Bell & Ross co-founder Carlos A. Rosillo talks to Port as the luxury French watch brand opens its members’ club-inspired boutique in Mayfair
Twenty three years after drafting plans for the luxury watch company Bell & Ross, its co-founders Carlos A. Rosillo and Bruno Belamich have opened their first London boutique in Mayfair. It’s a space that evokes a club-like atmosphere, combining the brand’s aviation industry roots and a fondness for the English gentleman’s lifestyle.
Businessman Rosillo co-founded the company alongside designer Belamich with the intention of producing watches that were engineered for pilots and divers, but made available to a wider commercial audience. In doing so, they have created created a brand that reflects these demanding professions and derives its aesthetic from functionality. As a Franco-British inspired outfit, Bell & Ross also draws its philosophy from the intertwined histories and militaries of the two nations.
We caught up with Rosillo on the day of the launch to discuss the new boutique, his fascination with British military history and what makes an iconic timepiece.
Why did you choose Mayfair’s Burlington Arcade as a home for your first London boutique?
When I hit the age of 10 I discovered the concept of an English gentleman, just by being in the Mayfair area. This neighbourhood has always had that very British elegant style; it’s a style that’s long lasting, but also has a sense of modernity to it…It’s tradition with a twist.
The rooms in this arcade look alike and the brands are also similar. When you look at who’s around us – Eres, La Perla, Chanel and Maison Michel – all of them are very Franco-British with an elegance you don’t find everywhere. The stores in this gallery have a soul. It’s a great club to be a part of.
Why have you set up shop now?
The reason we chose the 18th of June for our opening is to celebrate Franco-British relations. First, it is the date of the Battle of Waterloo and, by acknowledging this date, we point out the ups and downs between the two nations. It is also the date of Charles de Gaulle’s appeal to the French people from London, 70 years ago. So we’re seeing a historical battle date, but also the day that began the liberation of the French people and later the world.
How do military ideals inform Bell & Ross’ ethos?
I think that militaries are a big source of inspiration because they show courage and a sense of strategy. The epicentre of Bell & Ross is the confluence between the designer, the engineer and the professional user, many of whom are in the military. Inspiration also comes from the professional users, we speak to them and we are happy to listen to them. We respond according to their requirements and so when they choose us it’s a testimony; their endorsement reflects our capacity to respond.
As a relatively young brand in watch-world terms, why have you chosen to place so much emphasis on history?
A company is like a person. Whether you are 21 or 80 years old it’s very important to know where you come from. We put a lot of emphasis on history so we can understand the values that correspond to our philosophy. Being young is also something that gives you assets. There is a kind of personality and strength that you get when starting something new without heritage. This boutique is a real mix of new and old: when you look at the façade it’s quite traditional, but when you are inside you see that it is something with modernity.
How has the brand evolved over the past 21 years?
We have created and maintained a definitive style. When you look at our products – whether it’s the classic pocket watch or something more modern – there is a style that is easy to recognise at a glance. This is the magic of an iconic watch. This style is important because it helps develop the ‘club spirit’. That is also why it was so important to have a boutique, because a club without a place to join is not a club…
Do you think it’s a good time to be a watch collector?
I think so. If you have the eye and you know how to select then yes. The beauty of watches is that there’s a mix of craftsmanship, culture and art, but that means you need to know those precise facets and where the value is going to be concentrated. The houses that are smart will protect the investor. In time, prices must go up if you’re going to call your product an investment.
What do you think are the defining characteristics of a Bell & Ross watch?
They are very readable from the first glance. You know what time it is, even with the highly sophisticated models. We have four key principles: readability, functionality, reliability and precision. We want to have the balance between all of these focuses: between design and engineering, between watch manufacturing and professional users. I’ve heard it said that a good plane is a beautiful plane… I think you can say exactly the same for a watch.