Over the past few years, I’ve dipped into the Ball catalog more than a few times, and have sampled quite a variety of their offerings. With my renewed focus on models with GMT complications, it was only natural I would return to that well. Surprisingly (for me), the watch I was looking for is part of the Engineer Master II lineup. While this was the series (Engineer Master/Engineer Master II) that caught my eye at the first with it’s profusion of segmented digits, I’ve since moved on to simpler looks from the brand. Fortunately for me, the Ball Pilot GMT is one of the more restrained models in this particular line. Let’s have a look at what it’s like on the wrist, shall we?
One of the first things that struck me about the Ball Pilot GMT was it’s sizing. The 43mm case size is a decent compromise between those who prefer a bigger case and those (such as myself) who might prefer a more compact case diameter. Fortunately, they managed to keep the overall height relatively thin (at just under 12mm). This thinness is further underscored by the brushed, flat surface of the case sides, which gives the eye a profile to grab on to.
On the subject of sizing, though, there was something I felt was off, and that is the lug size. Here, we have a 20mm lug spacing, which visually just feels too small for the case dimensions, at least proportionally. Perhaps with a different lug design it may work, but I think that the watch might be better served by, say, a 22mm strap (though, that would require a new version of their standard bracelet). Then again, perhaps they want to emphasize a dressier look with the watch, which the 20mm strap – along with the polished top surfaces of the case – do provide.
Topping the case we’ve a bi-directional bezel (this is no diver, so no need for uni-directional) indicating the 24-hour time scale. The bezel itself is fairly thin with a coin-edge bezel, making it easy to turn. There is a slight amount of play in the clockwise direction, but the spring underneath pops things back into the proper alignment. I was also rather happy to see that the aluminum insert has luminous paint. While this is by no means necessary (again, not a diver), I feel it goes well with the “light show aesthetic” Ball provides, and the Ball Pilot GMT is no slouch in that department.
Sure, the bezel provides some of that, but the real draw for most Ball watches would be those tritium tubes. Here, on the Ball Pilot GMT, rather than just marking out indices around the dial, the segments of the numerals that appear are made up of the tubes as well. This makes for a bold statement, and in the green tubes used, makes things quite readable (there’s even a tiny one to the right of the date window). For the handset, those tubes are in yellow, which makes them stand out. In practice, though, these are a bit tougher to see than one might hope, as they are only half the length of part of the handset that is set aside for luminosity.
Sure, that gives things a bit of a different look in the daylight (half lumed, half skeletonized), but I think I would rather see the longer tubes they have in their arsenal deployed here on the handset, making things a bit easier to see in the dark. Conversely, they do have a small tritium tube on the seconds hand, whereas I’m more used to this being simple lume from the brand. That leaves the GMT hand (the watch is called the Ball Pilot GMT, after all), and that is a nice broad arrow, filled generously with lume.
With the segmented display treatment here, Ball has gone with a dial construction that would most closely be called a sandwich dial. While a traditional sandwich dial gives a bit of dimensionality to things, here, it lends to an overall flat, one-level surface. The outer portion has a bit of a texture to it, while the inner portion has the meridians and such that are reminiscent of a globe (GMT watches were were global travelers in the beginning). Around the tubes on the dial, you have a polished bit of metal that things set into. What this does is further enhance the dress watch looks of the Ball Pilot GMT. As you turn your wrist, light catches on those polished surfaces (as well as the handset), giving off glints and flashes.
This meant that the Ball Pilot GMT fit in just fine at the office, and moved over to being worn with a suit without a hiccup. Wearing the watch was simple, as the thinner profile did not catch on any cuffs, and the thinner strap conforming to my wrist rather easily. I do like how the brand picked up the red of the GMT hand and put that into the stitching of the strap, and of course I remain an ardent admirer of how they profiled the buckle so that you retain the rounded tube shapes without and additional bulk under your wrist.
That means, in terms of daily wear, the $2,499 (on strap or bracelet) Ball Pilot GMT was an inoffensive companion. At the outset, this seemed like a watch that would be a slam-dunk for me – GMT, automatic, tritium tubes, and a dressier look. In the end, I cam away from my time with the watch a bit ambivalent. There were some nits I had to pick, sure, but it’s not like I strongly disliked the watch. It was just “ok”. In terms of what Ball has on offer, I do find myself liking some of their other models quite a bit more (such as the Fireman Enterprise or Engineer II Marvelight) , so this is a GMT that – for me – would not be getting put into the collection if I were picking something up. ballwatch.com
- Brand & Model: Ball Pilot GMT (Engineer Master II line / ref. GM3090C-SAJ-BK)
- Price: $2,499
- Who’s it for?: You want your GMT and your tritium, and you want it in a dressier package
- Would I wear it?: Yes, but with ambivalence.
- What I’d change: First things first, that handset needs longer tubes. After that, wider lugs would be in order
- The best thing about it: The relative thinness of the watch.
Tech Specs from Ball
- Movement: Caliber RR1201
- 28 micro gas tubes on hour, minute, second hands and dial for night reading capability
- Second time zone indication
- Hours, minutes, sweep seconds and date
- Shock resistance: 5,000Gs
- Water resistance: 100m/330ft
- Stainless steel
- Aluminium top luminous bidirectional rotating bezel
- Ø 43.5mm, height 11.9mm
- Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
- Sapphire crystal case back
- Screwed-in crown
- Band: stainless steel bracelet with folding buckle or crocodile leather strap with standard buckle
- Dial: Black