When I first became aware of Ball Watch, it was their Engineer lineup that caught my eye. Sure, it was the sheer volume of tritium tubes used (looking like those 7-segment LCD displays), but I was also into much larger watches. Since then, my tastes have changed, and I?ve found myself more drawn to the Enterprise and Fireman lines. Well, now that I?ve spent some time with the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II, I?d have a tough decision to make.

Don?t get me wrong – I do like a compact watch. But here, the 42mm Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II has a LOT going for it in my book – it?s relatively compact (the proportions are right, and it wears small), it?s an automatic with a GMT complication, and it?s got those delicious tritium tubes. And, as a matter of fact, there?s even tritium in the bezel.

You may have seen a small tube used in a bezel before, usually to mark the 12 o?clock position. Here, however, you can?t even tell that it?s there. To look at it, you might think it was a simple aluminum insert with a glossy sapphire crystal over it. Well, the sapphire is right, but those numbers hide a secret – shut the lights out, and those numerals glow. Along with the tubes on the main handset and the GMT hand, you could conceivably be tracking three time zones in the pitch black. That lit-up bezel sounds like a minor thing, but after handling as many watches as I have over the years, it?s just a sheer delight. And yes, I did desperately want to take it apart to see how it’s actually done (but of course I didn’t, since it was a loaner).

That said, the bezel of the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II was one weak spot in the design. It?s bi-directional for setting that time, and that?s fine, you might be adjusting now and again. However, the retaining spring needs to be stiffened up. In the course of just daily life, I could easily bump it a couple clicks in either direction. If you?re used to quick glances at the dial, this will throw you off. Reading any of the other times, though, that?s a breeze.

Sure, the dial of the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II has the 24-hour scale writ large, but that?s fine – if you?re used to analog dials, you can easily tell the time at a glance. So, it makes sense that the 12-hour scale was moved onto the chapter ring, while the 24-hour scale was moved to a more prominent place (oddly, though, the bar at 9 o?clock is not lumed). Having the Flinger-style hands in place was a nice change of pace, and it makes sense. Yes, you can swim with this watch, but a GMT is a complication that originated with pilots – so having the pilot handset feels right.

Speaking of feel, you might be worried about that integrated crown guard on the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II digging into your wrist. At least for my wrist, and with this 42mm case, that was not an issue at all (again, for me). The push-button-and-swing-out crown guard gives you a sort of built in fidget toy, and frankly, I prefer this to the one you see on the Panerai. Yeah, it?s iconic, but this just feels more refined to me. And yes, under that, the crown does still screw down.

Flipping the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II over, you?ll see a screwed-down caseback that?s printed with a world time scale – so in case you?re not near a computer and need to look one up to set the watch, you?re covered. This is paired to what I think of as ?the? style of bracelet for the brand, albeit one that tapers into a new clasp style I?ve not experienced from the brand. It?s an etched deployment clasp with built in divers clasps (one on each side which allows you to fine tune a bit). The bracelet itself does have half links, so you should be able to get a decent fit.

On the wrist (and after I sized it) you do notice the weight of the 192g Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II – but you get used to it. It?s just a lot of steel (and you?ve got a bunch of extra shock and magnetism resistance as well; see below); if you wanted to cut some weight you could go for the rubber strap. But as always, start off with the bracelet – it?s a lot easier to pick up a strap in the aftermarket than it is a fitted bracelet.

I wore this watch in just about everything I did for a week or so short of the gym and yard work (it WAS a loaner, after all), and it worked quite well. I came away from my time with the watch favorably impressed, and felt it was a good way for you to start edging into some of the ?gonzo? territory the Engineer lineup can occupy without going too crazy. And if you want to be a ?one watch? sort of person, well, this will definitely cover off all those bases. $3,499 will put one of these on your wrist with the bezel shown here; keep an eye out for the ?Batman? bezel which was just recently announced as well. As I said at the outset, if I was putting some cash on the barrel for something from Ball, my decision just got a whole lot more difficult. ballwatch.com

Review Summary

  • Brand & Model: Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II
  • Price: $3,499
  • Who?s it for? You want a bold (but not crazy) tritium watch to be your ?one? watch
  • Would I wear it? You betcha!
  • What I?d change: The retaining spring under the bezel needs to be stronger
  • The best thing about it: To pick a single detail, it would be the tritium-equipped bezel

Tech Specs from Ball

  • Movement
    • Automatic caliber BALL RR1201-C
    • Chronometer certified COSC
  • Functions
    • 43 micro gas tubes on hour, minute, second time zone hands, dial and bezel for night reading capability
    • Luminous three time zone indication
    • Hours, minutes, sweep seconds and date
  • Shock resistance: 7,500Gs
  • Water resistance: 100m / 330ft
  • Antimagnetic: 4,800A/m
  • Case
    • Stainless steel
    • ? 42mm, height 13.85mm
    • Bidirectional rotating curved sapphire bezel with micro gas tubes for night reading capability
    • Dome-shaped anti-reflective sapphire crystal
    • Patented crown protection system
  • Band: Tapered stainless steel bracelet with patented folding buckle & extension system or rubber strap with standard buckle
  • Dial: Black or blue