Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker Limited Edition

For its latest timepiece collection, Swiss watch brand Bell & Ross draws inspiration from the retro-influenced Bellytanker race car. Issued in two variations each in limited edition of 500 pieces, the Vintage Bellytanker collection proudly showcases the Swiss watch brand’s passion for engineering and extreme machines.
Featuring missile-like aerodynamics, the Bellytanker racecar is built using a fuel tank from a fighter plane. Fitted with an engine and four wheels, this tank is transformed into a streamlined racer. The Bellytanker is best known for taking part in speed trials on the huge salt lake flats of the North American West. These gigantic open stretches of desert, where most of the water has evaporated, are particularly well suited to motor racing competitions. The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah are the most famous example.

Originating in the forties and fifties, the term «Bellytank» initially referred to the emergency drop tank fitted in the belly of fighter planes. «Bellytanker» is now mainly used for the high-speed race cars manufactured directly from these spare tanks.

Their history dates back to the end of the war. Bill Burke, an American speed freak, wanted to build an ultra-fast car to take part in the races being held on the salt flats. He had fought in the South Pacific, and had grown to love the elegance of these fighter plane drop tanks, with their aerodynamic lines as if sculpted by the wind. To his eyes, they looked like the perfect foundations on which to build his speed machine. He was not wrong: their droplet shape ensured exceptional performance. At the end of the war many military components were sold off cheap. In 1946, he bought a drop tank from a North American P-51 Mustang for $35. He used it to build a bright yellow mini hot-rod. He fitted the tank that formed the bodywork, on a chassis, powering it with a powerful V8 engine. He took his prototype to the Bonneville salt lake races to test it.

Without realizing it, he had created the world’s first Bellytanker. The shape and design of this aerodynamic vehicle have ensured its place in the great aeronautical history of North America in the forties and fifties. It is also enshrined in the annals of motor racing with the Hot Rod and the Streamliner. In the automotive world, it also rapidly acquired iconic status.

Bill Burke went on to develop vehicles based on tanks from a lighter plane, the Lockheed P-38 fighter. Bell & Ross has designed its own vehicle, taking these later versions of the Bellytanker as its inspiration. Being part of a plane on wheels, this new vehicle is perfectly aligned with the spirit of the watch brand, which has aviation and the military in its DNA. This retro-futuristic racer is the latest in a line of extreme machines developed by the firm. It combines both aeronautical influences and numerous nods to the watchmaking world. So, the metal of its bodywork is like the case of a watch. The glass covering its cockpit echoes an ultra-curved crystal. The copper-cultured trim evokes the dials of timepieces from this era. Its tail fin, designed to stabilize the vehicle, is a reference to the aviation codes, as is the matte black of its “nose”. This color is used on certain stealth fighters to avoid reflections.
BR V1-92 BELLYTANKER
This classic model comes in a small 38.5 mm, brushed steel case that harks back to the watches of the forties and fifties, with a nod to the cockpit of the P-51 Mustang. Flat and thin, it imbues the watch with elegance. The solid case back features an engraved profile of the Bellytanker. Lastly, the ultra-curved sapphire crystal, with its vintage overtones, recalls the round windows in classic plane cockpits.
The watch houses a self-winding movement that powers three hands; it displays the hours, minutes and seconds. The date is at 4.30.
The color scheme of the dial matches the Bell & Ross racer. The metallic copper of the dial echoes the color of its wheel rims. The black seen on the details of the minute track recalls the car’s nose. Finally, the steel used for the case, numerals, indices and hands pays tribute to its sculpted bodywork. The metal indices and numerals are appliques. The metal skeleton hands are filled with Superluminova, so that they remain visible at night. The aircraft-shaped counterweight on the seconds’ hand is one of the new Bell & Ross stylistic signatures. The watch comes with an exceedingly soft and supple dark brown leather strap aged for a vintage look.

Technical details
BR V1-92 BELLYTANKER
Limited edition of 500 pieces

Movement
Calibre BR-CAL.302
Automatic mechanical

Functions
Hours, minutes, central seconds and date

Case
Diameter 38.5 mm
Satin-polished steel
Crystal: ultra-curved sapphire with anti-reflective coating
Water-resistance: 100 metres

Dial
Gilt
Metal applique numerals and indices
Metal skeletonised Superluminova®-filled hour and minute hands

Strap
Brown calfskin
Buckle: pin. Steel.

BR V2-94 BELLYTANKER
This variant houses a chronograph with two counters: a 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock and a central 60-second counter. The date sits between 4 and 5 o’clock.
This version comes dressed in a satin-finished polished steel case measuring 41 mm case which hints at the P-51 Mustang’s tanks. The sapphire case-back allows glimpses of the chronograph mechanism’s gear train. The version with a solid case back features an engraved profile of the B&R Bellytanker. The crown and push buttons are screw-down for improved water-resistance. The fixed bezel features a tachymeter scale, enabling the speed of a racecar to be calculated at any time.
The watch boasts a so called «Panda» dial, because of the contrast between the black counters and gold dial. The color scheme used matches that of the Bellytanker. The metallic copper of the dial echoes the color of the racer’s wheel rims. The black of the detailed line on the minute track is also found on the car’s nose. Finally, the steel used for the case, numerals, indices and hands is a nod to the vehicle’s sculpted bodywork. The metal indices and numerals are appliques. The metal skeleton hands are filled with Superluminova, so that they remain visible at night. The aircraft-shaped counterweight on the second’s hand is one of the new Bell & Ross stylistic signatures. Two straps are available: Retro-inspired dark brown leather or sporty metal bracelet.
Technical details
BR V2-94 BELLYTANKER
Limited edition of 500 pieces

Movement
Calibre BR-CAL.301
Automatic mechanical

Functions
Hours, minutes, small seconds at 3 o'clock
Date
Chronograph: 30-min timer at 9 o'clock, central chronograph seconds

Case
41 mm in diameter
Satin-polished steel
Steel bezel with tachymeter scale
Screw-down crown and push-buttons
Crystal: ultra-curved sapphire with anti-reflective coating
Sapphire case-back
Water-resistance: 100 metres.

Dial
Gilt
Metal applique numerals and indices
Metal skeletonised Superluminova®-filled hour and minute hands

Straps
Satin-polished steel or brown calfskin
Buckle: Folding; Satin-polished steel

Bell & Ross loves to take its passion for extreme machines to the limits. Its new Bellytanker car naturally continues the line of vehicles that precede it: the B-Rocket motorbike and the Aero GT supercar. Comprised of two timepieces, the new Bellytanker collection adopts the round case of the Vintage model, whilst remaining resolutely modern. It is designed to evoke the legendary era of record-breaking races in the North America of the fifties. Participants sped across the salt lakes, most notably at Bonneville, in their super-fast homemade hot rods. This collection is aimed at contemporary and enthusiastic drivers, with a love for vintage.

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