It is no secret that Bell & Ross has a long history of military-inspired watches. From the earliest days of the brand, Belamich and Rosillo have made clear that pilots and their instruments were the foundation of the design behind most B&R models – such as the iconic BR 01. So much that these watches will end up on the wrists multiple pilots and elite forces. Following a couple of years focused on urban inspirations, the brand goes back to the roots in 2021, as it announces a partnership with France’s precision aerobatics demonstration unit, the world-famous Patrouille de France. A natural connection between two French entities.
Bell & Ross, a long-time partner of Squadrons, patrols and Special Forces
Bell & Ross was founded in 1992 with a shared vision of functional and tough watches. The idea was to create instrumental pieces, inspired by everything military – special forces, diving commandos, air-forces and field action in general. From the earliest days, the brand will not only be inspired by military equipment and instruments, but its watches will soon be worn as they were intended to, for action. The Space 1 was the re-issue of the first automatic chronograph worn in space by the German astronaut Reinhart Fürrer during the Spacelab mission. Later the brand designed its own timepieces, such as the Type Demineur, a watch made after a request from the French Civil Defense and designed according to operational specifications.
In 2005, the brand will introduce its most iconic model, the BR 01 Instrument. Simple yet strong, unique and easily recognizable, the concept was based on a round dial within a square case with 4 functional screws that recalls vintage onboard instruments found in military aeroplanes.
Even though Bell & Ross also moved to different horizons in terms of design and inspirations, military forces will remain a strong part of the brand’s motto, and many of its watches will still equip squadrons and elite squads. At the occasion of the RAID’s 20th birthday, Bell & Ross was chosen to design the commemorative and symbolic watch for this elite body of the French National Police Force. At the request of the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN), Bell & Ross produced a watch that meets the specific requirements of those men.
B&R will also develop a watch specifically for French fighter pilots, the BR 03 Type Aviation, with a graduated bidirectional bezel and a multifunctional quartz movement. At the request of pilots from the French Naval Air Force, Bell & Ross produces two limited series of 150 pieces of a chronograph specially designed for air navigation. And in the same vein, at the request of the students from the French war school, Bell & Ross produces a special edition of the Vintage 123 Heritage. And these are just examples, as the brand has done multiple of these military-developed models. It seems rather natural that the French Acrobatic Patrol “Patrouille de France” chose them… in replacement of Breitling, which was officially partnering with the Patrol since 2017, but actually made some watches with this team already since 1993. Those days are gone and now it is time for Bell & Ross to become the official watch of the Patrouille de France.
The Patrouille de France
The Patrouille de France is one of the world’s most famous precision aerobatics demonstration unit. Born in 1953 but active since 1931 under different names, this elite unit under the control of the French Air and Space Force (the Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace) is the oldest of its kind and is considered as one of the best in the world. The patrol’s mission is to perform aerial displays consisting of precision aerobatics – for instance, the unit traditionally opens the Bastille Day military parade in Paris.
The squadron is composed of 9 pilots and 35 mechanics. Three pilots integrate the Patrouille each year. The new entering patrollers are chosen amongst the hunter pilots of the French Air Force. The mechanics have for mission to maintain and repair the 12 Alphajet planes assigned to the unit.
While this is often said for most elite military teams, time is particularly important in the context of the Patrouille de France. Indeed, the chains of manoeuvres must be perfectly synchronized between the different pilots, not only in order to avoid dead time for the public but also for the safety of pilots and attendees. The manoeuvres are a perfectly timed choreography where error isn’t an option.
After two years of watches focused on urban styles and more luxurious appeal – the BR 05 Collection – the Parisian brand has decided to go back to the roots, with watches that pay tribute to its rich military past. Part of this renewed love for pilot’s instruments and military-ready timepieces, the brand decided to answer the tender process for a new watchmaking partner for the Patrouille de France, a collaboration that makes a lot of sense for Bell & Ross.
For the brand, “This token of trust is the fruit of a rich and prestigious history between Bell & Ross and military aviation. It is a recognition and an honour to be able to display the Patrouille de France to our professional references,” says Bruno Belamich, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Bell & Ross.
For the time being no specific model has been developed by the brand. All 9 pilots will, as of now, fly with a BR 03-94 Black Matte Chronograph on the wrist. However, it makes almost no doubt that the brand will unveil specific “Patrouille de France” watches in the near future, designed by and for the pilots of this prestigious patrol. A partnership that will reinforce once again the brand’s legitimacy in terms of aeronautical instruments.
More details at bellross.com.