‘Until you give everything you give nothing.’ This was a phrase used by young aviation ace Captain Georges Guynemer, and as far as World War 1 was concerned over 9 million soldiers gave everything. As 2014 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Great War, it’s important to put into perspective just how devastating it was. The English poet Robert Graves chillingly described life in the trenches in his book ‘Goodbye to all that’: ‘…After the first day or two the corpses swelled and stank. I vomited more than once while superintending the carrying. Those we could not get in from the German wire continued to swell until the wall of the stomach collapsed, either naturally or when punctured by a bullet; a disgusting smell would float across. The colour of the dead faces changed from white to yellow-grey, to red, to purple, to green, to black, to slimy…’
One of the many advances that the First World War brought about was the use of the wristwatch for men. Prior to the world war it had been very much a lady’s style of timepiece, and only few men would have anything to do with so called ‘wristlets’. But in the stench and cold of the trenches, trying to fire your rifel as well as synchronise times proved tricky, and the idea of a watch on a strap started to catch on quickly. It was no longer a fanciful ornament for women, it was a necessity for fighting men.
The Bell & Ross WWI Guynemer is an authentic recreation of a watch from the period, a military style watch, it is created in honour of a dynamic young French flying office of the period, Captain Georges Guynemer. Even in World War I, it was the fly boys who managed to steal much of the glory from the average infantryman.
In April 1915, Guynemer finally became a French military pilot and later the commander of the ‘Storks squadron’, a stork being considered a good luck charm. For this reason the stork insignia is incorporated into the clock face, while a portrait of Guynemer is engraved and Guynemer’s portrait is engraved on the grey PVD finish case back of the watch. The Superluminova numerals on the dial also pay tribute to him since the design matches the “2” appearing on the pilot’s planes.
While the second hand features a blued steel according to watchmaking tradition, the crystal, designed to replicate antique watches, has been cut using modern techniques from hard-wearing sapphire.
Born in 1894, Guynemer was judged as unfit to enlist in the army, but he more than made up for it as one of the first air aces of the firs world war. In fact, Guynemer was the first Allied pilot to shoot down a German heavy bomber, as well as the first ace pilot with 50 kills. Such heroism ensured he would die young. He died in combat in 1917, at the age of just 22 in his aircraft nicknamed Vieux Charles (Old Charles).
Bell & Ross paid special attention to the strap on which the watch comes. It’s a thin strap of calfskin leather affixed to the watch by the traditional lugs popular during the era. In the early days, pocket watches were essentially strapped to the wrist by means of the lugs. The numerals have an art deco feel to them typical to watches of that time.
The 45mm watch features a gunmetal case with patina and the crown is over-sized due to the fact that pilots had to wear thick gloves to protect themselves from freezing cold while up above in an open cockpit aircraft.
The watch is limited to just 500 pieces and will be available from June. No word on price yet.