Fabien de Nonancourt, General Manager at Bell & Ross Discusses the Brand’s Latest Timepiece

Lindsay Judge   |   11-10-2021

This year, Bell & Ross presents a new addition to its BR 05 collection.


The BR 05 GMT is a watch that offers a more urban interpretation of travel and time and can be worn for any occasion, while still offering the best in watchmaking and honouring the DNA of the brand. Launching at a time when many of us have been grounded for over a year, this watch encourages its owners to embrace travel once again and combine it with the most dynamic developments in design and innovation. The BR 05 GMT was created for the urban explorer who values both function, style and adventure. With a design inspired by a pilot’s cockpit, the BR 05 GMT is designed to accompany the transition between different times zones and is the modern globe trotter’s ultimate tool.


The BR05 GMT is a combination of stainless and robust materials encasing the finest Swiss watchmaking mechanics. Equipped with an automatic calibre with a GMT function, wound by a 360° oscillating weight, the new model reveals the beating heart of its movement through a sapphire glass case back. The black 41mm dial features large Arabic numerals and indices and hands coated in white Super-LumiNova®. It comprises colours that are ingrained in the brand’s DNA and reflects those used on-board flight instruments. While the white hands on the main dial indicate the time at the wearer’s current location, the red arrow-hand on the 24-hour graduated inner bezel shows the time in his country of origin.


This September Bell & Ross showcased the BR 05 GMT in Dubai and A&E was there to discover it first-hand. We met with Fabien de Nonancourt, General Manager at Bell & Ross to find out more about the importance of this launch and what else we can expect to see from the brand in the region moving forward.



What can you tell us about the watch we are here to discover today?

The BR05 line was first launched two years ago and the BR 05 GMT is an evolution of our iconic square design, presented in a more urban way, with an integrated design so you can still feel the characteristics of the watch – the square case, the round dial, the Arabic numerals and the four screws – but with a totally different approach, featuring an integrated bracelet that’s easy to wear. It’s a very versatile watch that can be worn for sports or with a suit. The collection already featured an automatic watch with a 40mm dial and a chronograph with a 42mm dial and we felt there was room for a size in between (41mm), and that’s how we came up with this project. It was interesting to work on a watch with a GMT function when we were not allowed to travel, so we were travelling only in our imagination! It was a great project and I think it has come at the right moment as countries are opening up and we can travel again.


Who is the person that this watch is designed for?

It’s designed of course for people who are travelling a lot and who enjoy having a GMT function on their watch, but also for those who are interested in design and having a small watch complication on their wrist. It’s designed for what we call the “urban explorer”; it’s a watch inspired by aviation in its origin but it’s for everyday life and for those living in the city.




Why do you think watch fans and collectors in the region can resonate with this timepiece?

Bell & Ross is popular not just in the Middle East but everywhere among watch connoisseurs because it has such an iconic design. We believe they are looking for something that shares the same philosophy as the brand but that can be worn more easily. We had the vintage collection which is more classic and we wanted to add the Bell & Ross touch by finding something that was really inspired by aviation with a unique design but captured the DNA of the brand. I think the BR 05 GMT is a really good compromise because you can still feel the brand in the design but you can wear it for any occasion and I think that’s what will please most of the watch connoisseurs. Also, compared to the BR 03 that is very instrumental, here we have a watch that is more into watchmaking and we have very nice finishings etc. It has a nice combination that is more about true Swiss watchmaking in its design. Also, of course, there is the link to travel which, with an international city like Dubai, is important as people are travelling all the time.


We know that Bell & Ross is a brand that’s about going against the norm and pushing the boundaries – how do you think this sets you apart from others and what challenges does this throw up?

The biggest challenge with this watch was to create something that shared the same codes as the BR 03. The Product Committee would meet every week to discuss how we wanted to create a product that can be worn every day but would still feel as though it was displaying the DNA of the brand and the collection. We saw several very nice prototypes throughout the process but with many of them, we were losing part of the DNA of the collection. So the challenge was to maintain the key components of the watch. We briefed our designers that the basics were that we needed to have a square watch with a round dial and four screws and from there, they could play with it. And I think this is what makes the watch so unique. In a way, it’s easy to make a nice watch, but to make something really special you need to have some limits or constraints and this is where you can create something at its best. I think we found the right balance with the BR 05 GMT.




Dubai Watch Week is coming up shortly – will Bell & Ross be participating and what can we expect to see? 

Yes, we will be participating in Dubai Watch Week. Along with our local partner Seddiqi, we will be introducing a limited edition watch that has been specifically created for the 50th anniversary of the UAE. I cannot tell you much about it now but it will all be revealed during Dubai Watch Week!


The past 18 months have been unusual, to say the least – how has the strategy at Bell & Ross changed post-COVID-19?

Surprisingly, because of the situation where we could not meet our clients in person, we have actually got much closer to them. Because they weren’t able to go to the stores they became more involved with the brand through our digital platforms and for us, it became a way to contact them directly. So I think this was a major change that we will continue moving forward. If there were any positives to come out of the COVID-19 situation this would be it and we are seeing the results.




Can you tell us a little about the online business at Bell & Ross?

It’s doing very well. Bell & Ross was one of the first Swiss watch brands to start selling online. We started back in 2008 which was a long time before most other brands. We have seen tremendous growth over the past two years with the COVID-19 situation. I think it was a trend before, but COVID has accelerated the speed at which it has developed.


What can you tell us about Bell & Ross in the Middle East and the relationship you have with clients here? 

Here in the Middle East, we have customers who are true watch connoisseurs and who understand the brand. We have been in the region for many years but we took new steps five years ago when we started to work with Seddiqi and we have since been promoting the brand a lot more. I think everything we have been doing has helped and we have started to feel we have a good customer base here. We see good growth every year but we still have room for more and to see more people from the Middle East discovering our collections. I believe we are well known amongst watch connoisseurs but we need to target people who are interested in watches but not necessarily to this level.


What is something you would like to see being done at the brand that hasn’t been done yet?

That’s a tough question! In my position what is great is that I get to see the products that are coming up. I cannot tell you much but I know what’s in the pipeline and I think it will be very exciting. At the moment we need to further develop the BR 05 collection and that’s what we’re focusing on and what you will see in the near future.


BR 05-GMT Rubber


What else is in the pipeline for the brand in the coming months?

Aside from the limited edition UAE watch, we have a project that has just been released. A BR 05 in full gold with a gold skeleton movement. This is a limited edition of 99 units and it’s a really nice watch.


What is a message you would like to send to Bell & Ross clients and friends in the region?

Bell & Ross have had a very consistent strategy from the beginning and the brand has always been connected to aviation. While I am here in Dubai it is not only to launch this watch but we are also partners of the Patrouille de Francethe acrobatic team from the French Army, who will be in Dubai this coming Saturday to present an air show for the French National Day. Through this event we want to show our fans here in the Middle East that we are still connected and faithful to our aviation roots but we want to find ways of bringing that to the region.


We are talking about a watch that is closely connected to travel – where is your favourite place to travel and why?

I am a person that likes to discover new locations that I have never been to before. This summer I went to a once-in-a-lifetime destination close to the North Pole where I walked on the ice pack and saw polar bears – it was an amazing experience and my favourite place so far. I’m always trying to look for unusual locations like this.