Beginning with Bremont in 2013, Mr Porter has gradually built up its stable of luxury wristwatches and in the process has helped to break down the barrier of suspicion that for many maisons surrounds alternatives to bricks-and-mortar retail. Currently retailing brands as varied as Zenith, Ressence, Oris, IWC and Montblanc, the online boutique will start selling a curated selection of Bell & Ross watches from 4 April.

The 21 timepieces will be split equally between the brand’s Vintage and Instruments collections and have all been chosen by Mr Porter in conjunction with the Bell & Ross team. “I have always believed our brand has two prongs, one square and one round,” says Bell & Ross President and Co-founder Carlos-A. Rosillo, referring to the shapes of the two watch families that will be retailed by Mr Porter. “We picked the watches together, combining our know-how. Mr Porter knows its customer and Bell & Ross knows the timepiece collection. Together we will react and respond to the demands of the market.”

Prior to announcing the partnership, Toby Bateman, Managing Director of Mr Porter, told Revolution: “When we first started thinking about launching fine watches, it was evident that the larger groups were not yet ready to take the step into a pure online retail environment – it was the independent brands that were more open to the idea. Mr Porter launched the fine watch category in 2013 with Bremont and it made sense for us to start the conversation with Bell & Ross, which has been ongoing for some time. Bell & Ross is undoubtedly a modern watch brand with a strong design aesthetic and this, I think, has strong appeal for our Mr Porter customers who are contemporary in nature and often confident in their style choices.”

Talking generally about e-commerce, Bateman feels that the watch industry is adapting to the changes in consumers’ lifestyle choices and shopping habits and believes that the convenience of buying a fine watch online is a pathway that people are increasingly choosing to take. “Take Ressence and IWC,” he says. “There you have a small independent versus a globally established brand, but they both sell extremely well on Mr Porter due to each brand having a strong brand identity and a unique appeal which affirms a customer’s decision to purchase online. ”

On the question of online watch buying having a financial threshold, Bateman is clear stating that, in the same way consumers have become confident in purchasing luxury clothing, jewellery and vacations online, they will buy higher priced watches that way too – as long as there is the security, service and convenience to make them feel confident every step of the way.

As for the number of brands we are likely to see on Mr Porter, Bateman is unsure: “We will not set a maximum number of brands to stock per se,” he says. “But we will be logical in our approach to fine watches, as we have been with our fashion business. Each brand must have its own distinct identity and each addition will complement the existing offer. Of course, we do aim to become a destination retailer of fine watches, so by default we need to have an authoritative offer and we are in discussions with several brands at present.

Rosillo, for one, has long-been convinced that digital marketing and selling are keys to success in the watch industry. “Online allows us to build bridges with people who love watches,” he says. “In 2008, we became the first brand to have an e-boutique and we are now we are partnering with Mr Porter because we believe that when you do e-commerce properly, it can be fantastic. A luxury brand is all about having a selective network of distribution and Mr Porter encompasses this.

“Bell & Ross is not a simple watchmaker, it is also a lifestyle brand. Mr Porter not only knows about image and having the right customer base, it also knows how to embrace lifestyle. E-commerce needs to be done well, if not someone in the internet jungle will pounce on a product and promote it badly. We need to avoid this and so we have to work with the proper tools and the proper partners.”

Prices will range from £1,400-5,000 / $2,000-7,900 / €1,700-5,900. Customers can sign up and register interest at: https://www.mrporter.com/mens/designers/bell_and_ross