Cruise Control
Brian Cheong 
BR V1-92 Bellytanker is an automatic three-hand timepiece

For a watchmaker, Bell & Ross has that rarely seen penchant for producing its own inspirations. Known for its aeronautical-inspired timepieces, the French watch brand with Swiss manufacturing capability created the superbike B-Rocket in 2014, complete with exceptional aerodynamics.

Two years later, it revealed its vision of the ideal sport car, the Aero-GT, with design cues from an aircraft. Unlike the B-Rocket, which was an actual bike developed with Shaw Harley-Davidson, the Aero-GT was only a concept on paper even though it could go into production if budget had allowed.

That hasn’t stopped Bell & Ross from imagining its latest dream vehicle, the Bellytanker, inspired by the race car developed in 1946 by Bill Burke from a disused drop tank from a North American P-51 Mustang. Employing the same out-of-the-box thinking that Bell & Ross values, Burke was intrigued by the drop tank’s droplet shape that appeared to have been sculpted by the wind itself. A few design adjustments, including splashing it in bright yellow, and equipping it with a V8 engine later, and it proved to be the ideal speed machine that Burke had envisioned when it raced across the salt lake in Bonneville.

With the first Bellytanker now enshrined in the annals of motor racing alongside the Hot Rod and the Streamliner, Bell & Ross has taken on the challenge of recreating its iconic features. Aesthetically, it is suitably retro-futuristic complete with the aerodynamic lines of a fuel tank from a fighter jet. But it has also added its own touches such as the ultra-curved crystal covering its cockpit, the copper-cultured trim, and a stabilising tail fin that adheres to aviation codes.

Bell & Ross has created two limited edition watches, BR V1-92 Bellytanker and BR V2-94 Bellytanker, to celebrate its rendition of the racing car, which, like the Aero-GT, remains a concept for now.

The BR V1-92 is a three-hand automatic with a date aperture between ‘4’ and ‘5’. The classic 38.5mm case crafted from brushed steel is slim and elegant, and matched with a metallic copper dial that echoes the wheel rims of the Bellytanker. The seconds hand has an aircraft-shaped counterweight, a new design signature. The caseback is engraved with a profile of its Bellytanker. Limited to 500 pieces.

The BR V2-94 Bellytanker is a chronograph with a 30-minute counter at ‘9’ and a 60-second counter at ‘3’. The black counters make a handsome contrast with the gold dial, a look that Bell & Ross terms the ‘Panda’ dial. Also limited to 500 pieces, it is available with a dark brown leather strap or a metal bracelet.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 253.