Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of sampling a variety of different watches from Ball, with quite a few different styles in play. For all of that variety, I had yet to go hands-on with anything from their Engineer line (Engineer II, yes, but not Engineer). Well, we saw fit to rectify that particular oversight, and got to spend some time with the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon.
The Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon is very much a tool watch, in that it is built for hard duty. To that end, the 42mm case is made of titanium, which helps keep the weight down to 108g. Not particularly a lightweight, no, but still rather reasonable for a watch of this size. On top of that titanium is a black DLC coating which should hold up pretty well. While the outsides are tough, inside there is plenty of protection for the movement (in this case, a COSC RR1101-CSL). Courtesy of their patented SpringLOCK system, the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon can withstand shocks of 5,000Gs. On top of that, it also carries an anti-magnetic rating of 4,800 A/m, and a WR rating of 300m. In short, this is a pretty tough watch that would be ready to go adventuring with you.
This is further evidenced by the caseback engraving on the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon. As I learned in this writeup over at aBlogtoWatch, that is not just some random rock climber. No, it is Alex Honnold, who apparently is a rock climber of quite some renown who likes scaling things without much in the way of safety equipment. I’ll have to defer to Matt as to Honnold’s fame and skill (as he is the only rock-climbing member of team WWR), but I figure if this is a watch that is being associated with rock climbing (and the attendant bashing around that comes with the activity), it certainly should hold up to the less-rigorous activities of office life.
With the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon, I also was experiencing, for the first time, what I view as a sort of divisive crown protector. By that, I mean it is a rather large element of the case, both visually and physically. You see, on top of what would be a standard full-height crown protector, you have a little lever that swings into place to cover the crown. This, of course, both manages to protect the crown (and stem, by proxy) from any errant shocks, as well as preventing the crown from being loosed by accident. It’s a clever little arm, released by pressing the button on the upper side. Once swung out of the way, you can with with the crown normally. As you can swing it pretty much out of the way (it rotates perpendicularly to the crown) I did not find it to interfere with the usage of said crown.
What I had been concerned about with this crown guard on the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon was it digging into my wrist. Fortunately, that did not end up being the case. Sure, I did not spend months with the watch, but in my limited time, it really was not any issue whatsoever. Since it offers some interesting functionality, and does not impinge on comfort, the crown guard then becomes, for any potential purchaser, more a matter of visual preference. All else being equal, I personally might end up going with something different from the Ball lineup. If the crown protection is not a concern, though, there is definitely plenty to like about the piece.
As you would expect, the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon features plenty of tritium. You have their standard narrow tubes making up the digital numerals in green, similar tubes (but in yellow) on the broad handset, and the wide orange flat tubes at 12, 6, and 9. If that was not enough of a color show, the unidirectional bezel also features a nice blue lume. For me, this is where the Engineer line really shines, and is why the brand first caught my eye way back when. It’s this absolutely bombastic light show that you get that is just plain fun. I also liked the fact that you can see, for instance, the gaps in the bigger numerals (like the 8 or the 0) – which surprised me. While a completely smooth connection would be pretty trick, this really gives things more of a functional feel to it, and I just think it works with the watch. It was built for sport and utility, and those small gaps, in some way, really speak to that for me.
The included rubber strap on the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon also speaks to that utility. In terms of all-around utility, especially on a watch meant for sports like rock climbing, a rubber strap makes sense. Leather would not hold up, and a bracelet, while tough enough, would get beat up pretty well. With this strap, which fits right up into the lugs as a bracelet would, you have the sporting capability, plus looks that (at least for me) do not feel out of place in the office, or even with a suit. Sure, the material is not my first choice for dressing up, but hey – combined with the black DLC coating, no one gave it a second glance. The buckle was also one of the more interesting that I have seen from the brand. Mostly an exercise in geometry, the raised logo on it put it over the top for me.
As you can tell, I did find plenty to like about the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon (and I did not even go on about the cyclops, which I have come to like much more in the past year or so). While the crown protection system – which seems quite superb – would have me moving on to something else from the brand, I do not think there is anything wrong with it. As with much else on the watch, it was designed for a purpose, and is there to do a job. And I know that, while I may not care for the look of it, there are plenty who will. And if you find yourself in that camp, I would think that you could not go wrong with picking up a $4,699 Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon. Heck, it is even a watch that I would not mind recommending to a friend, it’s just not one for me. That’s ok, it just means I can continue scrolling through the catalog to see what else catches my eye. ballwatch.com
- Brand & Model: Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon
- Price: $4,699
- Who’s it for?: You want a sturdy (yet light) watch that packs in tritium and a bunch of resistances to protect the movement
- Would I wear it?: Yes – though I am still not completely sold on the crown guard. It no doubt gets the job done, it’s just a bit larger than I would prefer
- What I’d change: Let’s have some fun and get a tritium bead embedded into the crown
- The best thing about it: The bombastic light show that the tritium and lume put on
Tech Specs from Ball
- Movement: Automatic caliber BALL RR1101-CSL; Chronometer certified COSC; Patented SpringLOCK® anti-shock system
- Functions: 35 micro gas tubes on hour, minute, second hands and dial for night reading capability; Hours, minutes, sweep seconds and magnified date
- Case: Titanium with DLC coating; Ø 42mm, height 13.25mm; Top ceramic luminous unidirectional rotating bezel; 5.3mm anti-reflective sapphire crystal; Patented crown protection system
- Shock resistance: 5,000Gs
- Antimagnetic: 4,800A/m
- Water resistance: 300m/1,000ft
- Band: Rubber strap with standard buckle
- Dial: Black
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