Baselworld Recap for Ball Watches including an interview with BALL S.A. CTO Philippe Antille
wearing the prototype for the skindiver 2 next to Ball CTO Philippe Antille at Baselworld 2014
Engneer II Marvelight
Rob: Why does the Lume in the Marvelight Look so brilliant?
Philippe: The watch itself isn't new (It's an Engineer II 40mm) but we change the dial to use a tritium tube that is a different shape than we normally use. Usually we use circular tubes, but these tubes are flatter, so even though the Millicuries are the same, it looks much brighter.
Rob: Have you ever used this shape of tube before?
Philippe: We've used them before, but maybe for the 12 or the 6, We've never used them with this layout where its on every hour marker.
Rob: If you were to rank the top three Ball watches that come closest to the tritium permit level of T (100 millicuries) what would they be?
Philippe: The closest to the permit threshold are the NightTrain 2, the Stormchaser DLC Glow, and the original Aviator. (which still has the largest tubes) It's the shape of Marvelight that makes it closer to these pieces, not the Millicuries.
(The Marvelight shown at Baselworld was for the world market. It is possible that there will be a model for the U.S. market with larger tubes (the same design) that will be permitted under the T permit )
The New Aviator:
Rob: It seems like this version of the Aviator is much more of a tactical looking pilot watch, and the focus is clearly not on tritium.
Philippe: Right, and the strap is really cool. It's inspired by NATO straps. This watch in my opinion is to target a younger customer.
Rob: It kind of captures that Sinn Tudor feeling.
Philippe: Right, I try to do something different that's fresh. It's easy to ready the time, like we'd expect for an Aviator. It's also available with a metal bracelet.
Rob: Ball is normally so focused on legibility. Why is the date wheel red?
Philippe: I really think it looks cool, so that's the reason.
Rob: What's the inspiration for the Hunley?
Philippe: The DNA and inspiration for the Henley is the Orbital. It features the 2892-A2 base Calibre inside, and it has the Amortizer. When you lock your rotor with the amortizer, you don't know how much time you have left. This watch also has a power reserve indicator so that a user can see their remaining power reserve, which is especially useful when the Amortizer is locked. This feature makes the watch more readable and functional. The case is a much thinner watch than the Orbital. We also also put a domed sapphire crystal on it, which is unusual for a Hydrocarbon as the crystals are usually flat.
Rob: What color options will there be?
Philippe: There will definitely be a black one, and we've made a blue one too, but we are not sure they are both coming to market. It's a very crazy blue.
BALL Magneto S
Video of the prototype showing the A-LOCK system
Rob: The Magneto S is the watch has the most buzz so far of the new 2014 watches. Why wasn't there a prototype at Baselworld?
Philippe: The reason is that the watch uses two patents and I didn't get them until March 26th [two days before the show]
Rob: Can you talk a little about each of the the unusual complication in this watch?
Philippe: The watch is 42mm and features an Engineer case. The name Magneto refers to it's anti-magnetic properties and S refers to SpringLOCK. The watch has a rotating bezel that only turns 90 degrees. It has an up and a down. The bezel activate an anti-magnetic protection of the watch. When the system is open it still protects to 4,800 A/m as part of the C.O.S.C. certification. If you activate the system, it goes up to 80,000 A/m.
Rob: Watch collectors have trouble relating to A/m because the bigger brands typically talk about anti-magnetic in terms of Gauss. What is 80,000 A/M in Gauss?
Phillipe: It's about 1,000 Gauss.
Rob: How do you achieve this level of shielding?
Phillipe: There are three established ways that companies do it. You can use Parachrom, or silicon based materials., or use soft iron. The downside of soft iron is it adds considerable thickness to the watch. We found a new way with MU Metal which you can find on Wikipedia. MU Metal is an anti-magnetic metal usually used in the aerospace industry. Now we have the capacity to produce it, and it keeps us from having a thick case. The movement holder will be in MU metal too.
Rob: How much will it be?
Philippe: The price is 2,900 swiss francs. It's a chronometer, spring lock, and has this new retractable anti-magnetic system which we call "A-Proof." Spring Lock will eventually be the standard, and will be in all of our calibres.
Rob: What was your inspiration for the A-Proof system?
Philippe: I thought of it when I was shopping and looked at the lens in an antique camera store.
Skindiver II Prototype
Rob: I know you weren't really planning on showing the Skin Diver at Baselworld this year. What's the inspiration for the piece?
Philippe: When Eric Singer wore an Airborne on stage in Japan, we started talking about his Skindiver, and how he has a Skin Diver but wanted one that was bigger.
Rob: For those that have seen a picture of the prototype, what's been finalized?
Phillipe: Not much, the cyclops, hands, whether or not it should even have a date are all up in the air. We are waiting for feedback
Rob: We put a photo of it on the Ball Forum on Watchuseek
Rob: People are enjoying weighing in on it and like the idea of a 42mm Skin Diver.
Rob: So I guess we will wait and see how it changes before it comes to market!
Kiss Drummer Eric Singer, and Philippe discuss the Skin Diver II prototype
Philippe and I had a more general conversation about a few of the other new releases
The Annual Calendar
Annual Calendar will be produced this year in the Trainmaster case the goal is to still keep it around $6,000. Last year's Annual Calendar prototype with the Engineer case and "Red Label" like dial has been set aside in favor of this new design.
Fireman Racer DL: Another Variation of the Racer DLC
A New BMW Classic with a a much smaller BMW logo
Everyone at Ball U.S.A. agreed that The "Stomchaser Pro" was better called the "Stormchaser lightning" as it has one less scale than the original Stormchaser. One of the editors at ABLOGTOWATCH, had one of the jokes on the show calling it "the Semi-Pro." When you appreciate it for what it is, a more formal watch that only has a telemeter scale and drops the tachymeter, the watch is outstanding.
The Engineer 2 Pioneer Chronometer
The Pioneer: A new variation on the Arabic Chronometer with a more fashion vintage strap.
Engineer Master 2 Pilot GMT
Last year, Ball took the base calibres off of their website. I asked their executive director why they did it. They said the reason was to avoid confusion and pointed out that other high end companies did not provide the base calibre in their marketing materials. I pointed out that given the timing of ETA reducing their movements, there was concern that the motivation was to change the base calibres under the radar. They assured us that the base calibres have not changed and continue to be ETA. They said that they will put the base calibres back on the website, and that while it is inevitable there will be a switch to SELITA on some watches in the next five years, they will disclose it when that happens. At the same time, they continue to work on inhouse calibre movements with their sister brand Juvenia.