Hit List: TAG Heuer Formula 1 Gulf Special Edition

Nostalgia for the golden age of motorsport is alive and well at TAG Heuer, which is revisiting Gulf Oil’s victory in the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Formula 1 Gulf Special Edition. Encased in steel, the 43 mm quartz chronograph features a notched steel bezel and an aluminum ring with a tachymeter scale. The blue-and-orange color scheme on the dial as well as a caseback engraved with the Gulf logo are subtly elegant reminders of the model’s historic origins.

TAG Heuer Formula 1 Gulf Special Edition

$1,600; tagheuer.com

High Roller

 

Exploring three continents in Rolls-Royce’s first off-roader.

By Max Prince

Photographs by Cory Richards

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan is not an SUV.

It seats five adults and has an expansive tailgate. It rides on air suspension, towering more than six feet tall, and weighing more than three tons. It has a torque-y twin-turbo engine and full-time four-wheel drive, with a dedicated low gear for off-road use. On paper, it is an archetypal sport utility vehicle.

But no.

According to Rolls-Royce, the Cullinan, which represents the British automaker’s first foray outside the traditional coupe, sedan, and convertible body styles, is “a high-sided, all-terrain motor car.” Acronyms, apparently, are tacky. Crass. Maybe even vulgar. And a Rolls-Royce is nothing if not entirely devoid of vulgarity.

Consider the automotive landscape in 1906, when the company entered the market. Motoring was an event unto itself; drivers could expect frequent mechanical failure, tools and lubricants, ruined clothing, and long walks searching for fuel or assistance. Rolls-Royce positioned itself as the ultimate in personal luxury: all the opulence of autonomy and speed without the inconvenience and ignominy of a breakdown. Early marketing efforts were famously theatrical, with salespeople chucking their tool kits, locking their hoods shut, and driving hundreds of miles through mountains and deserts. Royals and socialites swooned. The brand became an institution.

In a neat historical symmetry, the Cullinan’s final testing phase involved a theatrical endurance trial. Wearing camouflage livery, the all-new Rolls-Royce traversed the Scottish highlands, smashed over Mideast sand dunes, ascended the 14,000-foot Pikes Peak in Colorado, then ripped off top speed runs across Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. Cory Richards, the award-winning photojournalist and mountain climber, was along for the ride. He captured some exclusive behind-the-scenes images for Watch Journal, which appear on the following pages, along with his notes from the journey.

The visual grandeur of Richards’s work fits the Rolls-Royce’s personality. After all, the name Cullinan comes from the world’s largest rough diamond, discovered in 1905, and later cut into nine stones. Two of them were set into the Queen’s crown. Her Majesty does not dress provocatively, express political views, nor speak in clipped, crude abbreviations.

S-U-V? Please.

SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS

“Every time I step out the door, I don’t really know what to expect. That uncertainty is the soul of adventure. Being isolated is always unnerving. But it’s always underscored by a sense of curiosity. I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve never seen a landscape that is at once so similar and so complex.… God, it’s stunning.”

– Cory Richards

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

“A place is more than its people, its cultures, its languages, or its landscapes. They’re simply components of the texture. Finding the moment that celebrates all of these things simultaneously—that’s the alchemy of photography. Finding a moment that says everything without having to say anything at all. Like the quiet stranger, walking through the desert, alone.”

-C.R.

AMERICAN WEST

“Finality is always bittersweet. Oftentimes journeys seem to end abruptly, like crossing a finish line that you know is there, but that you couldn’t see until it was behind you. I’d imagine it’s kind of like going 300 miles per hour [on the Salt Flats.] It happens before you can make sense of it, only to be trapped trying to remember the experience long after the world has slowed. What was lived can only be revisited in images along the way. Postcards from the past, that we use to make sense of how it’s changed us, as we look to the future.”

-C.R.

Hit List: Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Indian – Burt Munro Tribute Limited Edition

Speed freaks will appreciate the story behind Baume & Mercier’s Clifton Club Indian model, which pays tribute to Burt Munro, the New Zealander who set—and still holds—the record for the fastest speed reached on an Indian motorcycle, a feat he accomplished in 1967, at age 68, riding across Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. Fifty years later, the watchmaker honors Munro’s daring spirit with this limited-edition automatic chronograph.

Baume & Mercier Clifton Club Indian – Burt Munro Tribute Limited Edition

$3,900; baume-et-mercier.com

Hit List: NOMOS Glashütte Autobahn

The name of Nomos Glashütte’s brand new Autobahn model says it all: Designed by celebrated product designer Werner Aisslinger as an ode to speed—and the vintage race cars from the 1960s and ’70s that embodied it—the piece features a concave dial whose edge is curved like the outside lane of a racetrack. Equipped with the new Neomatik date caliber, the 41 mm timepiece, four years in the making, is available in three dial colors: white silver-plated, “sports gray,” and this midnight blue.

NOMOS Glashütte Autobahn

$4,800; nomos-glashuette.com

The Story Behind Porsche Design’s Super-Exclusive New Chronograph

Porsche enthusiasts are a lot like other car enthusiasts. They’ve got lingo (“slant nose,” “Moby Dick,” “PDK”), icons (Bruce Canepa) and iconoclasts (Magnus Walker), a pedantic hierarchy (964 Carrera 911 RS trumps 996 911 GT3 RS, but both lose to 911 Carrera 2.7 RS). What makes Porsche enthusiasts unique is the degree of clubbiness, the vaguely secretive vibe. The ferocity of the mystique. 

You can see how they got there. At their best, cars from Stuttgart are as involving and gratifying as any on the planet. The brand, as its devotees will remind you, has a long tradition of building innovative racing prototypes, ballsy street-legal sports cars, and exclusive special-edition models that blend the best elements of each. But the rarest Porsches tend to be kept under wraps. The company’s own museum meters out public appearances; private collectors are, understandably, hesitant to run irreplaceable, multimillion-dollar machines at the racetrack.

One exception: Rennsport Reunion.

One RS Spyder? Big deal. A whole troupe of them? Woah.

Held every third year (or thereabouts) since 2001, this vintage racing event is billed as the world’s largest gathering of Porsches. Derek Bell and Bruce Canepa and Magnus Walker are there, along with nearly 60,000 other zealots, letting their freak flag fly. So are the 964 RS, 996 GT3 RS, and 2.7 RS, plus virtually every significant Porsche racing car from the past seven decades, including Le Mans winners, like the 917 and 962.

All told, some 330 cars take to the circuit, the location of which varies depending on the year. Past venues include historic Lime Rock Park, in Connecticut, and Daytona Speedway. Rennsport Reunion VI (September 27-30, 2018) is scheduled to take place at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, in Monterey, California.

The new Porsche Design Chronotimer Rennsport Reunion VI Limited Edition.

To mark the occasion, Porsche Design has created a new timepiece, the Chronotimer Rennsport Reunion VI Limited Edition. It pays homage to event, but also to the original Chronograph I, released in 1972. That piece helped put Porsche Design on the map; the company reportedly sold some 50,000 examples, more than a few of which wound up on the wrists of pro drivers. 

Like the Chronograph I, the Chronotimer Rennsport Reunion VI Limited Edition has a distinctive matte-black finish, a nod to the instrument panels in the cockpits of racing cars. The 42mm carbide-coated titanium case is black, as is the dial; the sapphire crystal backing allows for a clear view of the automatic Valjoux movement. It all hangs on a black calfskin strap made from “original Porsche interiors,” replete with red contrast stitching. Each watch features a unique numbered engraving.

The Chronograph I from 1972, one of the inspirations behind the new Chronotimer Rennsport.

Each Rennsport Reunion feels like a rare and special thing, and this new Porsche Design watch aims to capture that sentiment. Accordingly, it’s limited to a scant 70 pieces, distributed only within the U.S. Other car enthusiasts might not see the appeal. But Porsche fanatics? The want for this one will be downright ferocious.

Porsche Design Chronotimer Rennsport Reunion VI Limited Edition, $6,850 (pre-order); porsche-design.us

Can Formula E Make Eco-Friendly Racing Sexy?

If Malcolm Gladwell did motorsport commentary, he’d likely say Formula E was approaching its tipping point. The four-year-old series—in which purpose-built, all-electric race cars scream around diabolically tight courses often carved from a city’s own streets—has many things breaking in its favor. One, it has lured some of the most prestigious car brands on Earth. Two, it has secured a multiyear title sponsor, ABB, a Swiss builder of robotic systems. Three, it continues to cultivate strong driver talent.

 

Also, man, have you seen the new car?

 

Indeed, the 2018/19 season could mark the inflection point at which Formula E graduates from the experimental music tent to the main stage—and not just in audience terms. Once the province of electric-vehicle component suppliers and a few intrepid, early-adopter automakers, the series has since on-boarded the likes of Jaguar, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, with more manufacturers being announced every few months. (That’s to make no mention of the star power; celebrity team owners include Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Branson.)

 

Nissan concept livery for the second-generation Formula E racecar. The Japanese automaker is just one of many defecting from traditional racing series to join Formula E next season. 

 

With global consensus growing around electrification and battery power as a viable replacement for internal combustion, Formula E can already claim to be the most future-forward motorsport series. Given a few more years to mature, however, and it may legitimately threaten Formula 1—its closest analog, and a decidedly carbon-belching one—as the world’s premier plutocratic spectacle on wheels. 

 

Not only is Formula E coming for Formula 1’s excitement, but also for its yacht slips in Abu Dhabi, magnums of Mumm, and impeccable haircuts. The electric series will even race through the streets of Monaco next year. Consider that a bold statement of intent: Monte Carlo is the crown jewel of the Formula 1 schedule, and Formula E is mounting an electron-fueled heist.

 

A number of confluences, some expected, others not, have led Formula E to this point. The biggest shock has been the addition of Audi and Porsche, both brands having announced their race entries simultaneously with withdrawals from Le Mans prototype racing. With class victories at 10 of the past 11 runnings of the eponymous 24-hour endurance race in the French countryside, the German manufacturers’ sudden pivots have been viewed by some pundits as tactical—and less charitably, cynical—chess moves.

 

After all, Volkswagen Group, the corporate parent of Audi and Porsche, was caught in 2015 cheating on diesel-engine emissions tests, leading to billions in fines and a cascade of indictments. Even without that stain, skeptics can deride the involvement of Porsche, Audi, and others in Formula E as tantamount to greenwashing: a way to launder profits derived from gas-guzzling SUVs and sports cars in a virtuous spin cycle.

 

“At first glance, the season five Formula E car looked to our design team like an EV-powered supersonic bird in flight,” says Nissan design boss Alfonso Albaisa.

 

Even a jaundiced eye can’t help but twinkle, though, when the Gen2 car enters into view. Wholly redesigned for the 2018/19 season kicking off in the fall, the second generation of Formula E’s race car debuted at the Geneva Motor Salon. As a so-called “one-make” race series, Formula E dictates that all teams use this chassis, and the response from insiders and social media gawkers alike has been overwhelmingly positive.

 

“At first glance, the season five Formula E car looked to our design team like an EV-powered supersonic bird in flight,” says Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice president of global design. The Japanese automaker, another new entrant, hasn’t participated in top-tier racing since its calamitous attempt to run a prototype racer for Le Mans. The car was uncompetitive, and its design was heavily criticized. For Nissan, like Porsche and Audi, the foray into Formula E represents something of a fresh start. 

 

To that end, next season got off to an auspicious beginning, as Albaisa’s “Doppler effect” paint scheme for the Nissan car was met with acclaim. Armchair engineers will note the slippery lines of the chassis underneath, an inheritance from endless wind-tunnel work; design pundits will appreciate the clever use of color, emphasizing the body’s various convex and concave surfaces. Fans will just think it looks damn good. Formula E could always claim it was the most future-forward race series. Now it has a strong claim to being the most beautiful, too.

 


 

Q+A: Richard Mille

 

The visionary watchmaker (and Formula E sponsor) talks about Richard Branson, the future of motorsport, and the possibility of a special-edition timepiece inspired by electric racing.

 

(Photo: Wee Khim)

 

How did you get involved with Formula E? Were you approached by Jean Todt?

 

Times change, and Formula E is the future of Formula 1. The category of all-electric cars has taken a radical turn since the beginning of the championship. My friend Jean Todt, president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) climbed aboard, excited by the work of Frenchmen Eric Barbaroux and Pierre Gosselin, creators of the first 100 percent electric single-seater race car. I have known Jean-Paul Driot (owner of the Renault e.dams team) for over 10 years, and I wanted to support him from the very beginning of the adventure. Also, the technological approach meshes perfectly with our own avant-garde philosophy. For someone like me, who loves a challenge, being in on Formula E seemed like an obvious choice. And what I liked about Formula E was the noise! It is unbelievable!

 

Richard Branson, who sponsors a Formula E team, famously said the series would be more popular than Formula 1 by the year 2020. Do you agree?

 

I feel that 2020 is perhaps a bit too early. Not due to the teams or the cars, but due to the fact that people and fans need to get used to this new field. I do, however, believe that that day of acceptance will come when the time is right. We are seeing commitment to a green economy because this is the reality we face. Technological advances will do a lot to make the sport ever more popular in the coming years.

 

Over the past two years, several major automakers with strong motorsport traditions—Jaguar, BMW, Porsche, Mercedes—have started Formula E teams. Which automaker would you like to see join the series?

 

The engineering of electric racing cars is becoming and more advanced. Within the next two years, Formula E cars will only rely on just one battery per race, instead of two. This means one car instead of two. That is what convinced new automakers to join the Formula E Championship, in fact, you quote some of them!

 

When designing race-themed timepieces, watchmakers usually draw inspiration from mechanical motifs—gears, camshafts, pistons. Electric race cars don’t have those parts. If you made a Formula E watch, what would it look like?

 

Formula E car construction is not simple at all! Even electric drive cars have steering systems, wheels, axles and thoughtfully designed bodywork—and that’s to say nothing of the fact that a lot of their materials already being used in Formula 1 construction, with new ones continually in development. Formula 1 and Formula E have strong similarities. There is a real interest in transposing everything we have learned in F1 to the electric universe. After all, they both contain everything related to acceleration, G’s, vibrations, lateral and longitudinal shocks. In short, everything it takes to kill a watch!

 

In the past, you’ve dedicated pieces in your collection to Sébastien Loeb, Felipe Massa, and Alain Prost. Which current Formula E driver deserves his own Richard Mille timepiece?
The various celebrities who embody the (Richard Mille) brand aren’t ambassadors, but rather friends. We work with them because they are outstanding in their professions, and because they are good people. We sign long-term contracts together that go beyond any consideration of results or their careers. We don’t commit lightly, and we’ve built a strong relationship with the Renault e.dams team. This includes drivers Nicolas Prost and Sébastien Buemi, and they actually are wearing Richard Mille watches during each Grand Prix. All in good time, all in good time!

 

 

The Mercedes Benz G-wagen (1979-2018)

Encased in amber on this page is a collection of parts representing a greater sum, a tool made redundant by progress but reborn as a status symbol, an anachronism that survived as the object of enthusiast lust. Sound familiar? Parallels to the wristwatch aside, we loved the original Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen because of what it represented: an epic and improbable triumph of smart engineering and authentic style.

The backstory is equally as improbable. The first prototypes were commissioned in 1973 by the Shah of Iran, at that time a major Mercedes-Benz shareholder. He asked the company to create an all-new truck, one that could traverse his kingdom’s vast and harsh terrain. The resulting machine, equipped with a stout diesel engine and hardcore four-wheel-drive system, resembled a Jeep that subscribed to Architectural Digest and liked hitting the squat rack. It underwent extensive torture testing in the Arctic Circle and Sahara Desert, only to arrive in early 1979—just after the Shah was deposed.

The original 280 GE on display before the new model’s arrival at the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit. (Photo: Daimler/Deniz Saylan)

Not that it mattered. Build by hand at a dedicated facility in Graz, Austria, the new truck’s overall rugged construction, robust mechanicals, and freakish off-road abilities were a revelation. It wasn’t long before the Geländewagen, known colloquially as the “G-wagen,” found its way into military fleets around the globe. Mercedes began offering a street-legal version to civilians across Europe. Sales held steady throughout the 1980s.

Then something funny happened. Which is to say, nothing happened.

 (Photo: Daimler/Deniz Saylan)

Whereas modern cars get styling tweaks after two or three years, and a clean-sheet redesign after seven or eight, the Mercedes saw just one exterior overhaul, in 1990. Even then, it retained the same durable body-on-frame bones, the same upright windscreen, and squared-off profile. When the G-wagen finally arrived at U.S. dealerships, in 2002, it was stuffed with premium features and a complex V-8 engine but still rode on its original steel chassis. Customers lined up to pay six figures for what was essentially a brand-new antique.

They quickly discovered that, as a commuter vehicle, the G-wagen was compromised in nearly every facet. The mega-tall roof, engineered to accommodate a high seating position for scanning rutted dersert topography, became an albatross in parking garages. The soft suspension and slow steering were ideal for off-road handling but sloppier than a soup sandwich on asphalt. The braking performance and fuel economy, about which the less said, the better.

The original 280 GE on display before the new model’s arrival at the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit. (Photo: Daimler/Deniz Saylan)

But the design resonated. Rolling around Beverly Hills or South Beach, where a curvaceous, high-tech supercar is all but mandatory, the G-wagen’s brutal angularity and warhorse vibe seemed vaguely rebellious and deeply cool. Mercedes leaned into the silliness, offering customers new levels of conspicuous absurdity—a six-wheel version, an exotic twin-turbo V-12 engine, a special-edition wearing fluorescent yellow paint. Incredibly, the G-wagen, effectively unchanged after nearly four decades in production, hit record sales last year before its all-new replacement was announced.

The cynical take is that we, as a people, are attracted to excess. Maybe that’s true. But the G-wagen’s brand of excess stood for something, even if many of the customers didn’t realize it. Planned obsolescence is a treadmill; newness is a cult. But function and quality, and good design, are forever.


Paul’s Take…

“The G-wagen succeeds because it’s a piece of anti-design design. Of course, there’s something disingenuous about that—it’s a very elaborate, powerful, luxurious vehicle. But it’s ostentatiously boxy, and looks plain in the same way that someone in jeans doesn’t look dressed up. It’s a brilliant piece of reverse snobbery, which is why it took on a whole new life as a luxury vehicle. It appeals to people who want to spend a lot of money and avoid conventional status symbols.” 

— Paul Goldberger, architecture critic and Vanity Fair contributing editor

Revolutions Per Minute: The Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker

Looking for a new timepiece to match your new hot rod? Look no further than the Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker, a collection inspired by early Land Speed Record racecars.

Danger and speed are central to the Bell & Ross ethos, so when it came time to create a pair of special edition watches, the brand decided to honor hot-rod impresario Bill Burke.

PHOTO: Courtesy Bell & Ross

Burke, a U.S. Navy veteran, is widely credited with building the first Land Speed Record Bellytanker, repurposing a P-51 Mustang spare he purchased for $35. The resulting creation, once equipped with a hopped-up V8 engine at the nose, was capable of reaching 130 mph. (For reference, an average Ford sedan of the era struggled to manage 65 mph.) But Burke soon realized the 165-gallon tank couldn’t accommodate a full-size driver seat. So he welded in a bicycle seat.

Repeat: These guys went 130 mph, inside a scrapped steel airplane part, sitting on a bicycle seat.

PHOTO: Courtesy Bell & Ross

And wherever there’s history, airplanes, and lunatic speeds, Bell & Ross is sure to be nearby. The company honors Burke and his breed of hot-rodder with Bellytanker editions of two pieces from the Vintage collection, the time-and-date V1-92 and the V1-94 chronograph. The former offers a simpler, plain-bezel look and smaller 38.5 mm size, while the latter measures 41 mm and features a fixed-position tachymeter. Both employ an automatic mechanical movement, boast a satin-steel-polished case and a gorgeous gilt metallic copper dial, offer 100m water resistance, and feature a too-cool custom casebook design. Unsurprisingly, these Vintage Bellytanker watches are a limited-run proposition; Bell & Ross will make just 1000 examples total.

PHOTO: Courtesy Bell & Ross

 

The Biggest Little Car Shop in Texas

Hot-rodders around the world trust Dave’s Perfection Automotive in Austin, Texas. The shop’s owner has some words of wisdom for budding car collectors.

 

Dave’s Perfection Automotive might be one of the planet’s leading shops for hot-rodders and vintage car collectors, but it doesn’t go out of its way to advertise. There’s no website. It’s identified by a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it street sign, and you get there by driving down an unassuming alley. Call and ask for the proprietor, and you might hear the following refrain: “We don’t call him ‘The Phantom’ for nothing.”

 

Step inside, however, and you’ll see why collectors worldwide track these guys down. In one corner is an International Harvester Scout II, the pinnacle of 1970s off-road cool, and the vehicle that reps Liz Lambert’s famed Hotel San Jose, which helped make Austin a hot spot two decades ago. There’s a plush Cadillac Eldorado and boat-tail Buick Riviera on the lot, both belonging to a Frenchman who sent the cars Stateside for repairs. And then there are the men running this place, including a mechanic who has worked here for 30 years, and Steve Wertheimer, the longtime Austin scenester who took over after the shop’s founder, Dave Geddes, passed away.

“I was always one of those guys who liked to take things apart,” Wertheimer says. “Sometimes I could get it back together, sometimes I couldn’t.”

He grew up reading car magazines, but didn’t get into collecting until after he bought the Continental Club, the legendary South Austin music venue, in 1987. He befriended Jimmie Vaughan, the iconic blues guitarist and older brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Charlie Sexton, a singer-guitarist and frequent tour-mate of Bob Dylan’s. Both men collected cars, and encouraged Wertheimer to do the same.

One night, Sexton introduced him to a local car enthusiast named Mercury Charlie, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, declared that Wertheimer should own a Mercury. He just so happened to be selling one, a parts car that needed to be restored from the ground up.

“I went out to [Mercury] Charlie’s house every night for it seemed like eight months, and we worked on this 1951 Mercury,” Wertheimer says. “And we basically built the car, put it together, and I’ve been driving that thing for thirty years.” Indeed, the car—curvy, streamlined, jet-black, unmissable—is parked in front of Dave’s most days.

Later, after attending a car show in Paso Robles, Wertheimer caught the hot-rod bug. His first was a 1930 Ford Roadster, christened The Continental Kid, which he still owns, and is powered by an engine he built himself. He founded the Lonestar Hot Rod & Kustom Roundup, a massively popular spring car show, in 2001, and took over at Dave’s in 2012. Along the way, he picked up a few more hot rods (with names like The Black Dahlia and Goldenrod) and became something of a local impresario.

Accordingly, there’s typically a two-month wait just to get your car in the door at Dave’s. When you do, Wertheimer says, the mechanics will likely discover there’s more work to be done than you initially thought. (Original components on older cars wear quickly, and most of the frames and bodies were made from steel, which is susceptible to rust.) From there, it may take months for your car to be finished; it’s not easy to track down vintage parts, and once the team does, it takes time to get them sent to Austin and installed correctly. As Wertheimer notes, “Most of the stuff that we have to deal with, you can’t down to O’Reilly’s or Pep Boys.”

Thinking about getting into hot rods? Wertheimer has a few pieces of advice that will sound familiar to anyone who collects watches. First and foremost, find an expert who can examine your potential quarry and assess its condition. “Don’t get all hyped up over the shiny paint and chrome and all that stuff,” he says. “Local dealer auctions are notorious for putting lipstick on a pig. They wind up over here immediately afterward trying to fix all the stuff that those guys covered up. It’s worth spending a hundred bucks to take a friend or a professional with you to go check out the car. It’ll save you a hell of a lot more money in the long run.”

Once your purchase is sorted mechanically, Wertheimer has one final piece of advice to offer: Drive the thing. Not just for pleasure, though that will be considerable—but also to keep it in good shape. Many of the cars in Dave’s Perfection Automotive suffer from simple lack of use, because owners are too nervous about taking such a beautiful vehicle on the road. (Wertheimer drives more than 20,000 miles a year.) And hey, if you still wind up needing some help, you know who to call.

“Seeing someone drive off, saying this car runs better than ever—that’s where I get the most satisfaction,” Wertheimer says.

Perfection, you might call it.

 

Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker

 Bell & Ross channels the heyday of American Land Speed Record



Looking for a retro-style timepiece with a killer backstory? Look no further than the Bell & Ross Vintage Bellytanker collection, inspired by early Land Speed Record racecars, which invaded dry lake beds and salt flats during the 1940s and ’50s. Like hot rods, bellytankers were highly customized in nature and home-brew in spirit. Unlike hot rods, they weren’t recognizable as Mercurys or Chevrolets; Land Speed Record car bodies were streamlined fabrications, often utilizing World War II fighter plane emergency drop tanks—“belly tanks,” in military parlance.

Bill Burke, a former Coast Guardsman, is widely credited with building the first bellytanker, repurposing a P-51 Mustang spare that he purchased for $35. The resulting creation, once equipped with a hopped-up V8 engine, was capable of reaching 130 mph. (For reference, most family sedans of the era struggled to hit 70 mph.) But Burke soon realized the 165-gallon tank couldn’t accommodate a full-size driver seat. So he welded in a bicycle seat.

Repeat: These guys went 130 mph, inside a scrapped fuel tank, sitting on a bicycle seat.

Bellytanker-style concept car, built by Bell & Ross to promote the new watches

Wherever there’s history, airplanes, and lunatic speeds, Bell & Ross is sure to be nearby. The company honors Burke and his breed of hot-rodder with Bellytanker editions of two pieces from the Vintage collection, the time-and-date BR V1-92 and the BR V1-94 chronograph. The former offers a simpler, plain-bezel look and smaller 38.5 mm size, while the latter measures 41 mm and features a fixed-position tachymeter.

Bell & Ross V1-92 (left) and V2-94 chronograph (right) — the latter is also available on a stainless bracelet for an additional $300

Both employ an automatic mechanical movement, boast a satin-steel-polished case and gorgeous gilt metallic copper dial, offer 100m water resistance, and feature a too-cool custom casebook design. Unsurprisingly, these Bellytanker watches are a limited-run proposition. Only 1000 will be made in total—500 of the BR V1-92 and 500 of the BR V1-94.

Bell & Ross BR V1-92 Bellytanker ($2,300) and BR V2-94 Bellytanker ($4,400 – $4,700); bellross.com 

Moon Shot

The new Apollo Intensa Emozione elevates four-wheel exotica.


By Max Prince

Apollo Intensa Emozione Hypercar
(Photo: Apollo Automobil)


There are sports cars, and, above them, supercars. But there’s nothing above a hypercar. These ludicrously fast, bespoke gems from boutique brands such as Pagani and Koenigsegg, represent the hottest trend in automotive exotica. Into this rarified segment rolls the new Apollo Intensa Emozione, a handmade Italian thriller that brings cottage-industry vibes to the bleeding edge of modern high-performance driving.  

Apollo Intensa Emozione Hypercar
(Photo: Apollo Automobil)


That starts with the chassis. It’s hewn entirely from carbon fiber, the same lightweight material used in NASA gliders, and built small-batch by composites guru Paolo Garella. The engine, an operatic 6.3-liter V12, receives similar treatment; Autotecnica Motori, the premier tuner in Italy, uses custom parts to deliver an astounding 780 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque, plus a screaming 9000-rpm redline. The minimalist interior brings fighter-jet chic, complete with made-to-measure bucket seats, molded to fit each individual buyer. But the really shocking stuff is on the outside.

Apollo Intensa Emozione Hypercar
(Photo: Apollo Automobil)

Penned by Joe Wang, a former McLaren designer, the Intensa Emozione looks downright radical. The exterior focal point is a teardrop-shaped greenhouse with dramatic, upward-opening doors. The intricate network of aerodynamic scoops and vents recalls a Le Mans race car; the buttressed rear wing is so effective above 180 mph, it generates downforce greater than the vehicle’s total weight. Meaning that, at high speed, the Apollo could actually drive upside down and stick to the ceiling.

Apollo Intensa Emozione Hypercar
(Photo: Apollo Automobil)

Production of the Intensa Emozione is limited to 10 units, with customer delivery beginning in 2018. Consider this one of the most desirable machines ever created, a singular convergence of art and science, exemplary of the breed. Because anything less is just a car.

Apollo Intensa Emozione
0–60 mph: 2.7 seconds
Top speed: 208 mph
Price: $2.7m
apollo-automobil.com

 

Time, Accelerated

The fastest Ford ever built is commemorated with two new watch series.


By Jonathan Schultz

Bradley Price knows the Ford GT supercar in a way that only its builders—and the occasional “friend of the brand”—are allowed to. “I saw prototypes taken apart,” Price, 37, recalls of his visit to Ford’s performance skunk works in Dearborn, Michigan. “I got to see them on a lift. Those sights really stuck with me.”

Not long after the Ford GT blindsided the world’s pleasure receptors in 2015, its maker began scheming on a commemorative wristwatch. The GT nameplate evokes Le Mans, France, where, in 1966, Ford’s GT40 embarked on a historic run of Ferrari-stomping in the French countryside. The new GT, a 647-horsepower, $400,000, hand-built missile limited to just 1,000 examples, would seem commemoration enough, but Ford thought otherwise.

“They reached out to me,” Price says. Surveying his Autodromo brand from its home in Brooklyn, it’s not hard to see why. Autodromo chronographs are steeped in motorsport without stooping to boy-racer clichés like faux-carbon fiber or italicized, blocky type. It also helped that Chris Svensson, now Ford’s global head of design, was a fan.

“He actually wore the prototype of the red-and-white watch, the ’67 Heritage, last summer when they unveiled that colorway of the car,” Price says of his patron.

The LM 2016 Dial is inspired by the class-winning Ford GT that ran at the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours. It’s even emblazoned with the winning car’s racing number: 68.

The Autodromo Ford GT Endurance series consists of five color and graphics treatments, each intended to evoke not only the GT40s of old, but also the hypermodern GTs. “It’s all about the continuation of the sixties through today,” Price says. “This watch is really about telling that story.” And at $695, it’s a relatively accessible yarn.

But another, more exclusive chapter is baking: a line of Owner’s Edition chronographs limited to buyers of the car. Price is not revealing numbers, though he demurs that they will cost “significantly more.”

“The hour and minute hands are sapphire crystal,” he says of the Owner’s Editions. “When I tell people in Switzerland, they’re like, ‘What?! That’s bold.’”

Purchasers of $400,000 supercars would have it no other way.