As collaborations go, it’s an absolute no-brainer. They are both French, have a passion for pushing the boundaries when it comes to technical excellence and look really good in yellow. First announced back in 2016, Bell & Ross’s partnership with the newly established Renault Sport Formula 1 was a new vehicular avenue for the watch brand, which had previously been the preserve of the world of aviation, but one that was bound by both partners wanting to be more creative outside of their usual universes.
After two years of racing-car influenced collections that took inspiration from elements of Renault’s single-seat racing car such as the steering wheel, this year it is the chassis that takes pole position. The result is a collection of three watches that are light, durable and, more importantly, have ultra-accurate timing technology that is essential for anyone, whether you’re part of a Formula 1 team or simply enjoy bombing around your local A roads.
It’s not surprising that the R.S.18 series, this year’s crop of Renault Sport-affiliated Bell & Ross watches, are based on the chassis. It is the driver’s main point of interaction with the car; how you exert your control over the vehicle, where your two personalities meld. It is so personal, in fact, that drivers will change chassis if they feel that the connection is not there. Renault also has reason to be proud of its new chassis, which it introduced in 2017 and significantly improved its standings in the World Constructors’ Championships.
When it comes to a watch, the case is the chassis. It is ergonomic, engineered to be light yet withstand shocks and cossets the beating heart of the machine. In Bell & Ross’s case, that means using microblasted titanium with portions milled out to make the structure even lighter, but without compromising its strength. Rather than the usual vertical pushers, the chronograph function is operated with ones that rock to emulate the paddles on a Formula 1 steering wheel.
In many ways, a chronograph is the ultimate automotive watch function. Originally invented to measure the short periods of time between horses on a race course, it is now an indispensable tool for drivers and timekeepers, allowing them to monitor the performance of the cars as they race.
To make its chronographs even easier to use Bell & Ross has used Renault’s signature yellow to make all the functions instantly legible. Add to that an anti-reflective sapphire crystal and a specially designed perforated rubber strap and you’ve got a watch that’s ideal whether you’re lapping Silverstone or the M25.
This is the most basic of the new R.S.18 models, though there’s really nothing basic about it. It is the ultimate pared-back sports chronograph. The perforated, microblasted titanium case comes as standard and the dial is carbon fibre; a material used in F1 for a car’s chassis. The two chronograph sub dials have been skeletonised so the gear train – the wheels and pinions responsible for evenly transmitting power through the movement – can be seen without turning the watch over. A tachymeter scale around the outer edge of the dial, to calculate speed over a given distance, allows for immediate calculations, while the rocker design of the red anodised aluminium pushers means no delays in stopping and starting the chronograph function.
Limited to 999 pieces
The worlds of high-end watchmaking and high-speed cars collide in this design, which is the very essence of a racing driver’s watch. To make the timepiece so light on the wrist you’ll hardly be able to feel it, the movement has been skeletonised, giving a high-tech style to the Swiss-made BR-CAL.313 with its distinctive X-shaped upper bridge. For this model, the rocker pushers are in Renault yellow to complement the tachymeter scale and thumb grip on the case at 9 o’clock to ensure there’s no slipping when using the chronograph. And, the hands and indices have been filled with SuperLuminova so you won’t have to choose another watch to time your night race laps.
Limited to 250 pieces
BR-X1 Tourbillon R.S.18
If it’s extra precision you’re looking for then this skeletonised flying tourbillon chronograph has it in spades. Used to reduce the effects of the earth’s gravity on the movement, this flying tourbillon – so-called because its cage is secured on an axis so the mechanism appears to float in space – is the pinnacle of complicated watchmaking. The red and yellow chronograph sub dials are operated by a single pusher, keeping the case uncluttered and allowing the mechanics, which can be seen through the skeletonised dial, to take centre stage. Despite having all these horological fireworks on display, this is still a tool watch and Bell & Ross has ensured maximum legibility thanks to the use of colour and the SuperLuminova hands and indices in a timepiece that effortlessly blends sport and luxury.
Limited to 20 pieces
BR V2-94 R.S.18
The French Grand Prix returned to the Formula 1 calendar this summer. To mark the occasion, Bell & Ross delved into its archives to produce an additional vintage piece to the trio of chronographs above. And it’s arguably even racier. This colourful chrono has a yellow internal minute track and two counters, one in red for optimal legibility of the subdial. There’s also a tachymeter scale which allows you to calculate a car’s speed in an instant while bonus racing kudos comes in the form of a carbon fibre dial emblazoned with numerals taken from the Renault Sport Formula One Team. The steel case comes on a rubber strap with go-faster stripes in the colours of the French flag. Or for something that nods to the great heritage of motoring watches, there’s also a perforated calfskin strap and a satin-finished steel bracelet.
Limited to 999 pieces
Explore the full collection at bellross.com