Watches: Bell & Ross WW1 Guynemer (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on June 13, 2014

This year marks the Centenary of the Great War, a period that had the effect of bringing drastic political, cultural, and social change across Europe. Strangely, it is also a pivotal period for the history of watchmaking as it marked the advent of wristwatches for men. Indeed, military manoeuvers often require synchronisation and pulling out a pocket watch appeared to be an impractical way of reading the time: the idea of a watch on a strap started to catch on quickly and men did not give up this convenient item after the war.

It was during this hectic period that the design codes of a certain type of wristwatches, namely the pilot’s watches, were established. The first real flight dated back to only 1903 with the Wright brothers and aviation was still in its infancy at the outbreak of the War but some heroic pilots still played a crucial role in some decisive legendary battles like “Verdun” or “the Somme”.

A brand like Bell & Ross that, since its inception, has always been passionate about the history of aviation and that has military design deeply rooted in its DNA, could not let such an anniversary pass without paying tribute in its own way to this important period of modern History and to its courageous aviators.

With the WW1 Guynemer, the brand chose to pay homage to a French captain, assigned to the “Cigognes” (stork) squadron: Georges Guynemer. This fighter pilot made a name for himself at the controls of a Morane-Saulnier Type L, that he christened “Vieux Charles”, before paying the ultimate price during a mission in September 1917.

The beautiful 500-piece limited edition that bears his name is greatly inspired by the finish and spirit of the watches of that period. Its 45 mm stainless steel case is coated with a distressed gunmetal grey PVD and features soldered wire lugs and an oversized fluted crown typical of pilot’s watches from that era. A portrait of Georges Guynemer is engraved on the rear of the case.

The opaline dial with sand-coloured numerals and blued hands further enhances the retro look of this timepiece. In reference to the legendary pilot and to his squadron, a red stork adorns the dial. This animal was considered a good luck charm and was painted on the fuselage of the planes. The Arabic numerals of the dial also use the same font as the one used for the red number “2” painted on the “Vieux Charles”. A thin natural calfskin leather strap with white stitches and a grey PVD steel pin buckle complete the vintage look of this watch powered by a self-winding calibre.

I am usually not a big fan of vintage-inspired timepieces as, most of the time, they look dull and tiny. Rest assured this is not the case with the new WW1 Guynemer: the watch has a nice presence on the wrist and is graphically very catchy. I love the gunmetal grey finish and the flying stork, but I also appreciate the sand-coloured numerals and the strap that truly give an authentic look to the watch. All in all, this is a great-looking model with an interesting story attached to it: all the ingredients to create a stunning watch!

For a technical description of the timepiece and additional pictures: