It is a well-known fact amongst those who have read my previous reviews that I am self-confessed watch geek. However, it is a little known fact that prior to my employment at Andrew Michaels Jewellers I was an Electronics Engineer for over 20 years with a considerable amount of that time spent in Research and Development. My previous employer has a few patents as a result of the work I was performing.
I believe this is why I am always interested and impressed at completely new technology or a different way of performing a current operation.
A few examples of Ball Watch’s patents, developments and unique technologies will be dotted throughout this review but I will be mostly concentrating on the 2015 Slide Chronograph. This is the watch that I believe epitomises Ball Watch’s philosophy of “How could we make that better?”
Here is a brief overview of the technology unique to Ball Watch and the watches they grace:
– The phenomenal Magneto S which introduced the world to significant developments Aproof and SpringLock for anti-magnetism and shock resistance, respectively can be seen in my previous Ball Magneto S Review
The Diver Worldtime with the only Worldtime DayDate movement ever created can be seen in my previous review:
– The NEDU (Navy Experimental Dive Unit), which introduced the effortlessly sophisticated Tritium Gas tubes in the pushers and the Helium Escape Valve in the crown is a great vehicle for these new developments. The watch itself offers so much more for the money besides. For your £3310 you also get Ball Watch’s patented Divers clasp unit (purportedly the strongest in the business), a wealth of Tritium gas tubes, a ceramic bezel and a Chronometer rated Day/Date chronograph movement. The case is very cool and appropriate too.
Patented crown helium escape valve.
The high quality case for the NEDU, including professional diving buoy.
Another fairly new addition to the Ball Watch catalogue AeroGMT. I absolutely love the look of this Pilot’s watch and applaud the designers for managing to construct an inimitable creation in an over-crowded section of the watch market.
This is the first watch ever to have Tritium gas tubes incorporated in the bezel. This give a wonderfully unique aesthetic that looks like a UFO at a brief glance to this wannabe stargazer.
This exceptionally legible Pilot’s watch also includes the crown protection and folding clasp unit patents discussed in previous reviews.
The monochromatic dial is incredibly easy to read off the time for both time zones, despite the amount of information offered.
The AeroGMT has a very useful and detailed caseback highlighting the different timezones across the globe. However, I did find this occasionally dug into my shamefully skinny wrists.
– Amortiser – Utilised in BMW watches and Spacemaster Orbital
Image courtesy of ballwatch.com
Above is a selection of the Ball for BMW watches that all have the patented Amortiser system
The Spacemaster Orbital Brian Binnie (The astronaut who took his Ball Spacemaster Glow onto the International Space Station) Limited Edition is highlighted below.
I love this watch. It has an intricately detailed dial that exhibits a lot of information without looking cluttered. This is due to the oversized case, which is highlighted further by the large bezel. However, the Spacemaster Orbital sits well on the wrist due to the design of the smooth and ergonomic caseback.
The Amortiser is operated by simply rotating the turbine styled switch on the caseback. Whilst “OFF” the rotor is free to rotate and wind the mainspring, as per any normal automatic watch. Whilst “ON” the rotor is locked in position to prevent it becoming damaged during extreme shocks and vibrations, like re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, for example. The rotor is one of the most susceptible components of a mechanical automatic movement and this again highlights Ball Watch’s desire and ability to create something unique that has a true real world purpose. “Accuracy under adverse conditions” is no throw away PR nonsense statement.
Along with the usual array of dial Tritium gas tubes the Spacemaster Orbital is one of the few Ball Watches that has been blessed by the brilliant idea of having a gas tube inserted in each of the pushers. This could be considered as slightly whimsical but I still love it and most of what we buy into at this price point for a wrist watch is desirability.
You can read more about the clever and important Amortiser system here.
– Volcano – Carbon fibre and Mumetal
The new Volcano has a case fabricated from the patented mumetal carbon composite material which the brand’s publicity material claims resembles molten lava, and who am I to disagree. Regardless of this analogy the material does look very attractive and utilitarian in a futuristic man-made sort of way. The aesthetic brilliance is a lucky bi-product of the years of development to combine the incredibly tough and light carbon composite material with mumetal which adds anti-magnetism, first witnessed in the 80,000 a/m2 resistant Magneto S.
The following images show the initial prototype presentation of the watch with a standard DLC case. I cannot wait to see the mumetal carbon composite case. The Volcano will be available on a rubber or NATO strap. The price is a very acceptable £2710. I say this because Carbon Composite watches are already available in the high end watch market ranging in price from about £5000 to about £27000. And, don’t forget these watches are without the magnetic protection afforded by mumetal.
Image courtesy of ballwatch.com
The image above showcases the DLC prototype of the Volcano next to the mumetal carbon composite block. It doesn’t take much imagination to tie the two together and realise that this is going to be a fantastic looking watch.
Look out for a full review of the Volcano once it hits our store in April 2016.
– Hydrocarbon with TMT and special oil for Cold Endurance.
Two important and useful pieces of engineering excellence are masterfully embraced in my own Hydrocarbon TMT.
Primarily we have the TMT (Temperature Measurement) which commands most of the dial real estate.
This is the world’s first mechanical temperature gauge in a wrist watch. It can measure temperatures across an impressive range from -35C to 45C (-31F to 113F). This range is made possible by the second unique technological addition: its patented oil which keeps a constant viscosity, and therefore a constant lubrication, to extreme temperatures that would seriously affect other mechanical timepieces.
The TMT gauge took a lot of development to allow for the mechanism to be housed in the relatively small enclosure of the watch case. It utilises a spiral metallic thermometer which is far more accurate than the temperature modules historically used in wrist watches. The main challenge for the development team was to incorporate the TMT module in a movement that measures just 5.1mm in height. Obstacles such as the height of the bimetallic spring plus the height and milling of the main plate and bridge were overcome. Ball Watch invented a unique system of fine regulation using a patented regulating screw that does not block the bimetallic blade. This screw is able to precisely position the temperature indicator and hold the bimetallic spiral at its extremity. The TMT module is also subjected to the same rigorous shock tests as the rest of the watch.
(Technical information courtesy of Ball Watches)
– Slide Chronograph
The Slide Chronograph offers so much for the many chronograph lovers amongst us. I often use my chronographs on a day to day basis. I take any excuse to use this complication so that I feel that I am in control of time. This is, of course, a mere psychological cloak because no-one can control time…………unless you can understand Einstein’s theory of relativity and can control gravity, but I digress. With that slightly incongruous comment aside, the humble chronograph is your only option to be able to control and accurately measure time. Chronograph watches have been available for hundreds of years. Historically, they were operated by a single button within the crown. This was way back in 1915.
This brief history lesson only adds to the importance of the Slide Chronograph in that it offers something totally revolutionary whilst being user friendly and tidying up the case design over the two pushpiece variants.
The slider is easy to operate, being just the right side of firm.
The Slide Chronograph is a great looking watch, in my humble opinion, befitting a ground breaking new technology. The case looks purposeful with an industrial looking fixed coin edged bezel. The case is satin finished which also complements the overall utilitarian aspirations of the timepiece.
The highly polished hands add a touch of luxury and the red accents contrast well with the all black dial.
The case back more relevantly represents and celebrates the original and main reason the chronograph is popular than my aimless and prosaic meanderings above.
As well as the numerous and multi-coloured tritium gas tubes on the dial there is also one placed in the slider for the chronograph, which I think is a great way of adding the Ball watch signature design feature into the new technology whilst also making it even better usability via easier access in dark conditions.
Also includes strongest extending clasp unit on market and crown protection.
The philosophy of a watch brand is important to me. It should stand alongside heritage and is definitely more important than advertising budget, which most people seem to react to more.
Even the most nostalgic among us like new technology. It is a reflection of the fact that we are a clever breed us humans and that we are constantly trying to challenge and better ourselves. New technology can simply offer an easier life style alternative to manual labour of varying degrees but more often than not something desirable and covetable is created. I think this is true for all of the Ball Watches that have been blessed by the brainy boffins within their research and development facility.
Each of the developments and patents mentioned above are, by their design, functional and, therefore, gadgets. And yet there isn’t a hint of gimmickry throughout. This is where Ball Watch are also clever in that they look at each aspect of a watch and, I would imagine, they think “Now, how can we not only make that better and more reliable but also easier to use and still remain within our self-given remit of great value?”.
There is nothing pretentious about the watches and the new technology that they must be proud of. I’ve covered this philosophy previously in my Magneto S review but I believe it is worth repeating because it represents such a large portion of the reasons why I love and respect the brand. The unique technology offered throughout the Ball Watch catalogue is simply presented as the useful tool that it was originally intended to create. There are no bold and brash aesthetic references. This is all very discrete, which I like.
In some way it’s a shame and a little frustrating for a salesman of high end pieces because customers do seem naïve about the wealth of sophisticated and useful attributes through the Ball Watch range. I take great pleasure in explaining about them as I am an advocate of getting more for your hard earnt money and utilitarian gadgetry. However, it is a thin line between losing humility through shouting about your best attributes and not making your target audience aware of your genius.
All words and images by Richard Atkins and the Ball Watch Company, unless otherwise stated. This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the author’s permission.