Cowboy to a Gentleman: Paint Your (Dive) Path With The New Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage
Editor’s note: Following the releases from Watches & Wonders 2021 and the Only Watch Auction 2021, today we present the new Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage. Here’s our short preview and the Gut Reaction Review (Grr…). For our standard detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
“The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts,” said Marcus Aurelius.
First thing you need to know about this timepiece (and pretty much every other Ball watch) is that their main calling card is lume. If you are someone who is not a fan of excessive amounts of lume that doesn’t fade the moment the watch is taken out of contact with light, then Ball watches are not for you.
But if you are someone who likes sturdy, well-built, over-sized divers with exceptional legibility and dollops of lume, say hello to the new Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage, a timepiece whose essence is dyed with the colour of its rainbow lume.
The Heritage Part
The watch’s nomenclature has the word ‘Heritage’ in it. For a brand that has its legacy rooted in the American railways of the 1890s and in the aftermath of the Great Kipton Train Wreck, the use of the word ‘heritage’ for a dive watch at first glance might seem merely cosmetic.
But beyond the railway connection, Ball also dipped its toes in the whole dive-watch boom of the 1960s.
I believe the first dive watch by the brand was called the Skindiver and was released in 1962. After a decade or so the brand bowed to the Swiss quartz crisis ushering in an era of receding into oblivion. Fast forward to the mid-2010s and the new Skindivers 2.0 are born-again, inspired by 1062 original. And like I said, their main calling card is the use of small Swiss-made MB Microtec tritium gas tubes that replace the more common luminous paint, thereby theoretically providing uninterrupted lume for 25-years.
The More, The Merrier
For those who have fallen in love with the design and build quality of these watches, there is good news.
Ball seems to release Skindiver’s rather frequently. If I am not wrong it was in Jan 2019 that they released not one but three variations. On their website, there are currently other references listed as well.
So how is this release different?
For starters, it’s the overall aesthetic you could say. But it’s more than that. And it’s even more affordable than 2019’s Ball Engineer Master II Skindiver II that retailed for about 3’845 AUD.
I use that release as a benchmark because as handsome a watch as that is, it excludes the rainbow lume and the added ‘day’ complication, and it also includes the god-forsaken 4.30 date display. It was also slightly larger at 43mm x 14mm which for my puny ~16 cm wrists is simply a no-go.
As a matter of fact, these Ball watches usually wear large. The new Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage measures at 42mm x 15.2mm, with a rather large long 53mm lug-to-lug distance. So if you have bigger wrists, these would suit you perfectly.
“Every gun makes its own tune,” famously says the character of Clint Eastwood in the epic western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (which coincidentally was released in the 1960s as well during the original Ball Skindiver’s boom).
There are various aspects that when come together elevate the appeal of the new Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage. It is the unique combination of features, and as niche as they may be in themselves, together they transform this release into a stellar offering that sings to its own tune:
- there is a general dearth of Swiss-made dive watches that feature the day and date complications (and more on that in a bit)
- lume shots usually make for the generic green or blue hues; but the Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage offers a rainbow lume that’s quite frankly pretty unique (especially at the price point)
- the presence of a TiC (Black Titanium Carbide) coating to assist firmer grips with gloves while diving is appreciated
- is geared for practical outdoor usage being shock resistant to 5,000 Gs and anti-magnetic to 4,800 A/m
- it is a limited edition offering of less than 500-pieces and as such these are generally more sought after
- albeit borrowed but nonetheless accurate and workhorse movement that also has the added advantage of being serviced easily
- dial with exceptional legibility
- and last but not least the inclusion of a stainless steel with TiC coating bracelet that complements the aesthetics of the case and dial. Ball bracelets are usually highly regarded as well (at this price point anyway)
The ref. DM3208A-S4/P4-BK features the calibre BALL RR1102. It is a self-winding movement that is based on the ETA 2836-2 which in turn is based on one of the most commonly used and trustworthy movements, the ETA 2824-2.
The generic ETA 2836-2 is a 25.60mm diameter movement that comprises 25 jewels, beats at the standard frequency of 4Hz, and offers a 38-hour power reserve. The BALL RR1102 offers the functions of central hours, and minutes, sweep seconds, and day/date at 3’o clock.
The movement is encased inside a 42mm x 14.6mm stainless steel case with TiC coating. The case features a unidirectional rotating dome-shaped sapphire bezel with micro gas tubes for night reading capability and a sapphire crystal case back and a screwed-in crown.
On the dial, the rainbow multicoloured lume is achieved thanks to 31 micro gas tubes — H3 gas in glass microtubes — present on hour, minute and second hands, and indices.
As unique as I reckon the new Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage is when considering all the features above, it nonetheless swims in congested waters when it comes to diving watches.
Based on the same or similar calibre ETA 2836-2 of the Ball diver, there are a few other timepieces that might scratch your itch for a day-date diver or simply the watch complication.
Non-diving Day-date Watches
Brands like Certina, Maurice Lacroix provide great looking and less expensive watches with similar movements and complications, but they are not traditional diving watches. Raymond Weil also offers day-daters but only with chronographs.
Then there is the TAG Heuer Calibre 5 Day-date ref. WAR201A.BA0723 that is roughly the same diameter (41mm) and features the similar (modified) ETA 2834-2. For those of you who may not be aware, the primary difference between ETA 2836-2 and ETA 2834-2 is the location of the date aperture, but the base movement is still the same ETA 2824-2.
Though a very handsome piece, the TAG Heuer Calibre 5 retails for a much higher price than the Ball offering, as also does the dressy and sexy Breitling Premier Automatic Day & Date 40 ref. A45340211G1A1 (which again uses the base ETA 2834-2).
In regards to non-diving but exceptional value day-date watches, there is of course the Tudor Royal Day Date ref. M28600-0005 that again features the modified ETA 2834-2 and retails for only 3’150 AUD.
There is also the granddaddy — I am purposefully not including the iconic Rolex Day-Date in this list — of accessible best day-date watches out there, the Omega Aqua Terra Co-Axial Day-date ref. 18.104.22.168.03.001 with a 41.5mm diameter and 150m water resistance, and the in-house calibre 8602. With a 55-hour power reserve, the calibre 8602 also has a day-date change at midnight with instantaneous jump. It comes on a steel bracelet and retails for 9’425 AUD, but again, is not a traditional dive watch.
Diving Day-date Swiss Watches
I reckon the timepiece that challenges the new Ball the most is from the ever-surprising and pleasing brand Christopher Ward. The CW C60 Elite 1000 is a 42mm x 15.4mm watch with a smaller 49.3mm lug-to-lug spacing. Retailing for a lesser 2’465 AUD on a bracelet (or 2’095 AUD on a rubber strap), it features a Grade 2 titanium case that is water-resistant to a whopping 1,000m. It features the SW220 movement with the same 4Hz frequency, 38-hour power reserve and 26 jewels. It is the Sellita counterpart of the ETA 2836-2, but is COSC-certified.
The next watch I reckon competes well with the new Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage is the handsome Mido Ocean Star Tribute ref. M026.830.11.051.00. Retailing for only CHF 990 (~1’500 AUD), it is also a much smaller watch at 40.5 x 13.4mm with a 21mm lug interhorn. It is again 200m water-resistant and features a black dial with appliqué indices. It is powered by the Automatic Mido Caliber 80 (base ETA C07.621 which in turn is base ETA 2836-2) which provides an exceptional 80-hour power reserve.
In this specific case of Ocean Star Tribute vs C60 Elite 1000 vs Engineer II Skindiver, the former two might be excellent value for money offerings, but the latter distinctively features the blacked-out stealth aesthetics, the sapphire bezel, and unique rainbow lume.
Other competitive examples include the Tissot PRS 516 Powermatic 80 ref. T100.430.37.201.00 for 1’350 AUD that even features a similar-looking black PVD coated 316L stainless steel case and the 42mm diameter and is an excellent value for money piece too. But its carbon bezel is fixed, and is not really a true diver.
Then there is the Hamilton American Classic Pan Europ Day Date Auto ref. H35415761 with the same 42mm diameter and similar movement (but higher 80-hour power reserve). Rather charming looks and it even retails for a more pocket-friendly 1’075 CHF (~1’600 AUD) but sadly only features 50m water-resistance.
Given the Ball watch wears rather large, if we look at bigger watches which I am sure are great but unfortunately have no personal experience with thanks to my ~16cm wrists, first off there is the Fortis x ROSKOSMOS Offical Cosmonauts Day-Date ref. F2020008 retailing for 1’770 CHF (~2’600 AUD). Quite a beauty, it features a larger 44mm diameter and the same 200m water-resistance. It is powered by the UW-31 movement with 42-hour power reserve (which I believe is again base ETA 2836).
There is also the Marathon Jumbo Diver’s Automatic ref. WW194021BRACE-YAMAM that retails for 2’732 AUD and is a nice looking beast as well. It features the same ETA 2836 movement but an even larger 46mm x 18mm case.
So there you have it. As much as you can’t go wrong with any of the watches listed here — and given I have personally handled a lot of CW, Tudor, TAG Heuer and Omega watches and have found them to be very good offerings — you have to admit, you will have a Herculean time looking for a timepiece that is as distinctive as the new Engineer II Skindiver Heritage.
The combination of features it offers is quite unique, and if those features speak to you, then buying it is simply a no-brainer.
That’s All Folks!
Long story short, as to you why would someone should buy the new Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage, the question is answered succinctly by an Amy Leigh Mercree quote: “Be uniquely you. Stand out. Shine. Be colourful. The world needs your prismatic soul!”
It also happens to be a quite handsome diver, with serious tool watch vibes and blacked-out stealth aesthetics. The slight burst of yellow thanks to its presence on the tip of the second’s hand and ‘Automatic’ lettering on the dial is uber-cool as well. The reference to the ‘railroad history’ with the signature “RR” seconds hand counter-weight logo can be a deal-breaker for some but I personally find it charming and resonant of the brand’s legacy.
The use of a domed sapphire crystal bezel lends to it a distinctive appeal, somewhat reminiscent of Blancpain’s Fifty-Fathoms Barakuda divers. I recently bought the Melbourne Watch Company Chelsea diver and was very impressed with the aesthetics of the sapphire bezel. Compared to my previous experience with the more mainstream aluminium or ceramic inserts, the sapphire has a certain glossiness and more tactile quality to it that I appreciate.
This sapphire crystal bezel appeal can also be found in other offerings such as the Baltic Aquascaphe Blue, Méraud Watch Co. Bonaire “Marine Blue”, Halios Fairwind, and Yema Navygraf Marine Nationale among others. But none of these are Day-Date complication watches.
So whether you are a cowboy trying to relive the American wild wild west frontier days when the railroad was relatively new and the Ball brand was born, or are a gentleman seeking a modern stealth diver with an overdose of lume, the new Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage allows you to paint your own (dive) path.
To find out more about the new Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage and other Ball timepieces, please head to their website here. To purchase these in Australia, please check out the official retailer AVSTEV Group’s website here. All images unless otherwise specified are © COPYRIGHT 2021. BALL WATCH COMPANY SA. Make sure to check out our reviews of Watches & Wonders 2021 releases here.