The Pick: The watch for high-speed racers

Inspired by racers of the past, Bell & Ross’ ‘Bellytanker’ is limited to 500 pieces

During the Second World War, the planet got smaller. Battles broke out across the globe, fought by all nations, and – as such – troops needed to travelled further, and faster. One invention that allowed these quicker journeys was the drop tank, also known as a ‘wing tank’ or ‘belly tank’. A type of auxiliary fuel tank, expendable and jettisonable, the Allies used these tanks to give fighters an increased range over continental Europe – such as when the RAF moved their Supekrmarine Spitfires to Malta in 1942.

After the war, when hot rods raced the dry lakes of California in bids to set new land speed records, these belly tanks were both plentiful and aerodynamically sound – so it wasn’t long before budding engineers were crafting them into cars that were dubbed ‘belly tank lakesters’. And those tanks and cars came to inspire Bell & Ross’ striking, automotive watch, the BR V1-92 Bellytanker.

One of a pair – the other, the BR V2-94 is a chronograph – our pick of the Bellytankers is simplistic but stylish in design, and evokes the golden age of car racing through a retro design and browned colour scheme and strap. A 38.5mm case of satin-polished steel contains the automatic mechanical movement, and is faced by a copper gilt dial featuring metal appliqué numbers and skeletonised Superluminova hands.

With a clear 1950s inspiration, it may be smaller than many watches of today, but therein lies the charm. We love the simplicity, the dark-brown calfskin strap and the sleek, highly domed sapphire crystal. Well-and-truly vintage, they are something different to anything else offered today. But move quickly; limited to 500 pieces, they’ll likely move as quickly as the racers that inspired them.

Further Reading