Speed dial: how the post-war Utah salt flat races inspired a new Bell & Ross Vintage design
That Bell & Ross is sharply focused on pushing technological possibilities, developing complex mechanisms and pioneering new materials is a given. That its focus is born out of a deep passion for the pursuit of speed is a lesser known aspect of the French watch marque’s heritage
That creative vision is inspired as much by the past as the bleeding edge of the new – recent Bell & Ross projects have included both a supercar concept, the Aéro-GT and the retro-future B-Rocket motorbike. That unique fusion of past, present and future that pulses through Bell & Ross’s creative vision defines its latest limited-edition timepiece – the Vintage Bellytanker.
A watch design with a sparkling back story, it is inspired by the renewal of speed trials after the Second World War and a hot-rod that American driver, Bill Burke, created from an army surplus drop tank originally used on a P-51 Mustang.
The aerodynamic drop tank was the perfect body for his speedster project. The resulting V8 powered car as run on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah became an instant legend - Bellytankers still run there, clocking speeds in excess of 300mph. Burke built a series of Bellytanker cars (mostly using tanks from P-38 fighters) and Bell & Ross has taken inspiration from these to create its own Bellytanker Car, complete with extra tweaks such as the curved glass that covers the cockpit and copper detailing.
The Bellytanker watch design, meanwhile, is a prime addition to Bell & Ross’s collectible Vintage collection. Its appealingly stripped-back aesthetic is a nicely minimal reflection of the ‘bare bones’ approach to the early bellytanker hot rods.
There are two versions of the Bellytanker watch; the three-hand, 38.5mm BR V1-92, fitted with Sellita based movement and the slightly larger (41mm) BR VI-94 chronograph. Both are water-resistant to 100m and feature ‘ultra-curved’ sapphire crystals.
Another well-considered Bell & Ross touch is the solid caseback featuring an engraved profile of the Bellytanker (one of the chronographs has a sapphire caseback with a printed version of the Bellytanker profile).
As always with Bell & Ross, it’s the deft details that give the timepieces standout status – the jet-tail seconds hands, the copper and steel colour scheme, the round date windows and, on the chronographs, the sector-style running seconds sub-dial that keeps the design open and easy on the eye.
The BR V1-92 and BR V1-94 will be made in limited editions of 500. Both come with calfskin straps or, for the chronograph, a stainless steel bracelet