Ball Red Label Review by Timeless Luxury Watches
Today we get to look at a striking example of Ballís collection, the aptly named Ball Red Label Chronometer.
This watch is a tremendous value and really does it all. Rarely at this price point do you find a COSC rated movement, excellent quality, dual curved anti-reflective coated sapphire and even special perks like tritium tubes in a single watch. In fact, only Ball offers such a combination.
Yet, this watch invariably draws comparisons with the far more expensive (about twice as expensive) Omega Aqua Terra 8500. Iím not going to attempt to be the arbiter of history in this article and leave it to the reader to decide if one company imitated the other. Later, however, I will offer a photographic comparison of these two watches and let you come to your own conclusions.
Dial, Case & Hands
As is the case with most watches I love, Ball does something interesting with the dial here, using very trendy vertical lines. Whether or not Ball was the trendsetter in this instance I cannot say, but it was at the very least an early adopter. Now many brands have jumped on the bandwagon.
I personally love this look. It manages to make a dial interesting without being busy or overwhelming. It would be over the top, perhaps, on a really complicated watch, but here itís just the perk it needs to really make it pop.
In addition to the lines, Ball does something I wish almost every manufacture would do and adds a dash of color. This is the titular ďRed Label.Ē
It adds just a bit of flair to an otherwise stark place. Itís small enough to be subtle and perhaps even overlooked, but I think most ďplainĒ dial watches need just a little spice like this. Itís one of the reasons Iím so in love with blue hands on other watches.
The watch also features both a day and date complication, which is a nice touch, and serves to set it apart from the competition. The white day/date rings offer excellent contrast against the dial and draw your eye to them for maximum visibility.
The hands are quite elegant, and remind me of the hands used in the JLC Master Ultrathin. Of course, unlike the MUT, these carry tritium tubes.
I normally hate large counterbalances, but Ballís really grew on me. This is, of course, the ďRRĒ logo. Itís quite elegant.
Itís not at all obvious from wearing the watch, but those tritium tubes substantially increase the thickness of the hands.
Those hands are paired with these attractive ďtoothĒ hour markers, each carrying their own tritium tube. Like the hands, these are angled so as to catch and reflect light away from the watch, which creates an attractive contrast. Here, for instance, you can see one side of most of the markers reflecting the blue sky.
Speaking of tritium, Ball used a green and yellow contrast for the Red Label. Personally, Iíd like to have seen the cooler red tritium tubes, given the namesake, but this does look good as well. The hands and 12:00 marker use yellow, which provides great readability at night. Here the 3:00 is pointing up, and the marker is reduced in size because of the day/date display. And, unlike conventional lume, this wonít die out overnight. Unless that night is 20 years long. It goes without saying that it requires no ďchargeĒ to glow bright.
The case is an elegant and understated all-polished design. I particularly like how the angle of the bezel matches that of the domed crystal, making the crystal seem far more curved than it really is.
That crystal, by the way, is AR coated double curved sapphire.
The Ball features a screw down crown to complement its 100 meter water resistance rating. As an aside, I really like cases that feature an all polished design because they tend to be the easiest to touch up down the road.
In lieu of a display caseback, Ball offers a cool locomotive theme.
As the caseback indicates, and likely enhanced by the use of a solid caseback, the Ball is rated as antimagnetic. Naturally, Iím not going to just trust Ball on this so I decided to magnetize the watch and see just how much itíd take.
Just kidding. For now weíll just have to go by Ballís official rating.
Although not Ballís fault, Iíd be remiss if I didnít point out the fact that black dialed watches (this one is also available in gray or white) are extremely prone to glare. Here you get a great view of the blue sky from the crystal of the watch.
Despite the use of a buckle, I found this to be one of the best leather straps Iíve worn.
The black alligator has a lot of character and just the right amount of pliancy.
The look just compliments the Ball so perfectly.
As I mentioned, this watch uses a buckle instead of a deployant clasp, but what a great looking buckle. If I canít have a deployant, I want this.
I did briefly wear the Ball RLC and found it to be very comfortable and among the best leather straps Iíve worn. Iím very impressed with the wear comfort of this watch. Add a deployant and it'd have been perfect.
The Ball Red Label features a COSC-rated ETA 2836-2. Unfortunately, I donít have any great movement photos for you due to the use of a solid caseback.
The 2836 is basically a version of the ultra-popular 2824 with an added day complication. The COSC rating guarantees accuracy to within +6/-4 seconds per day. In the brief time I had the watch, I unscientifically measured an excellent +2 per day. Keep in mind, however, that those numbers were dial up and off-wrist, meaning I probably would have achieved slightly better numbers if I were wearing this watch every day, and given a possible break in period. These are basically the same numbers one could expect to see on a much more expensive Rolex or Omega.
Photographic Comparison of the Aqua Terra and Ball Red Label
As promised, I am finally putting these watches together for your enjoyment. A few disclaimers: this isnít a perfect matchup. The Omega and Ball are offered in similar sizes and dial colors, but these particular examples are not perfectly aligned. Still, the overall stylistic and quality points can be ascertained from the photos. So what do you get for about twice the price?
The resemblance is immediately obvious. While the Ball has chosen to use broader-spaced lines, each has chosen the vertical stripes (teak dial). Even their hour markers are quite similar.
The difference in lume is very apparent even in day light. The Omegaís blue lume is a clean white, where the tritium tubes have a faint green appearance to them. I think they both look great.
No doubt partially attributable to the Omegaís gray dial (versus the black one in the Ball), the glare resistance is noticeably better on the Omega.
The hands and markers are both well done, but the Omegaís are substantially more complex. Do note, however, the high degree of polish used on the inside of the Ballís day/date display.
The different choices of day windows are going to be highly divisive. Personally, I really like the angular look of the Omega, but Iíll admit, the display is much more readable on the Ball, mostly due to its high contrast look. Furthermore, you get an extra complication with the Ball.
There are a few areas that I think will be undeniable. First, the Omega features a far prettier movement. It also features a much longer power reserve, although they share the same 5 position adjustment and COSC rating. Furthermore, the ETA-based Ball actually has a slightly smoother sweep hand than the Omega.
The other undeniable fact is that the Ballís tritium tubes are going to outperform any lume. This isnít at first obvious, however.
Here is the Aqua Terra and the Red Label side by side, immediately after the Omega has been exposed to a bright light. In the beginning, the Omega easily outshines the Ball.
But less than 30 minutes in, the situation has been completely reversed. Now the Ball remains easily visible, while the Omega is a shadow of its former self. And the situation is only going to deepen as the night goes on. Six hours in the Ball will still glow at maximum brightness where the Aqua Terra will be virtually invisible.
So is the Omega worth roughly twice the price? Well, I leave that for you to decide. What I can tell you from handling both watches is that the Ball offers a compelling value. If you choose to get the more affordable Ball, you will not see or feel the absence of the $2000+ USD you saved. Itís still an extremely nice watch with a very accurate movement. The Ball is not a cut-rate Aqua Terra. Itís its own watch with its own design and features excellent quality.
What we have here is a watch with quality and features that far exceed the price of entry. Itís a complete package, with an attractive dial, high quality materials, tritium tubes and a COSC rated movement.
What didnít I like? Well, I would have preferred to have a display caseback to show off the movement. With modern materials, basic antimagnetic properties can be pretty easily achieved without the solid back. Iíd also prefer to have a deployant clasp, although if Ball does switch to one, I want them to keep the style theyíre using on the current buckle, which looks great. Most manufacturers donít pay enough attention to those details.
These are minor issues, however, and they mostly come down to mere preference. I think this is a terrific looking watch, and an amazing value. For those looking to step up from their entry level ETA offerings to a more complete package they should give this watch a serious glance before trying the much more expensive in house offerings. -- CitizenM