I came across Ball watches when I was looking for something distinctive and unique; something that combines the tradition of a good automatic movement with modern functionality; something that stands out without being ostentatious. The result was the Ball Engineer Master II Diver you see here.
The best way to appreciate the Engineer Master II Diver is to consider its impressive list of features:
- ETA 2836-2 automatic movement.
- Tritium gas tube illumination (more on this below).
- Inner rotating timing bezel with gas tube illumination (more on this below).
- Beautiful domed sapphire crystal.
- Day and date, both large and readable.
- Shock resistant to 5,000Gs.
- Antimagnetic to 4,800A/m.
- Water resistant to 300 meters, or about 1,000 feet.
- Dual screwdown crowns (one for the movement, one for the inner rotating bezel), as well as a screwdown caseback.
- 42mm brushed stainless steel case, and a unique brushed stainless steel bracelet with a hidden clasp.
As you can see, this is an extremely impressive set of features for a $1,899 Swiss watch (Ball watches were once American made, closely associated with the emergence of the railroad, but the brand was purchased by a Swiss company in the 1990s). Of particular note is the tritium illumination system. The Ball Engineer Master II Diver has no fewer than 53 individual micro gas tubes, making it the most nighttime-readable and functional analog watch I’ve ever seen. Even the inner rotating bezel and bezel pearl use tritium tubes for diving in dark conditions.
Ball says they expect their gas tube illumination system to work for about 25 years. If you’re hoping to keep your Ball watch beyond that, don’t worry. According to this post on the official Ball forum (hosted by our friends at watchuseek), micro gas tube replacement will be offered as an option with regular maintenance. Apparently it’s a relatively simple process, and assuming you’ll probably only need to do it once in your life (sorry, don’t mean to be morbid, but it’s true), don’t let the half-life of radioactive tritium gas stop you from buying a Ball.
The Engineer Master II Diver uses an internal rotating bezel rather than the standard external bezel you see on most dive watches. That means the timing bezel sits below the sapphire crystal where it’s protected from accidental bumps which can change its position and give you an incorrect reading (uni-directional rotating bezels can only be bumped in the direction that makes you think you have less time rather than more, but who wants to come up early?). The bezel is adjusted by unscrewing and turning the top crown. The only disadvantage of an internal rotating bezel is that it can’t be adjusted once you’re already underwater (once submerged, you shouldn’t unscrew either crown), however as long as you remember to set it before entering the water, there’s no reason to change it once you’ve started your dive.
The Ball Engineer Master II is an extremely unique timepiece. The design is stunning (I love the green, the ornate second hand, the brushed case, the hidden clasp), and the number of features they manage to cram in is inspiring. While the Kobold Soarway Diver that I reviewed recently is for those who want a low-key diver, the Ball Engineer Master II Diver is for people who want a watch that jumps out without being “blingey”, and that combines traditional Swiss watchmaking with modern features and robustness.
By Christian Cantrell