Bell & Ross’ newest opening at The Exchange TRX encapsulates aeronautical spirit of the brand

The store was modelled after the build of an aircraft.

The boutique mirrors the brand’s commitment to utility and elegance (All photos: Shahrill Basri/The Edge)

New year, new me. Or at least that is what we would like to tell ourselves as the clock strikes 12 on Jan 1. Fresh out of the holiday season, ’tis the season to set fresh goals with reinstated vigour and tackle lingering shortcomings from the past trip around the sun. If punctuality is among your (new) New Year’s resolutions, then we suggest you do it with panache and look no further than Swiss watchmaker Bell & Ross when the time comes to add to your watch collection, a task made easy thanks to its newly opened store at Kuala Lumpur’s latest high-end shopping complex, The Exchange TRX.

Those familiar with the brand and its ethos will know of the house’s origins that lie in the aeronautical field, wherein exactitude and calibre are lionised. The objective of founders Bruno Belamich (Bell) and Carlos-Antonio Rosillo (Ross) was simple: to create timepieces suited for the professional masculine in extreme conditions, with great Swiss execution. In order to fulfil their four key principles — legibility, functionality, reliability and precision — all elements of each watch are designed by experts, stripped down to the bare basic functions before being reimagined into a sophisticated configuration.

Knowing this, it is probably no surprise to Bell & Ross adherents that the TRX store chooses to refrain from unnecessary ornateness. Occupying a smaller unit compared with the mall’s maze of extravagant luxury outlets, the boutique mirrors the brand’s commitment to utility and elegance, as well as its meticulous design process that keeps the masculine daredevil and adventure-loving professional in mind.


The new store offers the best of the brand, from everyday wearables to haute horlogerie

While perhaps not immediately obvious, the store was modelled after the build of an aircraft. Specifically, it is meant to evoke the look of a fuselage, aka the main body of the flight machine. The black vertical lines across the façade imitate the structure of a plane’s skeleton. Four square display cases, containing select watches enticing passers-by, are pictured as windows. Warm tan wooden detailing breaks up the otherwise black and white store, adding a homely and classic touch to the overall environment.

Inside, more glass cases with watches in a range of shapes, sizes and colours stand waiting to greet new clients. The cubic central island, sporting the words “From the cockpit to the wrist”, even houses a miniature aeroplane figurine positioned among the timepieces. Looking up, one notices the unique choice of lighting fixture — a deconstructed installation with elongated bulbs emitting bright white luminescence that is almost reminiscent of the lights used by airport ground crews.

On a walkthrough of the space, Bell and Ross Asia general manager Tong Chee Wei tells Options about the maison’s philosophy that extends beyond its product line into the design of the new opening. “We look at function before we create the form,” he says, referring to the brand’s uncomplicated design process that prioritises the horology requisites above all else. As he reminds us, “the essentials are never overtaken by the superfluous”.


The BR-X2 Tourbillion Micro-Rotor Skeleton

Most of all, the store exemplifies Bell & Ross’ devotion to encapsulating mankind’s innate connection to the natural world and our passion for thrill-seeking as seen in the professionals it caters for like deep sea divers, astronauts and aircraft operators. “We were working with the philosophy of being a pilot,” says Tong when dishing insight on the store’s design. “So we asked if we were to make a watch [for a pilot], what would it look like? What would a pilot like to have in a watch?” Understanding the no-nonsense nature of the job, the brand’s watches naturally took on a no-frills appearance with materials chosen for their durability first. Evidently, this has translated into the TRX outlet where shoppers are treated to a sensible yet still high-end experience.

Some may think the apparent simplicity of the store does not sufficiently match Bell & Ross’ status as a steadily growing player in the world of luxury watchmaking. However, horologists and general style fans would argue that the label is making waves in an area that few succeed in — creating and staying true to one’s identity. For this brand, that manifests in clean-cut designs and function (over form) that speaks for itself.

“Of course, in the luxury world, sometimes you need diamonds,” Tongs muses. “But a pilot does not need that kind of complication.” And with its dedication to superb craftsmanship and unwavering fundamentals, neither does Bell & Ross.

This article first appeared on Jan 8, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


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