Carlos Rosillo likes to take his time. It’s a character trait that has served him well, considering the success of Bell & Ross, the watch brand that he founded 20 years ago with his childhood friend Bruno Belamich: “Accuracy, subtlety and performance. No frills — we go right to the essentials.” At the brand’s headquarters on Rue Copernic in Paris, he talks about the military values that he cultivates, and that inspired him to embark on this adventure in the first place. An investment by Chanel in 1998 gave him greater means to reach his goals, and allowed him to exert close control over Bell & Ross’s production, based in Les Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland for the prestige of the “Swiss made” label.
Before talking about the Rafale model, named after a Dassault fighter jet, Rosillo guides us through the history of the collection, explaining the logic behind each innovation. There’s the well-known WWI, for “Wrist Watch One” in reference to the First World War, an homage to the army pilots who were the first to switch from pocket watches to wrist models. Their control panels also inspired the basic principles of the product’s development: it had to be functional, legible, precise and reliable. To achieve these military standards of excellence, Bell & Ross collaborates with Dassault Aviation’s jet designers and various special forces units in France, as well as the Spanish and Singaporean armies.
Rosillo emphasizes his brand’s philosophy, symbolized by the “&” in Bell & Ross: an alliance of skills uniting the designer, the master watchmaker, the engineer and the professional user. Indeed, the user is a key figure, and a differentiating factor, for the brand. Showing a photo of a Rafale pilot sporting the new model, which launched this year in a limited edition of 500, he explains that this was the first instance of a pilot wearing a watch developed through such a partnership, on duty, in a jet taking off from an aircraft carrier. “Nothing is staged,” he says proudly. “Nothing is embellished — it’s a rare glimpse of real-life action.” This type of partnership becomes a virtuous circle: “Once the partner’s signature appears on a watch, the watch becomes part of the institution, winning people’s loyalty and lending greater value to the object itself.”
Bell & Ross is present in 70 countries and has strong growth potential in Asia. Nonetheless, Carlos Rosillo is aware that it’s still a challenger in relation to the biggest names — but he makes that an asset by developing the spirit of a “club,” an exclusive society of Bell & Ross customers. A cigar aficionado, this year he launched the Vintage WWI Edición Limitada, a watch in the colors of a fine Havana, with a five-day power reserve. A reminder for the man lighting his cigar that he has time. Time to do things right and enjoy the pleasures of life.