January 27, 2015
Back in May, we brought you word of a new watch from Ball with a very tricky method of ensuring resistance to magnetism. At the time, we could not bring you any live pictures, as the watch was not quite ready. That’s changed now, so read on for our hands on impressions with the Ball Engineer II Magneto S.
It is unusual for us to start discussing a watch by scrutinizing its case back design, but for now, we absolutely have to. Arguably, the coolest aspect of the watch is the iris closure on the case back that completes the magnetic shielding for the watch. Normally, when a watch has shielding built in (rather than relying on components that are inherently non-magnetic, such as silicon), you are greeted with a solid case back – examples being the Rolex Milgauss (hands-on here) or the IWC Ingenieur (hands-on here). That, of course, is not the case here.
At first glance, you have an exhibition case back, allowing you to see the rotor and bits and pieces of the movement. Via the coin edge bezel (yes, here it is more than just a pretty face) you can deploy shielding that is reminiscent of a camera iris (or, for those cinematically-inclined, graphics used in James Bond intros). It is worth noting that there is still a small pinhole left. Ball assures us that this is not an issue, as protecting the balance wheel is the most important thing here.
This is undeniably cool, and something that is rather fun to play around with. Unfortunately, it has the side effect of encouraging a rather large-looking case on the dial side. The truth of the matter is that it only measures in at 42mm. What makes it seem overly large is that the dial itself is fairly small, as there is one of the widest chapter rings I have ever seen surrounding the dial.
Our assumption is that this is where those iris blades end up residing when they are not deployed. The storage has to be somewhere, but it does make the dial feel pretty small. With that dial, we do have a new type of tritium tube in use. They are flat, as we saw with the Ball Marvelight, but they are much narrower here. This brings them closer to the width of the round tubes on the handset, which gives a more balanced look. This is a positive step, and we are told that they will be appearing in more Ball watches going forward.
As far as the hands are concerned, the proportions of the sword-style hands seem in alignment with the dial real estate, each one reaching to the appropriate index track. It also features what seems to be (to me, at least) their signature signed seconds hand, in this case, showing up in a darker green hue.
Speaking of green, you will also notice a small window next to the crown with a luminous green strip. This was a bit of a curiosity, but it performs a fairly simple role. Basically, it is an indication of whether or not the iris has been closed over the movement. This is a nice addition to the design, allowing you to see at a glance if the protections is enabled, without having to take the watch off.
Those are the items that we are confident will be unchanged in the production version. There will be other changes made, however. For starters, the case we saw was fairly plain (bezel and caseback aside). Ball tells us the one showing up in your local showroom will be a bit more refined and have better detailing, as far as quality of finishing is concerned. The strap will also be changed out, and should have a carbon fiber-style checkered pattern to it.
For my tastes, the dial just feels small in the context of the overall watch. That said, there is something undeniably cool about how they have enabled anti-magnetism in the Ball Engineer II Magneto S – which, when it comes to luxury items like a watch, goes a long way. If you are of a mind to pick one up, you can do so now for a price of $3,399. ballwatch.com