the B-Rocket, AeroGt, and Bellytanker, the Racing Bird models (offered as either a three-hand automatic, the BR V1-92, below, and as a chronograph, the BR v2-94) display the design influence of the aircraft.
The white dials take their cue from the color of the plane’s fuselage, while the blue of the hour numerals, chronograph subdial counters, tachymeter scale, and minute track elements matches that used on the empennage of the BR-Bird, the rear part comprising the stabilizer, elevator, vertical fin, and rudder. A bright orange, used to highlight the most vital information on the cockpit’s flight instruments, appears on other dial highlights, including the chronograph seconds hands, as well as in the lining of the blue calfskin straps. The gray color used in other segments of the minute track, and in a sector of the chronograph’s subdial, echoes the color of the checkered flags used in aerial speed competitions. The Arabic hour numerals on both dials are in the same font as those on the dashboard counters. The date windows, at 3 o’clock on both models, are in the classical flight instrumentation style, with three visible numerals and an orange pointer indicating the current date. The central seconds hand (for running seconds on the three-hand, for counting stopwatch seconds on the chrono) features a silhouette of the Br-Bird aircraft as its counterweight.
The simpler of the new models, the BR V1-92, is also the smaller of the two: its satin-polished stainless steel case measures 38.5 mm in diameter and houses the automatic BR-CAL.302 movement (based on the Sellita SW300-1), with a 28,800-vph frequency and a 38-hour power reserve. A curved sapphire crystal with nonreflective coating covers the dial, accented by painted blue numerals and Super-LumiNova-filled skeleton hands. The watch, offered on a calfskin strap with orange lining, is a limited edition of 999 pieces.
The BR V2-94 chronograph version, available on either a blue calfskin strap or a steel bracelet, has a larger, 41-mm-diameter case in satin-polished steel. Its tachymeter-scale bezel ring is made of anodized blue aluminum, and it is powered by another automatic movement, called BR-CAL.301, which is a modified ETA 2894-2, and is visible through a sapphire caseback. The movment features 37 jewels, a 28,800-vph frequency and a 42-hour power reserve. In addition to the 3 o’clock aviator-style date display, the dial hosts a small seconds display at 3 o’clock and a 30-minute chronograph counter at 9 o’clock. Like its three-handed sibling, the Br V2-94 has blue painted numerals and Super-LumiNova-filled skeleton hands, and is limited to 999 pieces.