Bell & Ross: Military Precision
Words by Peter Iantorno
January 22nd 2018
Bruno Belamich, co-founder and creative director of Bell & Ross, shows us behind the scenes of his rapidly expanding company, recounts his favourite creations and explains why military and aviation timepieces will always be at the heart of the brand.
Back in 1992, childhood friends Bruno Belamich and Carlos Rosillo united over a shared passion for horology and launched their own watchmaking brand. With Belamich a talented designer and Rosillo a finance graduate, the pair had the perfect combined skillset to turn their passion into a success story and, sure enough, some 25 years later, Bell & Ross is still going strong.
Inspired by aeronautical instrumentation and driven by an insatiable desire to create functional yet beautiful watches for professional use, Belamich and Rosillo are now the proud custodians of what has developed into one of the most respected military watchmakers on the planet, with astronauts, fighter pilots, armed police and special law enforcement, submariners and even bomb disposal divers using their timepieces when completing their missions.
Here, we catch up with co-founder and creative director Bruno Belamich, to find out the backstory behind this fascinating brand.
What exactly does your role of creative director entail?
There is not one typical day! My main role is to think of the collections, so I always dedicate a part of my day to thinking about what I want to do next in terms of design. However, this represents only a small part of my job. The rest of the time, I am working on all the ‘communication’ that happens around the product and the models I developed: the brochures, photographs, website… everything!
It takes an incredible amount of time to make sure that the world that we create for the brand is coherent and in line with the image we want to develop. Last but not least, I spend a lot of time on the production aspect of the business. Once the watch is designed, I need to follow-up on the production process: the materials, the feasibility, the timetables… We use the combined skills and knowhow of master watchmakers, engineers, professional users and designers to refine each watch design into something exceptional.
How much do you have to think about practicality and how much can you let your creativity run free?
If you look into all of our limited editions, you will understand that they are the products of the boundless creativity and inventiveness of our watchmakers. Managing our own company, it is a luxury to be free in the creation of our timepieces. I even think that some of our models, including our iconic Instrument BR01, might never have seen the light of day at the time they came out if they would have been the subject of a study or an approval from the sales and marketing department.
This is one of the strengths of our company, and the consequence is that creativity is unrestrained and free from financial constraints. That being said, obviously we cannot ignore the reality of the market, and my partner, Carlos Rosillo, is often there to remind me of it! All my projects are submitted to him, and we approve them together.
What is your relationship with Carlos like?
We had this longtime dream project together. We both shared a common passion for the watch industry, and a common goal to create utilitarian watches suitable for professional use adhering to strict military specifications where function takes precedence over design. I was naturally pointed out as the creative director and understandably Carlos became CEO of the brand. However, we consult each other daily for important matters and we work as a team – this is what I call the combination of expertise. You’ve stuck with the same logo ever since the company was created in 1992.
Was there ever any point when you considered changing it?
We immediately began reflecting on a logo to lay the foundations of the brand. I pictured it as extremely simple: pure, functional, reflecting utilitarian and timeless professional features, and capable of firing the imagination. It soon became obvious to both of us that we should contract our two names: Belamich and Rosillo.
This led to the selection of the Din and Franklin fonts, commonly used in the fields of aviation and security. As a final touch, the ampersand completed the logo, which forms the shape of a watch laid out flat. The circle surrounding the ampersand represents the case, with the hands at the centre. The ‘Bell’ and the ‘Ross’ form the two parts of the strap. The ‘&’ in the circle is the symbol that identifies the brand – a character often used in functional signage, it was chosen to symbolise the combination of expertise.
It turned out to be such a good choice that it has no connection with our names anymore. This logo was the first concrete manifestation of my functional training; it is evidence of the correlation between the spirit of the past and the modern brand. It turned out to be such a good choice that it has no connection with our names anymore. This logo was the first concrete manifestation of my functional training; it is evidence of the correlation between the spirit of the past and the modern brand.