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Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original Review

Ball Hands on Watch Reviews

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original

Dive watches these days are everywhere. Almost every watch brand makes one. There are probably more dive watches on the market than anything else. But there are dive or diver-style watches, and then there are ultimate or extreme dive watches. That’s where the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original comes in. This watch has a lot going on, and a lot of it isn’t just what you can see. A sapphire bezel, a prominent crown guard, and a sandwich dial. Things we have seen before in one way or another. But this isn’t just your ordinary sandwich dial. And when have you seen a sandwich bezel? Oh, and underneath? Flat tritium tubes. The crown protector is patented and there is a lot of engineering going on inside as well, with lots of shock and impact protection to the case and movement. All of this doesn’t come cheap either, as the MSRP is $3,349.


  • 40mm (listed size)
  • 42.5mm Bezel 
  • 51mm Lug to Lug
  • 14.5mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • 212 Grams 
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • Sapphire Bezel Insert
  • Sandwich Dial With Tritium Tubes
  • BALL RR1102-CSL Movement (Base ETA 2836)
  • COSC Certified 
  • Patented Crown Guard 
  • 20mm tapering to 18mm Stainless Bracelet
  • 200M Water Resistant

Price $3,349


The Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original is packed with a lot of technology, with a lot of shock resistance built into the movement, the case, and the crown protector. SpringLock hairspring anti-shock, SprigSeal anti-shock system, anti-magnetic to 80,000A/m, Mu Metal shield and more. This ETA 2836 movement is highly modified, and the case, crown, and movement are highly shock-resistant. This watch is built to handle hard knocks, drops bounces, and jolts while you are wearing it, without skipping a beat, or in extreme cases, damaging the movement. But you can read all those specs on the Ball website, so how does all this translate to you wearing it?

Movement protection, shock resistance, anti-magnetism, these are all great things to have, but these are things you don’t notice, things the watch is doing all the time but you never see. So, what about what you do see? Let’s take that unique crown protector. As many learned early on with the dive watch, protecting the crown is as important as the water resistance. Original dive watches didn’t have crown guards, and then over time, watch brands have continued to innovate and develop new ways of crown protection, and Ball not wanting to be left behind developed their system. It’s pretty straightforward actually, you push the button on the lever and the arm can be swung down, and now you can access the crown to set the time, day/date, as well as wind it if you choose to. Reverse the process and now it’s all locked up. Or is it?
Playing around with this watch, wearing it, taking photos, and doing the video, I noticed that if that button is pushed the lever will open. I know what you are thinking, isn’t that the point Don? What I mean is, if you accidentally drop it and it lands crown down, it may open. If it were to get hit against a door, a wall, a rock, whatever, it could open. Now, the crown would still be screwed down, so it wouldn’t be an issue for water ingress, but for as much Newton force that this crown protector can take, its Achilles heel is that push button to open it. While many who purchase this watch will probably never even get the watch wet, or go on rugged adventures, I do wonder what happens to the hinge if the lever gets opened accidentally and you don’t notice immediately.

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original

All that said, it’s a fun mechanism, easy to use, and it does add some flair to the watch, even if a bit of a gimmick. Is there anything wrong with a gimmick though? Fully lumed bezels, lumed crowns or clasps, and many other things are gimmicks really, but they are also cool and stand out, so why not have something different?
Moving on to the bezel and dial, and yes, sandwiched beneath the dial and bezel insert are flat tritium tubes. Yes, tritium tubes. It may not look like it, but that is tritium underneath and that is a cool feature of the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original. The dial itself is nothing overly crazy it’s pretty subdued with a black sunray dial, some lines of text, a day and date, and of course the RR counterweight on the second hand.

The star of the show though is however they figured out how to sandwich tritium below a dial and make it look more like SuperlumiNova than the tritium tubes we normally see. And then they take it one step further, and do this to the bezel. This makes for quite a thick bezel, but gimmicky as it may be it’s pretty damn cool that they were able to design and manufacture this, and that it works quite well. Unlike painted lume, tritium tubes do not need an external light source to glow, and in the dark, this watch is going to be very easy to read.

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original

The Bezel action on the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Orignal is a little on the sloppy side though. The grip is no issue here with how thick the bezel area is and the coin edge design, but it’s not as tight as I would have hoped. Not sure if the bezel assembly and the tritium tubes have to do with this, but I did expect it to be a little firmer. The crown itself is perfect in my opinion, smooth and precise with a great feeling, but I will say that the lever from the crown guard does kind of get in the way.

Two other things stick out to me with this Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original, one being that for such an extremely protected watch, it’s only rated to 200m. Now I will never see those 200m depths myself, and Ball has watches that can withstand even more depths and pressure but it was something I pondered. Maybe it was to keep the thickness down, as this watch is already nearing the 15mm mark, and with even more water resistance, this would be a chunk on the wrist.
The other is that there is a lot of high polish on this watch. I went on a little of a rant about this in the written review, and this is not the only Ball watch that has so much high polish, but for a watch that is intended to be used and abused, the highly polished areas of this watch are a little puzzling, at least to me.

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original

The high polish does extend to the bracelet edges and center links, but I have to give props for the bracelet overall. First, I have always loved this design, and even with that big depolyant buckle system, the bracelet is not overly heavy or chunky, yet it does balance the watch head nicely. And that buckle or clasp system, whatever you want to call it? While it is not traditional, it is not your standard deployant buckle and has two adjustment holes in it, as well as extensions on each side for going over a wetsuit or bigger cuff. You can achieve an even better fit with the half links that are integrated into the bracelet as well, two on each side, so they made sure you will be able to wear this Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original, no matter what you are doing. It’s a pretty large bracelet as well, and should easily fit an 8 -8 1/4 inch (20.32cm-20.96cm) wrist.

Before we get to how this watch fits on my wrist, we need to discuss sizing. The Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Orignal is available in two sizes, 40mm, and 43mm, but those listed sizes are very deceiving. If you measure in one specific area, not including the crown or bezel, you do get 40mm. But the bezel is 42.5, and west to east including the crown guard, I got a whopping 47mm. Now while this watch does not look or wear like a 47mm at all, keep in mind, it doesn’t look like a 40mm either. So if you were looking at this piece and thinking it would be a good companion to your similarly sized 40mm Sub, you would be wrong.

So how does it wear on my 7 1/2 inch (19.05cm) wrist? I have to say pretty well actually. Despite the larger-than-stated size, despite how tall the watch is on the wrist, and that extending crown guard, this feels great on the wrist. The 20mm bracelet does taper to 18mm, and while the bezel extends over the case, what sits on your wrist is a 40mm case, so it’s odd in the sense that this is a smaller watch that looks larger but wears smaller than you would think. That’s almost a riddle, but that is truly what it is, and if you really like bigger watches, go for the 43mm then, but keep in mind that is going to be more of a 45mm watch. Its bigger brother also comes in more colors, as the 40mm only comes in black. (Correction, you can get the 40mm with a red bezel/black dial as well)

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original

One thing I have always said about the watch world is that you are never without choices. These days, there are more choices and more brands than ever, and I like that brands like Ball are still pushing the envelope to be innovative, and with this Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Orignal, they really went all out with innovation and design. This model is the most subdued in the Engineer Hydrocarbon lineup in my opinion, but also the only one to have the sandwiched tritium on the dial and bezel, and in the case of this 40mm, is probably the most wearable of them all, at least for a variety of wrist sizes.
At the end of the day, this is an over-engineered, highly functional, and touch watch, with customized movement, a COSC rating, a unique look, and a lot of high polish. Like a lot of Ball watches, it’s a little quirky, and even though I lean towards more traditional and as a friend of mine said recently, “plain” designs, there is no way I can ignore the coolness of this watch.
If you are interested in this one or any of the Engineer Hydrocarbon lineup, you can find them all HERE.

Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original

I've been an avid watch lover since the age of 7. Watches are not only my hobby but a passion. My favorite style used to be dive watches, but field or non bezel watches have been growing on me. When I'm not reviewing watches I am either cooking or with family and friends.

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