In conjunction with the recent Singapore Grand Prix, Bell & Ross held a pop-up event that showcased limited-edition timepieces that draw from the automotive and aviation industries.

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Bell & Ross has raised its profile since becoming the official watch partner of the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team. After taking over directly its marketing and distribution in Asia, the French watch brand saw the recent Singapore Grand Prix as an opportunity to further explore the regional market, while playing to its strengths in design and engineering.

The retail industry is facing tough times, yet Bell & Ross is looking to expand in Asia. “The dynamics of Asia is very important because it’s a market with strong demand,” says Carlos Rosillo, co-founder of Bell & Ross. “If we manage to do here what we have achieved in France, America, Malaysia and the UK, the market can be very big, even in tough times.”

French native Rosillo took on the role of strategic adviser for an American consulting firm after graduating from École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris. After serving as a diplomat for the Industrial and Financial Affairs Department of Banque Bruxelles Lambert France, he partnered his childhood friend and colleague, Bruno Belamich, to start Bell & Ross in 1992.

Despite originating from France, Bell & Ross mainly manufactures and develops its watches in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The brand’s design and material choices have always focused on the aviation industry — it uses materials such as titanium and carbon fibre to craft timepieces suitable for pilots and their extreme flying conditions.

With its deep understanding of vehicular functions and materials, Bell & Ross is the ideal partner for French automotive brand Renault. “Bell & Ross is very well known in the aviation field, and the challenge in Formula 1 is very similar to aviation with its aerodynamism. The difference is that the car has to be on the ground,” Rosillo says in an exclusive interview with Options.

The newly launched BR 03-92 AeroGT timepiece takes its inspiration from Bell & Ross’ history in the automotive industry. “Efficiency, legibility and reliability” were Bell & Ross’ core values when it started in the 1990s. Rosillo and Belamich collaborated with dashboard manufacturer Sinn, resulting in their first few models — Space One, 103 and Hydro. In 1996, the brand created the revolutionary Bell & Ross “Bomb Disposal Type”, used by France’s bomb disposal unit — hence its military-grade reputation. This profile later evolved as the brand began crafting pie ces for aviation and diving personnel.

With regard to the brand’s partnership with Renault, Rosillo says: “The Renault Formula 1 Team’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul and I have a good relationship. The partnership was easy to establish because of it.”

The partnership was showcased at a pop-up store event on Sept 9 to 18 at Paragon Atrium. On display were exclusive timepieces, along with the brand’s other collections. “Our [pop-up] store is a way to express the soul of Bell & Ross and, especially in this partnership, to express the relationship between the watch, car and driver,” says Rosillo.

He explains that although the BR-X1 series is not new, the watches are extremely technical pieces that highlight the brand’s connection to the aviation industry. Their distinctive look also makes them the ideal model to commemorate the partnership with Renault.

To stay true to the X1 range, Bell & Ross used the chronograph and tourbillon models from the X1 series and customised them into the RS16 and RS16 Tourbillon respectively. The design of the RS16 and RS16 Tourbillon retain the eye-catching X-shaped upper bridge and anti-reflective sapphire crystals design found in the X1 models.

In its chronograph range, the RS16 is limited to only 250 pieces, like the BR-X1 HyperStellar and BR-X1 Titanium. There are only 20 pieces of the RS16 Tourbillon.

A standout difference between the RS16 and its predecessors is its colour and strap. The brand’s choice of yellow is not a coincidence. “All the inspiration comes from the car. If you put the car in front of the watch, you’ll see similarities,” Rosillo states. Renault’s cars sport a bright yellow shade and the RS16 was designed to reflect that.

Aesthetically, the RS16 models stand out. They use bright yellow woven rubber, dark grey rubber and carbon fibre bi-material. The RS16 chronograph and tourbillon also take after the X1 Carbone Forgé — its case is made of carbone forgé (carbon fibre) to match its sporty design. The RS16 Tourbillon is the only model in its category to have a case of carbone forgé. Like other X1 pieces, the RS16 has a 45mm-diameter case and uses the BR-CAL.313 calibre. The RS16 also features small seconds at the three o’clock position and the skeleton date at six o’clock.

The RS16 Tourbillon uses the BR-CAL.283 calibre and mono-pusher column wheel chronograph with a fourday power reserve. The dial accommodates a 30-minute timer, a 60-second timer, a power reserve indicator and the flying tourbillon. The two models also use the metal skeleton Superluminova-filled hour and minute hands for the dial.

Although Bell & Ross watches have primarily attracted male customers, it recently named Carmen Jordá as ambassador of its feminine line to widen its appeal. The Spaniard is a development driver with the Renault F1 team.

As for Bell & Ross’ future in Asia, Rosillo says: “I think that in Asia, people respect a lot of creativity. As we are one of the most creative brands, we think the Asian market will appreciate that”.

This article appeared in the Options of Issue 749 (Oct 10) of The Edge Singapore.