I wanted to say straight up that this is an exceptional watch in so many different ways. Its quite extraordinary for the price...
Talking about money, there are many different strata of watches these days. I have recently been playing in the Rolex and Omega arena, what I would call the under £10k stainless steels.
When we go lower to the multi-thousands there we find the greatest quality and value mix. As everyone knows as you go up you get diminishing returns.
Of course saying a watch is “good value” can be a death knell to some, but I am happy to use this expression in a relative way, even for some solid gold watches.
Now the Ball Engineer Master II Diver (EM2D) is not cheap. In absolute terms, at £1,750 in the UK, its still a lot of money to most people for a watch. In fact there are many high quality three handers at £1,000 or under, including some from Ball itself, and we can all think of bullet proof Sinns, Glycines, Muhle Glashüttes, Damaskos, Longines, etc.
However the EM2D to me is an exceptional watch, really punching way above its weight. Similar relatively to some watches from brands like Christopher Ward and Farer, etc. It’s a diver built to a quality standard at least or higher then many top brands, for example, IWC, Bremont, Ulysses Nardin, etc. often at 3 or more times the cost, often still using ETA mechanisms. To me the EM2D typifies why the name “Ball” conjures quality.
The engineering is typically above and beyond. A case in point on this particular watch, the inner bezel being 120 clicks for a rotation vs the outer at 160 via gearing. After a single rotation, if you look carefully, you can see the outer dial’s fixing screws are in a slightly different position.
The bezel is encased in a generous hunk of stainless steel, impeccably finished, like the rest of the watch.
Ball has been canny with this watch. By highly polishing the case and limiting it to 42mm it has made a genuinely striking watch that can be worn comfortably for every day and smart/suit occasions, whilst still feeling like it was wrought from dwarf star material and capable in any force 8 gale sailing around the Bay of Biscay.
Where to start!! Let’s look at this exceptionally well detailed and finished face, quite unusual for a diving watch. It is textured with vertical ridges, representing the planks on a deck, similar to the last generation Omega Aqua Terra.
The inter dial has silver numbers with the 12 o’clock and pips at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock marked by Ball’s signature “glow in the dark” tritium tubes. In this particular design meshing well with the vertical ridges.
The outer dial has a bright white strip over the first 15 minutes covered in minute markers of tritium tubes, with tritium pips every 5 minutes and 15, 30 and 45 minutes made of out tritium tubes displaying the iconic Ball font.
The hands are just a great design effort. The minute hand is designed to finish at the inner bezel and the hour hand is designed to reach out to the edge of the pips. Cleverly, the second hand has a pip which fits neatly between the minute and hour hands when it rotates. I also just love the complex logo on the end of the seconds hand.
Finally on the dial, there is a easy to see day date window with black fonts on a white background and thankfully surrounded by a silver border - I am not generally into naked date windows. My version has both French and English days. I will admit that I have never had a day date watch before (well I had a Sinn 103 with German date which I tended to ignore) and tended to dismiss days as not that useful. I still think its not essential but its actually quite good to orientate you in the week and just adds another piece of speed to your daily comprehension. The selector is very easy, the second position on the crown doing date in one direction and day in the other.
Although the watch is polished, the top surface of the bezel is matt so as not to drown out the face.
In summary, the face is articulately detailed, relatively complicated but extremely well thought our and starkly beautiful. Almost everyone I show the watch to goes “wow that’s cool” before they go “who is Ball” :D My yardstick is gold Calatrava guy in my office - he really liked it, no higher accolade !
As we go round the bezel we can see more detail, regular depressions allow the unidirectional bezel to be gripped and turned. Every second one has a screw which fixes the bezel to the case and just happens to look quite cool. The slightly oversized crown is easy to grip and is protected by useful but subtle crown guards, another signature of the design of this piece. It has everything, just not too much ....
The back of the watch has a solid back with a sculptured diver logo. A display back is always nice but Ball probably decided the last edge on the anti-magnetic feature took priority in this watch’s design. Talking about the watch back, the watch is not over thick and fits under a smart shirt, but is slightly deeper then one would expect from a Ball RR1102 / ETA 2836-2 calibre.
(apologies - I let the plastic back cover fall off in time)
After all the excitement and design of the watch you would have thought Ball would relax on the bracelet. Surprisingly this is not the case. The bracelet domed block links is again quite unique and pretty special considering most watch metal bracelets are all clones. The one development point I would give is the clasp. Ball has chosen a butterfly clasp. This is often chosen due to beauty, as the bracelet looks seemless when closed. However there are no micro adjustments or anything like the Rolex easy link. I think these would be useful in a diver. There is no dive extension either, although you could argue that a butterfly bracelet has two open extensions, one of which is bound to fit over the diving suit sleeve. Nevertheless I have a small wrist (17.5cm) and wear bracelets slightly loose and find this bracelet very comfortable when adjusted and additionally worth mentioning there is a half link to assist as well.
Lastly I just want to mention something offbeat. The box. Its not the main event, but I just surprised but how high quality it is. It’s a lovely introduction to the watch and makes you feel like you bought something special
So what can I say about Horatio ? Handsome, hard, beautifully designed, ranked as a Leutenant but performs like an Admiral. Happy to be midship, below deck or in the capitain’s cabin on the Hotspur.
Ball’s watch catalogue is extensive and you can sometimes get lost looking through it. You have to see this watch in person to really appreciate the thought behind it.
If you are in the market for a diving watch that is not pure tool this has to be on your list. There is nothing in the diving watch world made much better then this. It plays easily in the Blancpain, IWC, Rolex, etc. universe and, at this level, its really down to personal taste.
Have to go, Pellew wants me on deck …