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Carlos-A Rosillo and Bruno Belamich of Bell & Ross discuss their vision for creating timepieces that are unique

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon12/7/2022 11:53 PM GMT+08  • 12 min read
Carlos-A Rosillo and Bruno Belamich of Bell & Ross discuss their vision for creating timepieces that are unique
Carlos-A Rosillo and Bruno Belamich of Bell & Ross discuss their vision for creating timepieces that are unique
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Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft); Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google); Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Apple Inc); Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard (Hewlett-Packard); Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben & Jerry’s). What do these pairs have in common? They are all successful co-founders and their partnerships work because many of them were relatives or long-time friends such as Carlos A Rosillo and Bruno Belamich, co-founders of Bell & Ross.

The friendship began when they were children and it continued into adulthood with such an unbreakable bond. Bell & Ross was founded in 1994 — a combination of the first syllable of their last names Bel (Belamich) and Ross (Rosillo) — which specialises in timepieces that are classic and unique.

Their aim was to create watches for professionals who work under extreme conditions — especially divers, pilots and astronauts. To meet the demands of these jobs, Bell & Ross developed a series of watches that embody four distinct values:

Legibility (the design’s priority is the clarity of the dial so that reading time is made easier); functionality (each timepiece is made with specific and practical functions); precision (traditional Swiss technology guarantees accurate time); and reliability (built according to military specifications, each watch can withstand extreme conditions on land, air or sea).

This year, Bell & Ross launched the much-anticipated BR-X5 collection with an event that had a theme based on space-time dimensions in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Before the event on Nov 3, both Rosillo and Belamich gave a round-table press meeting with media from Singapore at the St Regis Hotel in KL.

Usually, Rosillo is the spokesperson for the brand but this time round, both were present at the interview. It is not because Rosillo wants to be in the limelight, it is because Belamich is the analytical and creative half of Bell & Ross while Rosillo is more of the numbers guy. The mutual respect they have for each other’s area of work is clear as they give each other time to talk and even agree with follow-up statements.

See also: Timekeepers for the new year

The BR-X5 is presented in a new, sleek design that pairs playful sportiness with serious pursuits that get its heartbeat from Calibre BR-CAL.323. The movement which was developed in a partnership between the French watch designer and mechanical manufacturer Kenissi has about a 70-hour power reserve.

Watch collectors are quick to note the use of Kenissi movement. Rosillo says: “The use of Kenissi is a strategic one and also we like the brand and we did not buy a movement from ETA or Sellita. Kenissi asks us if we are ready to pay more. And we said yes. Chanel who owns some shares in this joint venture with Tudor asked us another question and if we were interested in this movement. And we said yes of course because we are interested in manufacturing movement while we went ahead because we have the assurance of a reliable movement.” Rosillo explains that the BR-X5 is like having a baby and they only want what is best for the baby, which means Kenissi is like the special godmother.

See also: Chopard's evolution of time

The arrival of the BR-X5

Preparation for the birth took its time and Belamich recalls that 2017 was the year the idea was conceived. “We already had the idea of a sophisticated version of the BR-X5 but as you know in our business, every development and every production takes time because every time you want to innovate, you have to do and redo and it takes time to get the first prototype, the second proto- type and the third prototype, the press series model.”

He admits that as a designer, he has many ideas swirling in his head but a process needs to be followed. He says that because the company is small, processes concerning how novelties are introduced each year follow a certain procedure. He adds, “We have a product committee every Monday, where commercial discuss with design and production. What is important is the feeling and the vision we want to express. We analyse and we say maybe we need the watch to look a certain way or a new dial needs to be created.”

As a designer, Belamich admits that he is interested in innovation and contributes to ideas. “For the BR-X5, it was evident the design has commercial value and the collection is the basic manual for Bell & Ross. I say it is the sophisticated version with an industrial approach,” he says.

Rosillo says, “I would add to what Bruno is saying and yes, it is an industrial approach. We had the vision five years ago to make the BR-X5 collection an urban one but we already knew that there would be a supplementary one, a more technical one.” He continues to say that the company prefers to take its time when it comes to creating, designing and launching a watch such as the BR-X5.

“As Bruno said, the process takes time and there are steps to follow and the first is the design,” says Rosillo. He recalls when the watch was introduced at a watch fair some years ago, two things stood out. He adds, “This is not a one-of-a-kind automatic model because there will be more to come, such as a GMT model. With this in mind, we had another which is sophistication.”

So who is the BR-X5 aimed at? Rosillo says it is for people who care about technical sophistication such as the movement. The main target is people who care, not only about the shape but the form and function too. Since its debut in 2019, the BR-05 collection has served as the jewel of strength in the French Maison’s catalogue, embodying urban-focused design in a unique and distinctly geometric fashion. In the BR-X5, Bell & Ross elevates the original integrated silhouette to its pinnacle, drawing from the strong DNA of the brand and presenting a new, sleek design that pairs sportiness with serious intrigue, all while being powered by a movement manufactured by Kenissi.

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While forward-looking in its sophistication, the modern watch remains in line with the familiar attitudes which have helped define Bell & Ross, being perfectly balanced in its elevation by its versatility. Throughout the design, a sense of sportiness and practical reliability carries through and these sentiments are provided by both its steel construction as well as an integrated design between the case and matching steel bracelet or open-worked rubber strap.

Another design style to note is the multi-layer construction of the BR-X5 which is discreet when viewed from the front but comes into its own when seen from the side. The hollowed-out architecture of the case middle is captivating, revealing a technical construction that optimises lightness without compromising utility or water resistance. The different polished, satin-brushed and micro-blasted finishes throughout the case highlight the lines and surfaces of the design and ensure the successful completion of this watchmaking puzzle.

The secret to the success of Bell & Ross is one based on a shared passion. In a previous interview with Options, Rosillo says, “The adventure was born out of the same passion for my associate and me: That of watches with a military vocation and functionalist design. Our challenge is to be part of the great Swiss watchmaking tradition to create watches for professional use.”

He concludes by stressing that what is really important is that they have stayed true to themselves from day one to today. It has always been a consistent and coherent message. “We are clear about the direction, the design and who we are making these watches for. Bell & Ross has a real story and a product on its own, and this is evident in our images which come pretty easy,” he says.

In a different dimension

The launch of Bell & Ross BR-X5 was held at The Exchange 106, the newest towering skyscraper to join the numerous buildings that dot the Kuala Lumper skyline. High up on the 57th floor, guests walked into a Continuum of Time & Space event that is described as space and time intertwined in a single continuum known as space-time.

Not knowing what to expect, we gingerly moved from room to room to discover myriad experiences that felt like we stepped right into a sci-fi film. The sun setting behind the buildings greeted us, this first dimension features a giant BR-X5 florescent light that made for a great Insta picture.

In the second dimension, we got lost in a maze of mirrors featuring a slew of optical illusions. This led us to the third dimension where Bruno Belamich and Carlos A. Rosillo presented the BR-X5. In the fourth dimension, we discovered a whole new world bathed in white as the watches are placed on robotic arms.

Finally, in the fifth dimension, we celebrated the launch with a free flow of drinks and food – a great way to end a day filled with wonder and surprises.

Dynamic Duo

Colours have been in the minds of the creators of the BR 05 collection. The reason for this, as stated by Bruno Belamich, Creative Director and co-founder of Bell & Ross is to “breathe life into a range through technique (movement), materials, or details.” Hence, the debut of the BR 05 Copper Brown. Previous iterations presented in the 2019 version of the 3-hand BR 05 came in black, silver and navy blue.

This very unique shade in metallic brown with copper highlights is enriched with a sunburst finish that is reminiscent of the light at the end of a warm summer’s day. The beautiful sunburst effect is created by circular micro-engraving of the metal plate of the dial. After which several coats of transparent varnish brown are applied to the plate to give depth to the Copper Brown shade.

“Brown is a colour that is increasingly in demand in watchmaking”, says Belamich. “It’s an easy-to-wear, stylish colour commonly found in the modern man’s wardrobe”, adds the designer. The BR 05 Copper Brown is intended for elegant city dwellers looking for a chic, dressy, contemporary watch. Its mainstream light brown hue, which recalls the soft leather tints, is easy to wear every day. Indeed, as it is designed for city life, an ideal companion for urban adventurers.

Style and functionality extend to the integrated bracelet that balances the 40mm case in both steel, and blend to create a single element. Those preferring a sportier look can opt for a rubber strap that comes in a colour that matches the milk-chocolate brown of the dial.

For the Bell & Ross fans, some iconic design elements remain, such as the easy-to-read dial with hands, indexes and numerals coated in super-luminova. This photo-luminescent coating guarantees optimal readability both day and night: creating a colour contrast with the brown of the dial. The date window is displayed at 3 o’clock while the sapphire caseback offers a view of the inner workings of the watch that is powered by the in-house self-winding BR-CAL 321 calibre.

The BR-X5 is presented in a new, sleek design that pairs playful sportiness with serious pursuits that get its heartbeat from Calibre BR-CAL.323. A movement that is developed in partnership between the French brand and the mechanical manufacturer Kenissi has a 70-hour power reserve. The mechanism resulted from several years of design, development, and fine-tuning, and features an exclusive configuration in compliance with the specifications defined by Bell & Ross.

Available in two colourways — black and ice blue — each option represents two sides of the brand’s appeal. In the suave black, classic and timeless noir are channelled with bright, sharp accents of red highlighting the look. While in the ice blue, the tasteful spirit of sport and play which has defined the urban BR 05 is in full view.

With a 41mm in diameter and a thickness of 12.8mm, the case of the BRX5 has evolved to feature a sandwich case. This multi-layer construction has a hollowed-out architecture to reveal a technical marvel that optimizes lightness without compromising utility or water resistance. The different polished, satin-brushed and micro-blasted finishes throughout the case highlight the lines and surfaces of the design.

In its construction, the case of the BR-X5 begins with a steel core, the central component machined from the same block of metal as the watch’s crown guards and in effect ensuring the superior protection of the timepiece and its movement. Flanking the core are the watch’s square bezel, highlighted via a rubber ring, and its caseback, both fixed to the two steel plates that form the top and bottom of the case. The novel assembly is kept watertight to 100m by four screws that pass through the thickness of the case via four columns, each of which reinforces the solidity of the construction while providing a signature look.

While forward-looking in its sophistication, the modern watch remains in line with the friendly attitudes which have helped define Bell & Ross, being perfectly balanced in its elevation by its versatility. Throughout the design, a sense of sportiness and practical reliability carry through, these sentiments are provided by both its steel construction and as well as an integrated design between the case and matching steel bracelet or open-worked rubber strap.

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