If Ball is a sleeper company in some parts of the world (pity them!) then its dress watches are the sleepers in the range. Once you have held this exquisite piece, you will be scrambling for answers to the question of watch positioning and life in general ;)
Despite my dabbling with the beautiful to the bizarre, via the boring, across Omega, Rolex, Swatch, Ball, Seiko, Longines, Baume, Muhle Glashutte, Nomos Glashutte, Tag Heuer, Tudor, Sinn, etc., there are some watches and/or pieces of jewellery that really stick out. Not just keepers but injecting emotion into an inanimate object.
The Eternity, or even the dress watch in general, might not be on the top of the Ball shoppers list. Generally they are looking for the awesomely made, super robust and beautifully sculptured muscularity we have come to expect from Ball.
They might also be looking for the great value that Ball provide. Whenever I have bought one, I always marvel at the construction vis-a-vis the price I paid, although the price has been creeping up over the last few years, its still in Longines territory, IMHO with better build.
So it was quite by accident that I stumbled onto this watch, I was actually looking for an Engineer III King or a II Marvelight. It is true that in the back of my mind these past months I was looking for a dressy watch, as I don’t have one. I had recently considered the also beautiful new Tag Heuer link, another under reported design, the current version having a quite special cushion case design. Of course the Eternity is even cooler.
I saw the Eternity gazing at me through its high dome crystal in the shop display. I first did a double take, I had never seen this kind of Ball before, was it a Jaeger ? was it a Breguet ? ... no definitely a Ball. When I tried it on I kept double checking the brand, kept looking at each feature. I must have sat in the shop for about 10 mins before I snapped back to reality and realised the salesman was sitting across from me, reading something. Luckily there was no queue of customers ......
So many places to start, lets start with the face. My favourite blue dial in a dark sunburst. I am not sure if it tapers down at the extreme edges together with pips, but it looks like it - probably the space dilation effect caused by the glass :)
The watch has a 39.5mm radius, perfect for my wrist and this style, with a very thin stepped bezel, maximising the size of the dial.
The font is a bright cream antique font for “Ball Official Standard since 1891” - over three lines and three font sizes and 1891 in italics. The “automatic 30 meters” is a thin typewriter capitalised font. The writing is not excessive and is quite laid back, the cream making it appear slightly faded, blending into the dial.
The day date is black on white in two windows at 3 o’clock with no wasted space or border, very classic. The triangular pips are made from stainless steel with triton tubes mounted on each one. I love the fact that all the pips are the same size. Ball has resisted the temptation to make the 12 o’clock bigger, and no pip is missed or damaged. Even the date window has been placed without damaging a pip.
The dauphin hands are long stainless steel triangularis with triton tubes, in the same design as the pips, and the typical Ball second hand in silver has the cool Ball logo at the end.
The effect of all the above is gorgeous. You guys just have to hold one of these watches in your hand. Forget every picture you have seen on the web, they just don’t do it justice. Light dances around providing refractions with the sunburst, changing colour all around, playing with the sparkle of the pips and the hands. Breathtaking without being bling, epic but somehow subtle. Yeah, I guess I like it :D
The case is super thin, at 12.8mm, including the bezel. That’s the thinnest watch Ball does. Despite its size, it still feels weighty and robustly made, providing a real quality feel for the watch. The lugs curve down and the edges are chamfered. The domed crystal is set into a thin polished stepped bezel ring which forms the top layer of the case. The case is all polished except for the chamfered edges.
The crown is a beautiful piece of jewellery on its own. It’s slightly over sized and has a thin slatted ring around its edge for grip. It then extends outward in a dome, mirroring the crystal, with a sharp pip on the end. Surprisingly for a 30m rated watch, its a screw down crown. I have difficultly tying the depth rating into the general body construction and screw down crown, but surely, unlike most other watch companies, Ball is underestimating the sealing. If nothing else providing extra confidence in adverse weather conditions.
I am overusing the word beautiful, so I’ll switch to gorgeous here, but the display back is. Although the movement is not particularly dressed up, the extension of the sapphire crystal to the edge, dipping down round the edge (yes, for this price, sculptured sapphire crystal) covering the name “the Ball Company”, is just gorgeous. No other way to describe it. Hublot could sell this thing for triple the price - no exaggeration, and we are not even at the bracelet yet.
So there are well made, averagely made, not so good made bracelets. This one is up with my Cartier, albeit it has tolerances just pipping the Ball. The bracelet has seven segments. A thin outer one, brushed, then a block, brushed, then a thin link, polished and then a centre rectangular block, brushed, now reversing this design back to the edges. Despite the complexity, and the two rotating polished thin links acting as the bridge between link groups, the construction is highly solid. The clasp is a butterfly with no micro adjustments. There are two reduced size links provided either side of the buckle to help fine adjustments, and the link bars are helpfully screw in types. The clasp looks seamless when closed, and has a circular clip with RR engraved, that snaps shut across the connecting links. Once closed the connection is seamless, identified only by the clip. I would actually describe the bracelet as a “bracelet” in a jewellery sense, lovely enough to wear on its own.
This piece is one of the most beautiful that I have ever handled. In addition, although keeping to orthodox parameters, it is a unique design. It’s vintage clues are painstakingly matched with the latest technology and quality available to watch production today. It has a £5,000 construction, design and quality at a £1,610 price. Of course the movement is standard ETA 2836-2 (I have heard that Ball uses the Top grade for this watch, not the chronometer grade), a proven reliable movement, but apart from that I can’t see or think of much compromise for the price point that has gone on here.
The funny thing is that I wouldn’t have thought of looking for this model if I hadn’t physically seen it in a shop, the web photos just don’t do it justice at all.
Whilst I wouldn’t wear the Eternity mountain climbing or white water rafting, it does look great with jeans, as well as of course with a suit, and despite the sheer beauty, its quite subtle at a distance, with many of the features becoming revealed over time and distance.
The highest accolade for a watch IMHO is that it is worth having in your collection regardless of its price and positioning in the market. This is the rare piece that touches eternity, and probably only the select privileged few will ever know ......