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Review: Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker

We look at Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker collection, which pays homage to the racecar with the same name.
by Robin Lim on September 15, 2017
Positives

A rather aesthetically pleasing timepiece, with a nice vintage touch.

Negatives

It bears some similarities to other Bell & Ross watches; might have been more interesting if there were more differences to differentiate the timepiece.

The pursuit of flight and speed has always been of interest to mankind. Man has constantly push beyond what was previously deemed impossible by many, such as Wright Brothers’ creation of what is known as the airplane back in 1903.

Speed, as well as flight, has always been a key source of inspiration for Bell & Ross and its creations. Over the years, the manufacturer is probably best known for their watches that are modelled over flight instruments, as well as highly complicated speed machines. The latter had led to the creation of two speed demons: the B-Rocket and the Aero-GT. The B-Rocket is a retro-futuristic concept motorcycle, inspired by the US aviation industry in the 50s and 60s. Whereas the Aero-GT, which was created last year, is a concept car that was designed with the avant-garde aircraft in mind. This had also lead to the creation of two collection of watches, which pays homage to these wonderful creations.

In 2017, Bell & Ross decided yet again to create another speed machine – the Bellytanker. As its name suggests, the race car traces its roots to the external fuel tank used by fighter jets. This external fuel tank – called the Bellytanker in the jet aircaraft- was used by Bill Burke back in the 40s and 50s to create a race car. Fitted with a V8 engine, the aerodynamic vehicle acquired an iconic status, with its sleek design and powerful performance. The modern version, designed by Bell & Ross, is a faithful recreation of the race car that had graced the Bonneville Salt Lake in the past.

Following that Bell & Ross had also concurrently launched a new collection of watches, inspired by the race car that they designed. The collection, which is also known as the Vintage Bellytanker, features two different models: one which is a time and date only timepiece, and the other with an additional chronograph function. Are the watches as cool as the race car itself? Let’s find out!

 

The Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker

The case, hands, and dial

 

The Bellytanker duo.

 

The watches, as mentioned, are inspired by the Bellytanker race cars. This is most obvious in the dial of the watches. Noticeably, the two timepieces are fitted with a gilt metallic copper dial, with a black minute track that covers the circumference of it. The combination gives a rustic and vintage feel, and its contrast is rather obvious on the chronograph (especially with the twin black sub-dials). Coincidentally, the metallic copper matches the colour of the race car’s rims, and the black detailing on the dial itself is a reminiscence of the car’s nose.

Read also:   Review: Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Black Ceramic Edition

One particular thing that we really like about the dial is the date indicator. The window, which is situated at the 4:30 position, is rather small and inconspicuous. In addition, the date disc is done in metallic copper as well – which blends in nicely with the dial. We feel that this is a nice touch, as it does not make the date window stand out too much. Of course, with its slightly smaller window, there may be collectors who will have difficulties in reading the date.

 

The BR V1-92 Bellytanker. At 38.5mm, we think that the watch is sized rather decently.

 

Besides the chronograph function, the main difference between the two watches are the case sizes. The V1-92 Bellytanker, which features only the time and date function, is sized rather nicely at 38.5mm. While its case dimension may seem small, but the thin bezel certainly makes the watch appear slightly bigger.

The sweep seconds hand on the automatic  watch and the chronograph hand on the chronograph feature a fighter jet motif as a counterweight, which we thought is a rather nice detail.

 

The screwed down pushers on the V2-94 Bellytanker. The distortion towards the edge of the crystal is due to the box shape of the crystal. We tested this in our Technical Corollary to the Vintage Chronograph. Link here.

 

On the other hand, the V2-94 Bellytanker – which is the chronograph – is slightly larger at 41mm. It comes with a vintage-inspired steel tachymeter scale. On top of that, the watch is also fitted with screwed-down pushers, which further builds on the classic design theme.

Both of them are cased in Satin-polished stainless steel. The case shape is sleek and aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, to further accentuate the vintage look, Bell & Ross had fitted an ultra-curve sapphire crystal case for both watches. It is certainly another great touch – and it pairs extremely well with the classic-looking watch dial.

 

The V2-94 Bellytanker is slightly larger, at 41mm.

 

Read also:   Review: Jämes-César Pellaton Chronomètre Royal de Marine

In terms of design, we feel that both pieces have done rather well in this aspect. However, we have a slight preference for the chronograph. We really like the contrast between the dial and sub-dial, and we feel that it really brings out the intended characteristics beautifully. Having said that, we think that the V1-92 is a timepiece too – ideal for someone who is looking for a simple watch, without any fanciful complications.

 

The movement

 

A closer look at the Bellytanker.

 

The BR V1-92 is powered by the Calibre BR-CAL.302. It is based on the Sellita SW300-1, featuring a self-winding mechanism, hacking seconds, and an additional date function. It has a decent power reserve of around 38 hours. As the watch is fitted with a solid caseback, we do not get a glimpse on the movement and its finishing. However, over the last few days that we have tested this watch, we feel that its performance is satisfactory.

 

The caseback of the V1-92 Bellytanker.

 

The movement of the V2-94 Bellytanker, as seen from the exhibition caseback.

 

On the other hand, the V2-94 Bellytanker is fitted with the BR-CAL.301. The automatic movement is based on the ETA 2894-2, which comes with a column wheel chronograph function and a date indicator. It boasts a power reserve of 42 hours as well. Unlike the V1-92, this timepiece is fitted with an exhibition case back. There are some form of finishing and decoration that is done to the movement as well. The most obvious one would be the rotor, which is decorated with the Côtes de Genève motif. Other types of finishing that could be spotted includes circular graining and engravings on the bridges and plates as well. Pretty decent effort for a timepiece at this price point, we’d say.

 

Concluding Thoughts

 

The Bellytanker exudes a really nice vintage feel – which appeals greatly to collectors who wants something timeless.

 

Overall, we really like the new Bellytanker collection. The vintage theme really appeals to us, and we reckon its timeless and clean design will interest many collectors. Its aesthetics is really pleasant, and it is certainly not difficult to fall in love with this watch. Having worn the watch for a week, we can definitely attest to that.

Besides the good looks, the watches are also rather comfortable to wear as well. The watches fit nicely on our wrists. A few of our writers tried the watches on. And we found that from wrist sizes ranging from 5.5″ to 7″, the watches are comfortable. The 38.5mm case size is petite to sit well on any wrist, and the V1-92 Bellytanker’s slim case profile allows for a snug fit, slipping nicely under shirt cuffs – making it an excellent timepiece to pair with office attire. The brown calfskin strap also adds an elegant touch to the watch as well, on top of giving the timepiece yet another old-school touch to it. Check out our Instagram @Deployant for pictures of the Bellytanker in various situations from today. And we will be publishing a lifestyle photoshoot with the Bellytankers at the Air Force Museum next week. Watch out for that!

Read also:   Lange Connoisseur Akademie: Lektion Zwei

 

A close-up of the V2-94 Bellytanker Chronograph.

 

If we had to choose, then perhaps the V2-94 Bellytanker Chronograph will edge out slightly. We have a soft spot for vintage-inspired chronographs, and this piece certainly ticks all the right boxes. The aesthetics are really spot on, and the colour combination of metallic copper and black – although uncommon – works really nicely for this watch. In addition, the double register chronograph provides a rather nice symmetry for the watch as well.

 

Another angle of the V1-92 Bellytanker. A pretty handsome timepiece, in our opinion.

 

The new Bellytanker collection certainly adds a new dimension to the Bell & Ross line-up. They are excellent watches, and we highly recommend it to someone who is either an enthusiast for aviation or automobile. It is also an excellent piece for any collectors who are looking to add a vintage-looking timepiece into his/her collection. Incidentally, the two watches are limited edition pieces, with only 500 examples being produced for each model. The watches are priced at S$3,700 for the V1-92, and S$6,400 for the V2-94 Chronograph. For the latter, it is also available in stainless steel bracelet, at a recommended retail price of S$6,900 for the entire package.

For more information, please click on the official Bell & Ross Bellytanker microsite.

 

Technical Specifications

BR V1-92 Bellytanker (Limited Edition of 500 Pieces)

Movement: Calibre BR-CAL.302, Automatic Mechanical

Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds and date

Case: 38.5mm (diameter), Satin-polished steel

Dial: Gilt, with metal applique numerals and indices. Metal skeletonised Superluminova-filled hour and minute hands

Crystal: Ultra-curved sapphire with anti-reflective coating

Water-resistance: 100 metres

Strap: Brown calfskin

Buckle: Pin, steel.

 

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 minute timer at 9 o’clock), central chronograph seconds

Case: 41mm (diameter), Satin-polished steel, Steel bezel with tachymeter scale, screwed-down crown and push buttons, Sapphire case-back

Dial: Gilt, with metal applique numerals and indices. Metal skeletonised Superluminova-filled hour and minute hands

Crystal: Ultra-curved sapphire with anti-reflective coating

Water-resistance: 100 metres

Strap: Brown calfskin or Satin-polished steel

Buckle: Folding, Satin-polished steel

 

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1 Comments
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  • Sergio
    September 18, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Beautiful watch ! Just what I have been looking for , but when I saw the price… 4,300 dollars for an ETA based movement ??!!? Thank you but I can have a nice Rolex Explorer or any nice number of “manufacture” brands for that money !

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