Just thought I'd say hello after some time away from the boards, as I've just organised to purchase a watch I never thought I'd buy.
Now, I suppose there are quite a few watches in this category, although most would be due to either lack of willingness to spend crazy dollars or an intense dislike of a particular make of watch (why hello, Hublot). There aren't many watches from brands I greatly admire, in a style I typically covet (diver), whereby I could say with confidence that I have less than zero interest in a purchase.
But, as many of us will attest, never say never - as it will come back and bite you. Particularly if that never is along the lines of 'No, darling, I'll never buy another watch - this is definitely the last'. Or, alternatively, if that never is 'That Ball Skindiver... that's one watch I'd never buy'.
Attention turned back to the next watch, however, when I started planning a trip to Japan with my wife. I've been several times, and for this reason she's always wanted to go. Also, there's an island called Tashirojima that is simply covered in cats, and she's fascinated with those kind of oddities, so it seemed like the great basis for a trip. I started thinking about watch-hunting in Tokyo - perhaps bringing back an interested JDM specimen, or tracking down a vintage treasure.
As an afterthought, I also figured I'd do a quick tour around some local dealers, as in Australia we have a goods and services tax (similar to a VAT) of 10%. However, if you're soon to travel overseas, and you take the item with you, you can purchase certain goods tax free. I figured this extra incentive enough reason to examine a few local pieces and see if there are anything compelling out there.
There were a few pieces in which I had a middling interest; a UN maxi marine, an IWC pilot, but nothing which really got me excited. Literally the final stop on my search was a dealer that I visited primarily to try and look at a Longines Legend Diver, but who - luckily - was also a Ball dealer.
To cut a long story slightly less long, I hardly recognised the Skin Diver. Even examining the watch in the case, I struggled with the idea that this was the same watch that I'd seen in photographs. The bold ceramic bezel, the striking dial, the polarising split day/date (which, it turns out, I love) just left me stunned. Then I got my hands on it.
When I saw the first photos of the Skin Diver, one of the things that left me immediately underwhelmed was the bracelet. The end links looked odd, the clasp struck me as cheap, and I wondered (seriously wondered) as to what Ball had been thinking in their production of this. Of all things, Ball can deliver an outstanding bracelet, and this offering left me puzzled, so say the least. All that changed the moment I got the Skin Diver in my hands.
Firstly, the clasp: this is actually a superb example of understated quality. I know they have suggested that the Skin Diver II will feature a different clasp, but to me this is actually a step backwards. The current clasp is the best-built example of this style of clasp I have ever seen. The finishing, whilist appearing dull in photographs, is extremely fine, with thick steel giving the clasp a real sense of authority (for want of a better word) in hand. When looking at it in the context of the whole watch package, this clasp is exactly what a vintage-inspired diver needs. This is a clasp that inspires confidence.
Secondly, the end links and bracelet. I still believe the end links clash against the case, but when you look at the watch in person you realise that this is an intended - perhaps an almost necessary - feature of the watch. Watches of the vintage that the Skin Diver seeks to emulate didn't seamlessly flow together; shark mesh watch bands, for example, achieve almost the opposite effect, challenging the eye with contrasts in texture and finish. Beyond the end links, the bracelet is Ball through and through - exceedingly high quality, extremely comfortable. I was not surprised to hear that another buyer, in purchasing a Longines, had attempted to buy the bracelet from the Ball to fit to his new watch.
Finally, the case, bezel and dial. Oh how wrong I was about this watch. The ceramic bezel, which I am not often drawn to in other models, is a revelation - the clarity of the markings is beyond compare. This coupled with the knowledge that the ceramic construction will protect that legibility for decades is itself amazing. The wide tubes provide exceptional illumination, the face itself is both clear and visually interesting - the minute marks are, I find, extremely attractive, and add some complexity to what could have been a very austere dial (looking at the prototype of the Skin Diver II, I much prefer the original). The split day/date, for me, just works. I think this, as well as the minute markers, adds as much visual interest as possible without taking this watch out of the 'vintage' space - compared with, for example, texture on the dial. The case is, to put it simply, perhaps the best watch case I have handled bar none. I can't provide more detail than that - you just have to hold the thing in your hands.
Anyhow, as you can imagine, this watch is soon to be joining my collection. It is being held for me by the dealer, as I cannot collect it (due to the tax implications) until I am within a certain time period of leaving for Japan. As soon as I can, I'll post pics.
Until then, please consider Tashirojima (aka, Cat Island):