French marque Bell & Ross has joined a growing band of fine-watch houses by opening their own, standalone London boutique. The Mayfair location of Burlington Arcade, a traditional Victorian passage housing rare, local watch and jewellery names, might appear incongruous for a brand passionate about its high-tech credentials, but for creative director Bruno Belamich, it is this that makes it the perfect London home for his brand. 'It's a good mix. The Arcade has a rich, traditional feel and there's a soul to this location you just don't find in modern things,' he told us at the opening.
The warm lighting scheme and walnut-wood panelling lends the boutique something of a private-club atmosphere. 'You want a luxury boutique to have a warmth and ambience to it,' explains Belamich. 'We were inspired by Fifties design and that functional, timeless style that suggests.'
Bell & Ross has a fond aficionado following in the UK, with cult online communities dedicated to its every move, so while it's a step forward for the brand internationally, it's destined to get the prized local footfall that other global marques often struggle to attain. 'A boutique means you can sell the story of your work; it's a 3D representation of what we're about,' says Belamich. 'We have always enjoyed a good relationship with our UK fans, and we see London as the door to the Anglo-Saxon culture. It's important for us to be here as it's one of the most dynamic cities in Europe.'
As well as current and new models, there are a few special watch designs specific to the London boutique. The limited-edition Insignia is one of them. Created as a tribute to the Royal Air Force, it is inspired by watches from the Forties. Slick design touches, including the thick, ultra-curved glass crystal over the face, a matt-black PVD finish and original RAF insignia on the dial are a graphic reminder that wherever city they fly into, Bell & Ross is an aviation brand at heart.