New heights of inspiration

Bell & Ross displayed its affinity for aviation at this year's BaselWorld, where the cockpit of a 1950s aircraft dominated the entrance to its stand. The Thunderstreak Red Falcon is usually on show at the brand's Parisian headquarters, but it was shipped to Basel for the fair.

The watchmaker's fascination with cockpit displays dominated its new models and includes additions to its iconic BR01 Aviation series and a collection honouring an aircraft milestone. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the maiden Falcon business flight and Bell & Ross partnered with its manufacturer Dassault to create two limited-edition timepieces.

The Vintage Falcon BR123 and the Vintage Falcon BR126, launched under the wing of the Vintage Sport Heritage collection, take on 1960s-inspired characteristics with sand-coloured hands and numerals, a round polished case and a bezel marked with 60-minute graduations. A silk-screen outline of the Falcon appears on the brown dial at six o'clock and there is a metallic logo reading "50 years of passion and innovation Dassault - Falcon" on a sapphire glass caseback. The automatic movement provides hour, minutes, seconds and date function and the addition of a two-counter chronograph with 60- and 30-second countdowns on the BR126.

The BR01 Aviation series ascends new heights in aeronautical readings of time with three watches inspired by the specific functions of a cockpit. A heading indicator shows the course an aircraft is on and provides the first source of inspiration. The BR01 Heading Indicator features a dial constructed from three concentric discs graduated to give hour and minute readings.

Hours are indicated by a yellow triangle on the outer hour disc, and minutes are placed on a middle disc. Seconds are displayed on a central disc. The ultra-light discs are the result of new materials and techniques developed by Bell & Ross so they would perform a parallel rotation to maintain accurate timekeeping. Other features include cardinal readings with the exception of north, omitted to make room for the triangular hour marker. A bold yellow plane is engraved under the glass to reinforce its heritage.

The BR01 Airspeed puts the microscope on legibility, resulting in a dial separating the hour, minute and second graduations. Minute readings mirror a cockpit design with a prominent position on the main dial. Hours are displayed in the centre.

Green, white and yellow markings divide quarter hour zones and mimic aircraft airspeed readings that indicate levels of criticality.

The last in the series is the BR01-97 Climb, which takes its design cue from the variometer on an aircraft used to display its ascent, descent or flying level. Bell & Ross replaced this function with a power reserve indicator, but applied a similar graduated typeface and added a date reading at three o'clock.

All three pieces contain a mechanical automatic movement, are water resistant to 100 metres and available in a limited number of 999 pieces.

The latest collection follows similarly themed models released over the last couple of years, and Bell & Ross also debuted a collector's set likely to generate excitement among aviators and watch connoisseurs. The control panel-inspired box set contains this year's three models and the BR01 Horizon, Altimeter and Turn Coordinator that debuted a year ago.

And there are more limited-edition pieces. Last year's Vintage WW1 Heure Sautante is followed with a 99-piece WW1 Regulateur in pink gold. The watch movement separates the indexes into a hierarchical order displaying the hours, minutes and seconds independently. A dominant central hand counts the minutes, a small hand a six o'clock marks off the seconds, and a counter at 12 o'clock indicates the hours. The watch takes on a neo-classical appearance with a domed sapphire crystal, narrow alligator strap and a barleycorn guilloched case back.

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