In the quest for speed, motor racing is sometimes criticized for losing a pinch of soul in sacrificing everything on the altar of performance purism. That’s quite unfair. Reams of safety regulations and cutting edge technology squeezing racing advantage to the thousandth of a millisecond does not change the one constant, that danger is ever less than a blink away. That said, racing is not all about the head and that likely explains why the race legends of former eras continue to tug at the petrolhead’s heartstrings.

This emotional heartland of classic racing is where the BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze hails from. And Bell & Ross chose to case it in bronze in no small part due to the runaway success of an earlier bronze watch created in collaboration with Revolution and The Rake: last year’s Bell &  Ross x  The  Rake  and Revolution Bellytanker  “El  Mirage” chronograph in bronze. “Bellytanker” comes from the racing scene of postwar America (For more details, here.) where hot rodders came up with the ingenious idea of converting drop tanks used by American warplanes to carry extra fuel under the fuselage/belly or wings during the Second World War (to reach Germany!), into chases for race cars. Already shaped for minimal drag, these blimp-shaped belly tanks were retrofitted with enough horsepower to blast about the salt flats at insane speeds above 150 mph (240 kph). Think mini-Mini on super-steroids with everything but the driver and the barest mechanicals, thrown out.

The Bell &  Ross x  The  Rake  and Revolution Bellytanker  “Dusty” and “El Mirage” Chronographs (© Revolution)
The Bell &  Ross x  The  Rake  and Revolution Bellytanker  “Dusty” and “El Mirage” Chronographs (© Revolution)
Race blimp built from the belly tank of a P-38 Lightning
Race blimp built from the belly tank of a P-38 Lightning

Yet, even before the story of the belly tanker exerts its pull, the black-gold colorway of the BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze already takes us back in an instant to the iconic livery of John Player Special race cars of the 1970s and ’80s. Racetrack scorecard is one thing – the Lotus 77 clocked only one win in the 1976 Formula One season – but in a sea of lurid hues like a tangle of Speedos, the black-gold livery of the JPS cars breathed worldly mystique and cool into the proceedings. It stood out.

Lotus 77 Formula One car (Photo: Luca Varani)
Lotus 77 Formula One car (Photo: Luca Varani)

The BR V2-94 then, with its wet finger on this livewire of vintage racing chic, catches the light and eye with all the dark charisma of a Lotus 77. The satin/mirror bronze case will develop patina that gives the watch character, but just by a bit: Bell & Ross chose to use Aluminum Bronze, which develops very light patina to evoke a look like vintage gold. The rest of the watch, from the stepped seconds track, slim markers to the color and relative proportions of the dial elements, are typical Bell & Ross, in that they are measured, elegant and emotive.

A bronze chronograph that approximates gold while developing character without runaway patina, and channels old school drama and glamour of balls-to-the-wall racing in an age without driver aids and clutchless manuals; the bronze BR V2-94 in a limited edition of 999 pieces makes a very safe buy tribute to living dangerously.

Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze Chronograph (Image © Revolution)

Technical Specifications

Movement

BR-CAL.301 automatic chronograph

Case

41mm CuAI7Si2 bronze case; anodised aluminum bezel insert with tachymeter; screw-down crown and pushers; sapphire caseback; water resistant to 100m

Strap

Black calfskin leather with CuAI7Si2 bronze buckle

Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze Chronograph (Image © Revolution)
Bell & Ross BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze Chronograph (Image © Revolution)