Well, ok, this particular watch was not bouncing around galaxies for five years, nor did it hit warp speed. What it did do, however, it set a mark for the most affordable Ball watch yet, as well as spending a good bit of time on my wrist. With that, let’s have a look at what the Ball Fireman Enterprise has in store for you.
As you no doubt are aware, Ball – aside from their railroad ties – is well known for their use of tritium tubes. There is plenty of eye candy in the catalog with those little tubes; the Engineer line in particular turns the dial into quite a light show. On the other end of the spectrum, there are more restrained designs, and those – as of late – have become my favorites. The Ball Fireman Enterprise definitely falls into that category.
The restraint starts with that 40mm steel case that comes in at a modest 11.3mm tall. Topping it you have a highly polished bezel, set onto the brushed brushed top surface of the case (really, the surface finishes are alternating throughout the watch). Paired to the standard bracelet (again, with the alternating finishes), this very much sets the foundation of this being a watch that fits into the workplace.
The dial of the Ball Fireman Enterprise really seals the deal for that “Enterprise” look. It’s clean and classic, with simple minute markers broken apart by the tritium markers at the hours. Of note, these are the longest tubes I have seen on a watch. It makes for a striking contrast in the light (as the tubes appear white), and of course really are visible in the dark. Spinning over that you have the polished handset, each with their own tritium illumination (even on the seconds hand, a nice touch).
Topping all of that, and helping to seal things up, you have the sapphire crystal (AR-coated, of course), along with the cyclops over the date wheel. This is something I have come to appreciate more and more (that’s aging for you), as it makes checking the date quickly a snap. I do wish that the date wheel was color-matched to the dial, but such is life. All in all, the Ball Fireman Enterprise really does look set for the workplace.
Then again, I found it wearing quite well with jeans. As things are not quite fully polished, it didn’t look out of place in a casual setting. And, should you want to tone things down even more, you can swap out the quite-nice bracelet for a NATO strap with the standard Ball buckle on it. I went into this strap change not quite sure what to expect, as I am really not a huge fan of NATO straps. What happened was a pleasant surprise. For starters, the look is just great – it made an already elegant watch (on the bracelet) look even more prestigious (which seems counter-intuitive for a nylon strap, but there you have it).
Next up was the comfort. This is a thinner strap, which mean it folded nicely in the final keeper, meaning there was not any additional bulk on the side of my wrist. Next, it got the weight down (from 144g on the bracelet to 78g on the strap). When you combine that with how close this type of strap holds things to your wrist (without any bulk underneath, important if you’re at a keyboard a lot), you have an instantly comfortable watch. I will say, I like the bracelet for a lot of situations, but this nylon strap (with it’s signed buckle) is a beautiful change of pace. One caution here – the lugs are not drilled, so you will need a deft hand to get those spring bars popped out.
This all underscores the fact that, though the Ball Fireman Enterprise looks the part of a dressier watch, it is built for taking abuse, just like the sportier side of the catalog. With a water resistance rating of 100m and a shock-resistance of 5,000G, this steel-encased watch should stand up to most of the day-to-day you’ll encounter (and if your day is a bit more rough-and-tumble, of course there are watches Ball has built to handle that as well). Frankly, all of that is impressive when you consider that the head of the watch only comes in at 62g (yeah, for an auto, that is not something to sneeze at!)
Sure, those resistances are not the most extreme, but they denote a subtle strength for the Ball Fireman Enterprise, and that fits with the overall theme of the design. In my time with the watch, I found that it was an able companion, and I definitely found it hitting my wrist as much as it practically could. Is it a perfect watch? Well, no, but us watch reviewers find little things here and there. Along with the date wheel, I’d point out the bracelet as another minor thing to be aware of.
The bracelet, is, in my opinion, quite a look, and I found it very comfortable once I had it adjusted. When it comes to the adjustment, you do have half-links to utilize, but given how the butterfly clasp works, you do not have any micro-adjustments really available. This results in a very sweet look on the bracelet (with the Ball RR logo closing the clasp), but you will need to fiddle with things to get the fit that works best for you. I’m able to find that fairly quickly now that I’ve experienced these bracelets from the brand over time, but the new owner will need to be aware of it. I honestly do not know how they could work micro adjustments (or even some “give”) into the fit of this style of bracelet, but if they did, that would be something else.
Then again, that bracelet thing is a minor issue, and something that, once sized, mitigates itself. Or you could just swap in the NATO strap, and go from there. Prior to my review of the Ball Fireman Enterprise, I would likely have said that their Engineer II Marvelight was my favorite, but now the Ball Fireman Enterprise has taken that crown. Between the two, there are a lot of design similarities. While the flat tubes of the Marvelight are quite interesting, they really make the tubes on the handset feel small. By contrast, here on the Ball Fireman Enterprise, you have similar diameters (so they look good together), plus the double-long tubes for something that stands out from the rest of the crowd.
And for standing out from the crowd, I’ve saved one of the best things for last (though I suppose I teased up in the intro). With the Ball Fireman Enterprise, the brand is setting the lowest price-point for jumping into their catalog – $999. This is, by far, the most affordable watch from Ball to cross my desk, and I do not feel that design or specs have suffered for it. Sure, you can pick up more affordable tritium-equipped watches out there, but they do not have this sort of elegance in the design, nor the cachet (and reliability) of being Swiss-made. If I was reviewing the Ball Fireman Enterprise not knowing the price, it still would have come out on the top of my list of favorites from them; the price is simply icing on a very, very tasty cake. Certainly a watch I would not mind having on my wrist for a five-year journey. http://www.ballwatch.com/
- Brand & Model: Ball Fireman Enterprise
- Price: $999
- Who’s it for?: You want classic (and great) looks with a healthy dose of tritium on the dial
- Would I wear it?: Indeed I would.
- What I’d change: If there was a blue dial option (like on the Marvelight) and a color-matched date wheel, this would be a slam dunk for me
- The best thing about it: A clean and (relatively) light design, along with the double-long tubes and a low price. What’s not to like?
Tech Specs from Ball
- Movement: Automatic caliber Ball RR1103
- 15 micro gas tubes on hour, minute, second hands and dial for night reading capability
- Hours, minutes, sweep seconds and magnified date
- Shock resistance: 5,000Gs
- Water resistance: 100m /330ft
- Stainless steel
- Ø 40mm, height 11.3mm
- Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
- Screwed-in crown
- Band: Stainless steel bracelet with folding buckle and NATO strap with standard buckle
- Dial: Black / White