As I’ve mentioned in previous writeups on Ball, I first was drawn to their lineup because the big, audacious displays on the Engineer lineup reminded me of my dad’s car from the 80s. In our last review on the brand, I was enamored of them hiding the tritium tubes under the bezel. Well, they’ve taken that knowhow and put it under the dial as well, giving us the newest Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original.
Now, on one hand, the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original is very much a ball – you’ve got their signature bracelet style (and the same clasp we saw in the last review), and of course the fun (to fidget with) crown protection system. But then you might say, well, where is the tritium?
Of course, as I mentioned in the opener, it is there, just hiding under the bezel and under the dial. While I personally find this quite clever, I have to imagine that this is a bit of an experiment. And by that, I mean, Ball has to be watching sales of the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original to see if losing one of the more identifiable aspects of their watches – the visible tritium tubes – impacts how people react to their watches.
That said, you do still have the visible tubes on the handset, so they’re not totally gone. For me, that’s still a sticking point. Even with the visible tubes on the dial (and particularly on the flat tube ones) the handsets always just felt, well, tiny in the dark. Who knows, maybe their next lighting innovation will hit those hands (just dreaming about it, edge-lit outlining would be sweet…).
But, yes, the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original does look very much unlike what’s come before it, at least from Ball. The dial itself, of course, with the bars-and-pips indices, will be instantly familiar. And, after how audacious the indices normally are in this lineup, they feel positively restrained here.
Just because they got clever with the tritium tube placement on the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original does not mean that this watch is any less serious of a tool than it’s predecessors. You can still certainly swim with it (200m WR rating), and you also have shock and anti-magnetism ratings there as well. All, of course, to protect the COSC-rated movement tucked into the case.
Really, that’s how the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original shows that it’s continuing the line. Ball is more than just tritium tubes (though it is a signature for the brand) – they build watches meant to stay accurate and go the distance, just like those first railroad watches. And that’s precisely what you’ve got here, albeit with an apparently tritium-free experience that just hides the light show in plain sight. If you want to make the 40mm Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original yours, just collect together $3,249 and head on over to place your order at ballwatch.ch.
- Brand & Model: Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original
- Price: $3,249 (as reviewed)
- Who’s it for? You’ve been holding out for a subtler take on tritium illumination
- Would I wear it? While I love the dial and bezel illumination, it’s just a bit too chunky for my tastes these days
- What I’d change: While the clasp gets the job done, that’s the first spot that could use some slimming down
- The best thing about it: How hidden – but still suddenly there – the tritium us
Technical Details from Ball
- Automatic BALL caliber RR1102-CSL
- Chronometer certified COSC
- SpringLOCK® patented hairspring anti-shock system
- SpringSEAL® patented regulator anti-shock system
- 30 micro gas tubes for night reading capability
- Hours, minutes, sweep seconds, day and date
- 7,500Gs shock resistance
- Ø 40mm
- Anti-magnetic to 80,000A/m
- Water resistant to 200m / 660ft
- Uni-directional rotating bezel illuminated by micro gas tubes
- Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
- Patented crown protection system
- Black dial