We have reviewed watches from all variety of brands, and it is interesting to see the differences when you compare watches that come out of the same family (of brands). Take, for instance, Ballast, who would count Earnshaw and AVI-8 as stablemates. Looking across the lines at a high level, there is no sense of “badge engineering” going on. No, the watches are different, and each brand has their own style. Then you get to something like the Ballast Trafalgar, and you really do have something different.
Now, at first glance, the Ballast Trafalgar does not look that much different from prior Ballast models. You have the large canteen crown, and the vaguely nautical theme (here this shows up on the buckle, and with the fact that the Trafalgar was a sub; “We Come Unseen” is the motto of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service). Where things really take a departure is in how you interact with the watch. You see, you can wind it without even unscrewing that canteen crown.
How, you ask? Well, you simply rotate the bezel in a counter-clockwise motion – and that begins winding up the automatic modified Miyota 8215 movement. So, right of the bat, we definitely have a watch for people who like to fidget with things. That bezel winding then gives away how you interact with the watch. After unscrewing the canteen crown, you see what you would normally expect, a smaller crown. Except, this is actually just a pusher. Push it in once, and you will notice a small button pop out at the 3 o’clock position, letting you know that you are adjusting the date (again, by using the bezel). Push the “crown” in one more stop, and now you’re setting the time. Press the button back in, lock the crown, and you’re on your way.
You have to admit, this method of interacting with the Ballast Trafalgar is certainly intriguing. After pondering it a bit, I think I figured it out as well, and I think it’s fairly simple underneath it all. The clue was that button at the “normal” crown position of 3 o’clock. The pusher down at 4 o’clock is basically doing for you the process of pulling the crown out to the adjustment positions. The bezel, then, is geared to that stem, and can easily do the adjustments, as well as the winding. Simple, but clever. It does make one think about if they could eliminate the external canteen crown in some way as well, but then you would lose the design language of the brand if that was done.
Once set, wearing the Ballast Trafalgar was a pretty comfortable affair. The 130g watch does not really weight down the wrist, and I found the two-tone leather strap worked quite well with the case (our ref. BL-3133-03, of course, having the black and rose gold tone look). The buckle on the strap is approaching those “Pre V” dimensions, but seems a touch smaller, and does have that submarine outline cut out. Though the 46.5mm case is not small, by any means, the lugs taper off quite sharply. Combined with the offset canteen crown, I did not have an issues with it feeling like the watch was digging into my wrist.
When I first looked at the Ballast Trafalgar, I was unsure what the situation was going to be with the lume. Obviously, the digits at the top and the bottom are not (though one might suggest it to further the military stencil look). Thankfully, there is a good amount of lume, with all the indices present and glowing, as is the handset and the oversize ballast logo at 9 o’clock. As far as dials go, I am generally a fan of the sandwich look. With the Ballast Trafalgar, I am a bit on the fence if I like the applied numerals where they could have been cutouts. I definitely do not care for the massive cutouts exposing the date wheel (except when you spin it with the bezel, that does look cool).
Ultimately, I think the Ballast Trafalgar does a good job of doing what it set out to do – serve as the calling card for the relaunch of Ballast. The design language is there from the previous models that we have seen, and the nautical/military look is kept as well. The introduction of the bezel-based winding and setting is an interesting addition, and should make it stand out from the crowd a bit. The only wonder I have here with it is how robust it will be over time – if anything breaks in that linkage from bezel to crown stem, your ship will be sunk. Then again, the watch carries a two-year warranty, so, at an MSRP of $499, you do not seem to be taking that much of a risk. Of note for those looking to pick one of these up – it will be officially launched later this year (June) at the JCK Show in Las Vegas. Be sure to sound off in the comments and let us know what you think of this new Ballast, either on its own merits, or as compared to what preceded it from the brand. ballast1903.com
- Brand & Model: Ballast Trafalgar
- Price: $499 (MSRP); Kickstarter pricing starts at PRICE
- Who’s it for?: You’re looking for a unique hook on how a watch is set
- Would I wear it?: While I dug playing with the setting, ultimately, the canteen crown calls of the deal for me
- What I’d change: I would not mind seeing a different crown configuration
- The best thing about it: Playing with the bezel to change the date and time
Tech Specs from Ballast
- 46.5mm diameter x 14.5mm high (lug tips to crystal zenith)
- 22mm lug width
- Automatic Miyota movement
- WR: 10 ATM