Until you have given everything, you have given nothing. – Captain Georges Guynemer (1894-1917)
From its origins, Bell & Ross has been passionate about the history of aviation and its heroes.
Loyal to its values, the watchmaker is commemorating the centenary of the Great War by paying tribute to a legendary pilot: Georges Guynemer. A top fighter ace for France during World War I, Guynemer was a French national hero at the time of his death.
In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, aviation was in its infancy. The first attempt at take-off was in 1890 with Clément Ader and the first real flight dated back to only 1903 with the Wright brothers.
Born in 1894, Guynemer made his first entry into the nascent air force as a trainee mechanic. He qualified as a military pilot in April 1915 and was assigned to the Cigognes (stork) squadron. This squadron adopted the stork as its emblem when the unit was assigned to Alsace at the outbreak of hostilities, the bird being very common in that French region. Some pilots even told of having been followed in flight by storks, to which they swore an unbreakable bond.
Initially assigned to simple observation tasks, Guynemer became a fighter pilot in his own right by shooting down his first enemy aircraft on July 19, 1915.
Now flying a more powerful Nieuport 10, he established himself as one of the best French aviators and was awarded the Legion of Honour on his 21st birthday. His talent and skill allowed him to influence the design of combat aircrafts built for the army.
Guynemer took to the air on Sept 17, 1917, at the head of the Cigognes squadron, having been promoted to captain, with a total of 53 confirmed and 35 probable victories. It was to be his last flight. He was just 22 years old.
A timely tribute
In 2011, Bell & Ross chose to pay tribute to the pocket watches worn on the battlefield during the 1914-1918 War. With its imposing 49mm-diameter and elegant polished case, the Pocket Watch 1 encapsulated the style of timepieces from the period.
Pocket watches were gradually replaced by wristwatches aboard aircrafts, so that pilots could read the time more easily. Bell & Ross respected this history lesson by following the PW1 with its WW1 models.
In creating the new Vintage WW1 Guynemer, Bell & Ross authentically transcribes the finish and spirit of watches of the period.
A case with a distressed “gunmetal grey” steel finish, opaline dial, sand-coloured numerals and hands as on antique dials, wire handles, narrow, natural leather bracelet with the patina of time all give the watch a truly authentic look.
Its retro look is perfectly in keeping with the character of this timepiece, enhanced by the silhouette of a stork at six o’clock. As well as this emblem, which pilots considered a good-luck charm, a portrait of Guynemer is engraved on the rear of the case. The figures on the dial also pay tribute to him since their design matches the “2” appearing on the legendary pilot’s planes.
The watch, priced around $4,100, is produced in a limited edition of 500 pieces.
By William K.C. Kee