Introducing the Bell & Ross Bellytanker Chronographs #NegroniTime for The Rake and #SpritzoClock for Revolution
Bell & Ross’ timepieces inspired by our favourite aperitifs are the perfect harbingers of a return to more convivial times.
What I think we missed most in 2020 was the human contact. Spending time with friends, enjoying their physical presence, their warmth of spirit, their conviviality,” says Carlos Rosillo, co-founder of Bell & Ross. “For me, 2021 will be a year to remake these bonds, to luxuriate in the company of my fellow men with a full understanding and deep appreciation of their company. These watches created for Revolution and The Rake are meant to be a celebration of this new year of optimism and hope; one filled with friendship, compassion and companionship.” He continues, “If you look at the name Bell & Ross, the central motif is the ampersand. This is derived from the ligature for the Latin word et, which expresses a partnership between equals. It means that together, we are stronger. And it was very much in this spirit that these two vibrant-coloured Bellytanker Chronograph watches were created.
“Of course, in terms of colour, both watches are inspired by two of the most iconic Italian cocktails, the Negroni and the Spritz, and what they symbolise in terms of good cheer, celebration and friendship, especially leading to the wonderful days of summer. But at the same time, I think these beautiful vivid hues with the sunray motif on the dials that are treated to have an almost liquid effect are power totems of positivity and optimism. That’s why we wanted them to be the very first watch launches of 2021 — as our declaration to the world that things will get better, and there is hope, joy and happiness on the road ahead, and we are not so very far away.” Emblem of a New Attitude Looking back at the years leading up to 2020, an interesting phenomenon arose. The popularity of a cocktail had been gathering momentum, especially at events like Florence’s famous menswear tradeshow, Pitti Uomo. Its meteoric rise began in the bars like Dante in Manhattan; at the private clubs in Mayfair like Harry’s Bar presided over by the extraordinary Luciano Porcu; iconic hotel bars like Dukes where the world’s most famous barman, Alessandro Palazzi, plies his trade; at fabled destinations, such as the Gritti Palace overseen by barman extraordinaire Cristiano Luciani; and at innumerable oases of old-world charm and serene beatific style where the words, “Per favore fammi un sbagliato”, are incanted with the reverence of liturgical verse. I speak, of course, of the Negroni. The Negroni was created a full 100 years ago by one Count Camillo Negroni, who bid his favourite Florentine barman Fosco Scarselli to unearth the full potency to his Americano by replacing soda water with gin. But in recent years, it has been adopted as a beverage representing the desire for a return to classic elegance and a yearning for the seductive élan of the Italian Riviera in the halcyon late ’40s, where buoyed by a spirit of postwar optimism and economic resurgence spurred by industrialists like Gianni Agnelli, it soared in popularity to the strains of imported American jazz. Says the brilliant writer and cultural historian Nick Foulkes, “This period which led to the birth of the jet set, the international community that would go on to define style and glamour for the 20th century, was very much focused around Italy, both from a perspective of playgrounds such as Capri, where Agnelli is believed to have seduced Jacqueline Kennedy, as well as from an economic perspective in Turin, which was the seat of power for Fiat.” All the grand Italian families, including the Agnellis and the Borromeos with their fabled private island Isola Bella on Lago Maggiore, emerged to play with the new rich from the Americas, and the concoction was as potent, opiatic and compelling as the cocktail they enjoyed.
Legendary film director and sybarite Orson Welles discovered the Negroni in 1947 while working as a correspondent for the Coshocton Tribune, and described his affection for the beverage based on the fact that it had bitters that were excellent for the liver, and gin which was bad for it, and as such, “they balanced each other out”. In the last decade, the Negroni, which was somehow lost during the rise of mixology culture, has staged a major resurgence. Says Matt Hranek, author of a book on the Negroni which will be released this year, and co-creator of the Negroni tweed with Douglas Cordeaux of the Fox Brothers, “I look back at the Negroni and see it staging a return following the financial crisis of 2008. I think that people were searching [for] more authentic timeless things to connect with, and the Negroni, because of its long, enduring history and because it is a genuinely great-tasting and uplifting cocktail, became the drink of choice for many of us.” Says Angel Ramos, founder of the tailoring and craft brand 18th Amendment, “The Negroni became a statement that you loved things that were authentic. That you wanted to have cocktails in places where you could have conversations, that you loved dressing in a tailored jacket because it was a sign of respect to your company and your environment, that you enjoyed a cigar but never a cigarette. It was about an attitude of life that took classic values and connected them to the modern world, and the Negroni was a kind of bridge.” Symbol of Resilience and Hope Andy Poupart, a respected sartorial Instagrammer that goes by the handle @styleafter50, says, “When 2020 happened and the lockdowns began, the Negroni somehow gained a different and, to me, even more important significance. It became a symbol of resistance against the encroaching darkness.” It was almost as if, amid the miasma of confusion, its bright red colour stood out like a steadfast beacon of solidarity. Alain Gafundi, CEO of The Rake, says, “As such, so many people, and especially readers and followers of The Rake, began to post images of their daily Negroni to show they were united in this effort to keep spirits high and positivity going.” Adds Tom Chamberlin, The Rake’s editor, “It reminded me of when British officers would shave immaculately when they were in the jungle and about to face insurmountable odds. It was a sign that you would never feel defeated.” More and more around the world, it seemed like Negronis were raised almost like defiant middle fingers at the Covid pandemic, as if to say it would not crush our spirits. As I worked on the Covid-19 Solidarity Auction run by The Rake and its sister publication Revolution, which raised over USD 280,000 for organisations such as the NHS in England and the Red Cross in Italy, it was a Negroni I would reward myself with at the end of each day, oftentimes with a photograph uploaded to my Instagram page @wei_koh_revolution. This social media phenomenon even inspired us to create a watch in collaboration with Ralph Lauren, with the famous Polo Bear dressed immaculately in black-tie and raising his Negroni to us all, to remind us that the events of 2020 would pass and we would emerge wiser and more grateful. Then I had an interesting conversation with Carlos Rosillo, who was inspired to give our readers and followers watches that were totems of positivity and optimism to celebrate the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021. We came up with the concept of timepieces inspired by our favourite cocktails — the Negroni and the Spritz. Two of my favourite people in the watch industry are Carlos and his partner Bruno Belamich, who are collectively Bell & Ross. I think one day they should star in a Netflix series on how to approach life in a way that is elegant yet mindful and incredibly genuine. They are both always in a great mood, and you genuinely feel that they wake up each and every day filled with passion for their métier and true affection for the people around them. Each time I am in their company, along with their lovely head of communications Axelle Rogano, my mood is tremendously uplifted. We’ve shared great meals, bottles of wine, cigars and, most of all, memories together. So what could be better when your friends also create some genuinely great watches, as Carlos and Bruno do? Bell & Ross Bellytanker Chronograph #Negronitime for The Rake One of the hardest things to do is to design an original sports chronograph without essentially replicating the Rolex Daytona or the Omega Speedmaster. So when I saw the Bell & Ross Bellytanker for the first time in 2017, I was genuinely impressed that it was an authentically original design. I like the oversized Arabic indexes, the long baton markers, the stepped dial, the thick crown guards and the screw-down pushers. Everything just worked well and at 41 mm, it was a good size. Shortly after seeing the Bellytanker, I kept thinking, what if the watch had been launched in the 1950s and an example of one of these had been buried in the ground in some unknown desert racing track, or left in the sun for years and its black dial and bezel had become scorched by the UV light and tropicalised to the extreme? I think around this time I had witnessed the vintage world’s obsession with all things tropical, and I have to admit many of these watches were absolutely stunning to behold. However, most of these unicorns were also staggeringly expensive, and I thought that if we could get the styling of the watch just right, with the Bellytanker’s relatively accessible price point of around USD 4,000, we could have a really fun yet affordable “tropical” sports chronograph. I pitched this idea to Bruno and Carlos, and they came back with two designs: one for a steel watch with a tropical brown dial, and one for a bronze watch with a champagne dial and brown subdials. Both were perfect. They had thought through every detail and found just the right shade of brown. The resulting timepieces — “Dusty” and “El Mirage”, from 2019 —are still some of my favourite watches, and I always get questions about them when I have either on my wrist. So it seemed like a foregone conclusion that after I explained the phenomenon of the Negroni, which had gone from a cocktail to an incredible community symbol, Rosillo, who is like myself invigorated by a steady diet of Negronis and cigars, said, “Then let’s create a watch inspired by the Negroni to symbolise the friendships and shared moments we all miss so much.” From across our Zoom conversation, ensconced in our studies in two different continents, we lifted our glasses and made a virtual toast to the idea. Then we began the design process, which is when we discovered that a Negroni possesses a colour unique in the world. It is neither red nor orange, and depending on how the light hits, it can have an amber halo and even pockets of deep ruby red. After a great deal of exchange on Pantones, we finally arrived at a colour that we feel perfectly represents the colour of a Negroni. At the same time, we decided to contrast the lush opulent tones with dramatic black subdials and minute track, and keep all the markers in white for maximum legibility. The tachymeter is similarly coloured in a Negroni tone. The dial is one which uses both a sunray finish and many layers of lacquer to create an almost liquid-like hyperlush effect. Finally, because Rosillo and I have promised each other that when the time allows for it, we will embark on a vintage car and motorcycle rally to celebrate the return of normalcy in the world, we fitted the watch with a Negroni-coloured suede rally strap. A Brief History of the Spritz But as I mentioned earlier, we wanted to create a second watch based on the classic cocktail, the Spritz, which is another beverage that has become a symbol of a more bucolic, elegant existence, often conjuring up images of my favourite memories. One, in particular, relates to a vintage car rally from Munich to Lake Como for the Concorso d’Eleganza. But let’s first delve into the history of the Spritz, which was born during the Habsburg dominion of Veneto. Veneto is the part of Italy that has Venice as its capital, and has always been one of the richest regions because of its port. It was made part of the Roman Empire around 5 BC, and became one of the world’s foremost maritime republics from 697 AD until 1797. All in, there were a total of 120 doges who ruled Venice, amongst them Andrea Gritti (1523 to 1538), whose home is now occupied by the legendary Gritti Palace hotel. After the Napoleonic Wars and the resulting Congress of Vienna, Veneto and its jewel Venice was ceded to Austria. It remained part of the Austrian Empire until 1866 when it was united with the Kingdom of Italy. History lesson aside, one of the things I love most about Venice is that it gave birth to the Spritz. Soldiers, diplomats and merchants from Austria decamped to Veneto, but were unused to the more strongly fortified native wines and as such, started the practice of mixing them with water. Amusingly, visitors soon brought the drink back to their native Austria and today, bars such as Vienna’s iconic Black Camel or Schwarze Kameel serve some of the most famous Spritzes in the world. In 1919, the enterprising Barbieri brothers of Padua introduced Aperol, a fortified bitter with a sweet taste and jewel-like orange colour, and by the ’50s, it had brought about an evolution in the Veneto Spritz, which now consisted of this bitter, prosecco and sparkling water. And it is this succulent concoction that is the primary source of my hydration and also the libation I associate most with the transcendent city of Venice. My standard operational practice upon arrival is to enjoy one or three of these magnificent concoctions — flawlessly prepared by head barman Cristiano Luciani — with my dear friend, the Gritti Palace’s beloved general manager Paolo Lorenzoni, before I make my way to the ethereal Hemingway Suite. Indeed, there is nothing to me more meditatively bucolic than to read Somerset Maugham on the terrace of the Gritti, where the author was known to ensconce himself enjoying La Serenissima’s signature beverage. My favourite ritual, upon viewing Titian’s life-changingly epic Assumption of the Virgin still found in situ at Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, is to retreat to one of the many nearby cafes in quiet contemplation at the majesty of this seminal work with a Spritz and cigar.
In 1919, the enterprising Barbieri brothers of Padua introduced Aperol, a fortified bitter with a sweet taste and jewel-like orange colour, and by the ’50s, it had brought about an evolution in the Veneto Spritz, which now consisted of this bitter, prosecco and sparkling water. And it is this succulent concoction that is the primary source of my hydration and also the libation I associate most with the transcendent city of Venice. My standard operational practice upon arrival is to enjoy one or three of these magnificent concoctions — flawlessly prepared by head barman Cristiano Luciani — with my dear friend, the Gritti Palace’s beloved general manager Paolo Lorenzoni, before I make my way to the ethereal Hemingway Suite. Indeed, there is nothing to me more meditatively bucolic than to read Somerset Maugham on the terrace of the Gritti, where the author was known to ensconce himself enjoying La Serenissima’s signature beverage. My favourite ritual, upon viewing Titian’s life-changingly epic Assumption of the Virgin still found in situ at Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, is to retreat to one of the many nearby cafes in quiet contemplation at the majesty of this seminal work with a Spritz and cigar. Bell & Ross Bellytanker Chronograph #Spritzoclock for Revolution As I explained my profound, unyielding affection for the Spritz, it became clear to Carlos Rosillo that we also needed to make a second watch in the colours of this fabled drink. In many ways, the two watches complement each other. Nicknamed #NegroniTime and #SpritzoClock by us, the former is a symbol of solidarity throughout the darkness of last year while the latter is an expression of hope for all there is to come. I can’t help but feel uplifted when I look at the gorgeous sunrise colour of the orange Spritz watch. The timepiece reminds me of human gatherings, such as the days I shared with my friend Ahmed “Shary” Rahman on the terraces and by the pool (strictly the one in the back of the hotel) at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which was the stop at the end of our vintage car rally that took us through the Alps. I even found a small kiosk down the road from the hotel which served Spritzes in the form of alcoholic ice slushies, which then became one of the hottest spots for congregation and conviviality during our trip. A Gesture of Thanks From Us to You Lastly, as a way of saying thanks for your continued support, your watch will also come with a WM Brown X WOLF Watch Roll, crafted in classic smooth brown leather and lined with a Negroni tweed. The roll features WOLF’s patented Watch Guards to keep your timepieces protected for when we can travel to meet for that drink, soon enough. Tech Specs Bell & Ross Bellytanker Chronograph #Negronitime for The Rake Case 41mm satin-polished stainless steel case Ultra-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating Height: 13.55mm Screw down pushers & crown Bezel Bezel: Red aluminium insert Dial Sunray treated Negroni dial Black subdials Negroni calendar disc Caseback Automatic chronograph movement Caliber BR-CAL301 (based on ETA 2894-2) 42-hour power reserve Sapphire crystal caseback with special printing Strap Red rally-style suede finishing with pin buckle
- Limited edition of 50 pieces