When it comes to wrist watches, the shape and style of the watch case is often a variation on a common platform. They are round, rectangular or Tourneau – all traditional shapes. Once in a while though, a manufacturer comes along and dramatically changes the playing field. While not for everyone, Bell & Ross is one of those companies. Designed after airplane cockpit gauges, their BR Instrument line of timepieces is about as distinctive as you can get.
Founded in Switzerland in 1992 by a group of aeronautical designers, Bell & Ross is focused on producing watches that are both distinctive and suitable for use by demanding professionals like pilots, divers, astronauts and specialized police units.
What sets Bell & Ross apart from other Swiss watchmakers is its focus on utilitarian design, complimented by exceptional technical craftsmanship usually found inside luxury cases. Their designs tend to follow the school of “form follows function,” so the distinctive square shape of the Instrument line is, in fact, dictated by the goal of precision timekeeping and durability.
The company has four stated design principles that guide the development of their timepieces: water resistance, mechanical precision, readability and performance. The readability principle has perhaps the biggest impact on the watch’s physical design.
Hence, the Instrument line looks like, well, flight instruments. This practical design scheme ultimately makes for a truly unique watch in what too often seems like a sea of sameness.
These square cased watches are large, distinctive and instantly recognizable. Particularly unique is the watch face’s strong graphic design; large white markings on matt black backgrounds. The goal, of course, is to mimic the clear visual indicators of cockpit controls.
The Instrument line comes in four primary models: the BR 01-92 black dial automatic; the BR 01-94 Chronograph; the BR 01-96 big date; and the BR 01-97 power reserve. There is also a rather elaborate tourbillion model that is, to me, a little funny looking. For those out there with smaller wrists, there is also a mid-sized version of the Instrument line in a 42 millimeter size.
In keeping with the demands of collectors, each of these watches is also available in finishes other than black; from brushed steel to rose gold. While large and frankly clunky looking when lying on a table, once on the wrist, Instrument watches are particularly masculine looking.
If you are looking to invest in something interesting when it comes to watches, take a look at the Instrument line from Bell & Ross – it’s definitely different.