06 January, 2023

GRAIL WATCH 4: BELL & ROSS × ALAIN SILBERSTEIN BLACK CERAMIC TRILOGY

For Grail Watch 4, Alain Silberstein turns a dream into reality and takes the Bell & Ross square-cased watch into his world of whimsical geometric forms and primary colors.

WORDS WEI KOH

Bell & Ross × Alain Silberstein Black Ceramic Trilogy

I would like to start by first wishing everyone a very Happy New Year and a great 2023. Last year, we launched Grail Watch with a collaboration between the legendary Alain Silberstein and one of my favorite brands, Ressence, founded by Belgian designer Benoît Mintiens. That watch, christened the “Carpe Diem,” was created in a limited edition of 36 pieces and featured a memento mori design with a tulip hour indicator and a “kawaii” skull showing the seconds. All three of us — Silberstein, Mintiens and I — were hugely grateful for the watch community’s support for the first Grail Watch, which sold out quickly and now trades for over four times its original retail price.

On behalf of everyone involved in the creation of the watch, we want to say a massive thank you to the watch fam.

Grail Watch 1: Ressence × Alain Silberstein

This year, it gives me inordinate pleasure to unveil Grail Watch’s second Alain Silberstein collaboration — this time, it is with two of the kindest and nicest individuals in the watch industry, Carlos Rosillo and Bruno Belamich of Bell & Ross. Together with them, Alain has created a trilogy of timepieces based on their iconic BR 03, famously inspired by aviation cockpit instruments. The new Grail Watch Bell & Ross × Alain Silberstein Trilogy consists of a BR 03 time-only model with date, a BR 03 diving watch and a BR 03 chronograph.

From left: Alain Silberstein; Carlos Rosillo and Bruno Belamich of Bell & Ross

How did this special collaboration come about? Two years ago, I approached Silberstein to discuss who his dream collaborators might be. I still remember with total clarity when he said, “Wei, if I could work with anyone, it would be Ressence, because Benoît, like myself, is a designer who comes from outside the watch industry but has brought a fresh perspective to horology. And it would be Bell & Ross, because the BR 01 is, in my opinion, one of the most unique and iconic timepieces of our millennium.” I sought out to make these two projects into reality”. 

Says Rosillo with a laugh, “I remember when you proposed this collaboration, I said, ‘While I love Alain, he is a designer with a very distinct signature but Bruno is also a designer with a very singular style. I don’t see how they can work together.’” 

The iconic BR 01

Not to be dissuaded, I replied that some of the greatest albums ever recorded are the result of musicians with very distinct and even contrasting styles. Indeed, it is the dynamic tension between them that results in something truly transcendent. I used Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane’s historic studio album from 1963 as my primary example (though Jay-Z and Linkin Park’s 2004 masterpiece Collision Course also comes to mind). The collaboration between Hartman, the king of ballads, and Coltrane, the maestro of cool jazz, resulted in one of the greatest works of American music. As Rosillo was a huge fan of this same album, he replied with a smile, “Now I understand. But we have to see if Alain and Bruno can get along artistically.” 

A PERFECT LUNCH

Cut to a few months later at the stunning restaurant in Paris’ Saint James, a hotel and private club also known as Rosillo’s second living room, for the very first time, two of horology’s greatest designers met each other. It was extraordinary to see how quickly and immediately they became friends. Over the course of the meal, Rosillo and I quietly marveled as the pair began sketching the blueprint of the collaboration.

Says Silberstein, “It was Bruno’s idea to take the very essence of each of our design languages and pare it down to its barest elements. Because of this, we immediately decided to make the three watches in black ceramic because of the purity of the black case and dial, which would serve as a canvas for the primary colors of my hands. For me, this was perfect because I had always made black watches in the past but never in ceramic, which is the only truly scratch-resistant material. I was delighted that I would finally have my ceramic watch.” 

Launched in 2005, the Bell & Ross BR 01 has become one of the most enduring and totally original watch designs of the modern era. At the time of its introduction, it was so wildly unique and so immediately identifiable that Ralph Lauren not only wore one, but also featured the watch in his global ad campaigns. Who can forget Argentine polo legend Nacho Figueras with a blacked-out BR 01 strapped to his wrist in the images created to launch the Ralph Lauren Black Label?

Nacho Figueras in Ralph Lauren and Bell & Ross

Says Silberstein, “The BR 01 was an act of design brilliance. The idea of taking inspiration from an aviation instrument panel and transporting this iconography to a wristwatch resulted in one of the most important watches of the era. Indeed, when I was designing the iKrono back in 2009, I was so captivated by the BR 01, I had to pay particular attention not to be too directly inspired by it.”

When the lunch was finished, all four of us looked at the numerous possible watches that had been designed and realized that something very special had been created. Says Silberstein, “At first it was daunting, because I kept asking myself how can I possibly improve on the genius of what Bruno had already achieved? But he was so encouraging that, at some point, designs came very naturally.” 

Adds Rosillo, “It was really like watching two musicians improving on each other’s compositions!” 

Why did we decide on a trilogy of watches? Explains Silberstein, “Once we started conceptualizing the watches, I was like a kid in a candy store. I asked, ‘OK, let’s try a time only watch, but then how about a chronograph that would have the maximum of my hands?’ Then we thought of a diver, and for this watch I had to come up with an all-new oversized set of luminous hands, because I wanted the watch to be truly functional. In the end, we loved these three designs the best. We couldn’t choose between the time only, diver and chrono. Finally, Carlos said, ‘OK, we have to make all three of them.’”

The Bell & Ross × Alain Silberstein Black Ceramic Trilogy in all its glory

While the designs came quickly over the course of an amazing day in Paris, the actual watches took some time to perfect. Specifically, it took us more than a year and a half to bring them to fruition. Why? Because of several technical puzzles we had to solve. Says Silberstein, “With the chronograph, Carlos explained that the seconds hand was by far the largest one ever fitted to one of their watches, and we had to ensure the reset function worked perfectly each and every time so it would align exactly at zero. With the diving watch, we had to make sure these huge oversized hands were as light as possible, so they wouldn’t affect the overall precision of the movement. And then to make a two-color ceramic bezel was a major challenge.” 

BR 03-94 KRONO 22

BR 03-92 MARINE 22

Says Rosillo, “It’s true that the watches turned out to be far more complex than we ever anticipated, but we promised each other we would only launch them when they were perfect.” 

Today, that time has arrived. It fills me with happiness to guide you through the three timepieces that comprise this collaboration. All three watches use the BR 03 case, which at 42mm × 42mm is significantly smaller than the original BR 01’s 46mm × 46mm. This is in deference to the fact that collective tastes have shifted back to more classical dimensions. At 42mm × 42mm without lugs, the BR 03 is the perfect size for any wrist and effortless to wear. All three watches also use black ceramic for their cases and are fitted with black rubber straps.

Representing a collaboration between equal, the ampersand takes the place of a brand logo in Grail Watch 4: Bell & Ross x Alain Silberstein Black Ceramic Trilogy

For these watches, Silberstein, Rosillo and Belamich decided not to use any brand logos. Says Belamich, “We decided to simply use the ampersand that already features prominently in our brand name, because what better symbol for a collaboration between equals could you imagine?”

ALAIN SILBERSTEIN × BELL & ROSS BR 03-92 KLUB 22

BR 03-92 KLUB 22

The time only model is the purest expression of the collaboration between Silberstein’s and Belamich’s design philosophies. On a pure matte black ceramic case and jet-black dial, we see the hands transform from functional objects into massive oversized geometric forms evoking a sense of playfulness, optimism and humor.

A huge red circle describes the hours, an oversized blue arrow reads the minutes, while an S-shaped form in bold yellow indicates the passing of the seconds. The dial is interrupted only by the subtle date indicator. At the same time, the minute track is pure Bell & Ross, expressing the rugged instrument typography gleaned from cockpit instruments. Providing an additional jolt of visual energy, the four cardinal markers have also been turned primary yellow. The time only watch features an automatic movement with date function, the caliber BR.CAL-302. It is priced at USD 4,400 and will be made in 200 examples. 

ALAIN SILBERSTEIN × BELL & ROSS BR 03-92 MARINE 22

The diver model expresses Silberstein’s most daring new interpretation of his design language while still retaining its functional utility as a submersible timepiece. Says Silberstein, “I wanted the watch to feature the high visibility of the luminous hour and minute hands and bezel, so that it would function perfectly as a diving watch even if it happens to be an engagingly artistic timepiece.”

BR 03-92 MARINE 22

This timepiece therefore features the very first use of Silberstein’s “Maxi” hands, a blue circular hand with a massive luminous plot for the hours, and a huge red triangle inlaid with luminous material for the all-important minute hand that provides a reading for elapsed dive time. Silberstein and Belamich also worked extensively on a two-tone ceramic bezel with the last 20 minutes of the insert colored red and featuring a full set of 20-minute markers with luminous indexes. Says Silberstein, “Traditionally, decompression stops at different depths take five minutes, and so we wanted to optimize the bezel to provide an easy reading for this.”

The diver model is depth rated to 300 meters, features a screw-down crown and is powered by the same automatic movement with date function as the time only model, caliber BR.CAL-302. It is priced at USD 5,600 and will be made in a series of 100 examples.

ALAIN SILBERSTEIN × BELL & ROSS BR 03-94 KRONO 22

The chronograph model is the watch for both visual maximalists and those who love the functional advantages of a timepiece capable of timing events. It has a total of five of Silberstein’s famous Bauhaus inspired hands, the same red circle for the hours and blue arrow for the minutes, but now the yellow S-shaped hand serves as the chronograph seconds indicator.

BR 03-94 KRONO 22

In addition, a blue triangle serves as the indicator for the chronograph 30-minute counter, with a yellow arrow for the continuous seconds indicator. The chronograph pushers are inlaid with a yellow lacquered rectangle for the start/stop function and a blue rectangle for the reset function. The crown features Silberstein's signature red triangle.

The watch features an automatic chronograph movement with date, the caliber BR.CAL-301. It is priced at USD 6,700 and will be made in 100 examples.

Finally, all watches are individually numbered. Watches 1 to 50 will be sold exclusively in a box set of all three timepieces. Together with Bell & Ross, Silberstein has designed an incredible collector’s box for these Trilogy sets, featuring his signature primary colors. These boxes are the perfect way to display the timepieces together.

I hope you will enjoy wearing these three watches as much as we loved creating them for you. On behalf of Silberstein, Rosillo and Belamich, I want to thank all of you for taking the time to read this article. 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Grail Watch 4: Bell & Ross × Alain Silberstein BR 03-92 Klub 22
Ref: BR0392-AS-CE/SRB
Movement: Self-winding caliber BR.CAL-302; 42-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and date
Case: 42mm × 42mm; black ceramic; water resistant to 100m
Dial: Matte black; Super-LumiNova filled indexes
Strap: Black rubber; additional black fabric
Price: USD 4,400
Availability: Numbered and limited edition of 200 pieces; watches 1 to 50 will be sold in a special box set comprising all three watches of the trilogy

Grail Watch 4: Bell & Ross × Alain Silberstein BR 03-92 Marine 22
Ref: BR0392-D-AS-CE/SRB
Movement: Self-winding caliber BR.CAL-302; 42-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and date
Case: 42mm × 42mm; black ceramic with two-tone dive bezel; water resistant to 300m
Dial: Matte black; Super-LumiNova filled indexes
Strap: Black rubber; additional black fabric
Price: USD 5,600
Availability: Numbered and limited edition of 100 pieces; watches 1 to 50 will be sold in a special box set comprising all three watches of the trilogy

Grail Watch 4: Bell & Ross × Alain Silberstein BR 03-94 Krono 22
Ref:
BR0394-AS-CE/SRB
Movement: Self-winding caliber BR.CAL-301; 42-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date
Case: 42mm × 42mm; black ceramic; water resistant to 100m
Dial: Matte black; Super-LumiNova filled indexes
Strap: Black rubber; additional black fabric
Price: USD 6,700
Availability: Numbered and limited edition of 100 pieces; watches 1 to 50 will be sold in a special box set comprising all three watches of the trilogy


Wei Koh

In 2005, Wei founded Revolution magazine and revolutionized the watch media, which has never been quite the same again. He has since developed Revolution into a multi-media, omni-channel platform with international editions around the world. He is also the creator of The Rake, a magazine of sartorial elegance and craftsmanship for the modern-day gentleman. Journalist at heart and entrepreneur in spirit, his latest venture is Grail Watch, dedicated to the creation of meaningful limited edition watches.

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