Engineer II Pioneer: A High Polish Chronometer
The 40mm Ball Engineer II case makes its second appearance in a new model for 2014 with the "Engineer II Pioneer." The first time we saw this case was in the Marvelight (retail $1799), which combined an elaborate movement (ETA 2824-2) with incredibly tall tritium tubes for the hour indicies. While the Pioneer does not feature the Marvelight's massive micro gas tubes, its smaller circular tubes are mounted in a similar manner, as both watches feature their tubes mounted on shiny silver indices for contrast. The Pioneer is also a much more expensive watch at $2,499 due to its use of a COSC calibre movement. This puts it at a similar price to the 40mm Chronometer Red Label and Engineer II Chronometer.The two most standout design attributes of the Pioneer are the combination of a suede style strap with a high-polish case. When I discussed the Pioneer at Baselworld with Ball's CTO, Philippe Antille, he said the watch was designed to appeal to a younger audience than most Ball watches. Part of that strategy involved pairing it with a nubuck leather strap option in addition to the bracelet. This is in contrast to the more formal alligator strap option used with the Red Label. [NOTE: After reviewing the recording of my talk with Phillipe, it is apparent I overemphasized his attempt to appeal to a younger customer in the design of the Pioneer. In retrospect, the discussion was more about introducing new strap materials on this watch and the fabric strap of the Aviator III as an update of strap options that might also appeal to younger customers. While our discussion included the Pioneer strap, most of the focus was on the Aviator III strap.]
The nubuck leather strap on the Ball Engineer II Pioneer.
Where many designers put straps like this onto "heritage" pieces, the finish of the Pioneer is not particularly retro. Its most defining feature is its highly polished case. An entirely high polish case is a rarity for Ball as almost all of their models feature some brushed finish treatment. The only other BALL watch I can think of that completely forgoes brushed finish is the Engineer Master II DLC. In that piece the shine is somewhat diminished by the black DLC.The dial is a departure from recent Engineer II models. Instead of having the Marvelight's galvanized dial that has a subtle sunburst pattern, the Pioneer's silver dial features an even silver dial that doesn't have a central focal point. In addition, the black dial will be enamel. Since this will be a new texture, it will be deserving of it's own photo shoot.While the feature set may be the same as other models, the Pioneer definitely has a look that deviates from a typical Engineer II model. It will be interesting to see how a watch that was designed to appeal to a new customer will appeal to both long-time fans of the brand, as well as watch lovers in general.
The high-polish bezel of the Engineer II Pioneer.
Tritium tubes on raised silver indices and the silver enamel dial of the Engineer II Pioneer.
The high polish lugs, bezel, and side of the case in the Engineer II Pioneer.
The lume signature of the Engineer II Pioneer.