November 15, 2009
by Ariel Adams
This is the star new Ball watches of the year in my opinion. This timepiece is a smooth evolution of the Hydrocarbon watch design. It combines so much of what I like about Ball watches and presents it in a nicely refined package that I certainly feel has the quality of a new classic for the brand. No doubt there will be spin-offs on this design for a while to come. I recently discussed some Ball watches that I like when I was visiting with Ball in Las Vegas here. Enough of you commented positively that I realized I was not alone in appreciating this brand. Which means that I think enough of you will agree with me on this watch.
The new watch is the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Spacemaster X-Lume. Think of it as the astronaut-themed version of the Hydrocarbon watch. Most watches of this caliber really don’t need and special enhancements to be good for use is space, but some new branding won’t hurt. The watch uses a Swiss automatic ETA caliber 2836-2 movement that has the time, day, and date. The movement has also been COSC Chronometer certified. The case is thick, and in steel, but not very large at 41.5mm wide. Being curved and with a domed sapphire crystal gives the watch a larger look on your wrist though. The case is water resistant to 333 meters.
There is new stuff all around aside from the smoothly polished design of the ultra readable case. Ball uses a mix of grade 316L and N 1.4435 steel to achieve a durable and lasting case. Ball also boasts about how precision milled the watch and its components are. Pieces are cut to 1/100 of a millimeter precision via their CNC machinery (for cutting precision sized metal parts). The case of the Spacemaster X-Lume has a familiar look that you recognize as being a Hydrocarbon watch, but here you see Ball designers really starting to get comfy with the design, solidifying it at a true icon of the brand. Kept are the distinctive crown and surrounding elements with the slide up guard piece. The case looks better rendered, and the bezel has a new treatment that is a good mix of rugged, functional looks, and a reduction in its complexity. What is left in the bezel are only four “claws,” place two at the top and two at the bottom. They help keep the bezel from feeling too wise. I like the special style of coined-like edging around the bezel as well, and there is lume built into it. All of these elements are improvements over previous designs.
You’ll get a new style of bracelet for the watch as well. Aside from a slightly new and improved look, the steel bracelet has a brand new, sophisticated clasp. The extremely secure butterfly clasp has two diver’s extensions in it, that can be operated with one hand, and without taking the watch off. They offer something like 20mm of extension (or less) to fit over all sorts of equipment.
Luminant all over the watch is a serious of different color tritium gas tubes that Ball utilizes so well. The small tubes glow by themselves for 20 years or so without the need to be charged by light. Ball uses them all over the dial, and in a bevy on inviting colors such as green, blue, and orange. This is one easy to read watch in the dark. Large hands make the dial easy to read. While the dial design is totally functional, it has a certain nerdy tech polish to it that I think will appeal to all men who enjoy using their minds while at work. It is like a thinking man’s sport watch. Overall I am really excited about this timepiece. I would guess price to be between about $2,000 – $3,000 and for it to be released soon.