One of the reasons I really enjoy Ball watches so much is the incredibly prolific nature of their watch department. It isn’t just the amount of new watches Ball releases each year, but also the sheer variety that interests me. That, and the fact that despite all the visual novelty, most Ball watches are good at retaining that sense of core brand DNA which makes their products distinct and noticeable. Another new 2014 model is this Ball Engineer Master II Pilot GMT timepiece.
Ball even goes so far as to name the designer personally – something which is highly unusual in the watch industry, especially when it comes to watches priced under $100,000, when “art” is sold more than the sheer utilitarian nature of the watch. The Ball Engineer Master II Pilot GMT watch was designed for Ball by Magali Métrailler, a talented female watch designer who also created their well-regarded Ball for BMW watch collection, as well as design work for Jaeger-LeCoultre. What I think most typifies Magali Métrailler’s work, from my perspective, is her ability to combine a sense of composed Swiss/French elegance with a resolutely modern take on design. She is an up-and-coming star in my personal opinion, who I hope continues to be featured in more and more high-profile watch design projects.
Whereas Ball has been very successful with design as of late, they still haven’t quite be able to mirror that sentiment in their “watch naming department” (should one even exist). With all the majesty and refinement they bring to the world of modern macho watch design, Ball watch names seem to be a sometimes random assortment of often redundant terms which, in my opinion, do not fit the high-quality personality most of these products have going for them. Why is this an issue? Primarily because I don’t think consumers can recall the names of their watches, which makes it hard for them to think about looking for them or asking about them in stores.
Consumers (for the most part) aren’t going to recall the reference numbers of watches, so brands have a vested interest in creating easy to remember names for their products that consumers can hear (or read) just a few times and commit to memory. Having said that, as part of the Ball Engineer Master II collection this reference GM3090C-SAJ-BK or GM3090C-LLAJ-BK (depending on the strap) is 43.5mm wide in steel, and just 11.9mm thick – making for a very wearable albeit modern sport watch, available on a leather strap or good-looking steel metal bracelet.
If the dial of the Ball Engineer Master II Pilot GMT looks a bit different than most Ball watches, that is because it is. While the hour markers look like those you typically see on Ball watches – meaning they are made using tritium gas tubes – what is different is how they are applied. Rather than sit on top of the dial, they are set flush with the dial. This offers a new type of look for Ball and was done so that the GMT hand can move while being placed low on the dial. While the GMT hand has a familiar Rolex Explorer look, it doesn’t use tritium gas tubes. In fact, the Ball Engineer Master II Pilot GMT watch is among the few Ball timepieces that has SuperLuminova on the dial in addition to tritium gas tubes. That means the GMT hand can look more traditional, but isn’t going to be as visible in the dark.
In order to keep the main watch dial clean, there is a flange ring for the minutes and a bi-directional rotating bezel with a 24 hour scale on it. Magali did a nice job of giving the piece an overall classic design but with a more modern flair. Like most Ball watches, the case of the Ball Engineer Master II Pilot GMT is admirably durable, being water resistant to 100 meters and shock resistant. Over the dial is an AR-coated sapphire crystal. The case would have been anti-magnetic, but Ball decided to go for a sapphire crystal caseback window that allows for the wearer to see the movement – something that is rather rare for Ball’s sport watches.
Inside of the Ball Engineer Master II Pilot GMT watch is a base Swiss ETA 2893 automatic GMT movement that Ball calls their caliber RR1201. As I said above, you can see the movement through the caseback window. The overall look of the design is very indicative of what the brand is best at today, and more importantly is a relatively good value. I know a lot of watches with the same movement and even more simple cases that are priced at twice as much as the Ball Engineer Master II Pilot GMT.
I have nothing bad to say about the black crocodile strap with red stitching which is available with the watch, but my preference is most always going to be with a metal bracelet, when one is offered. In this case, the steel bracelet, with a design common to other Ball watches, matches the modern look and feel of this sporty yet rather thin (for a Ball) GMT watch. Of course, when you step outside of the “conservative box” you know that often times designs will be polarizing – something that Ball knows only too well. With that said, I think the Ball Engineer Master II Pilot GMT has appeal to not only typical Ball watch fans but also those who don’t typically like the modern design of Ball’s products. Another testament to the watch design work of Magali Metrailler. Price for the reference GM3090C-SAJ-BK and GM3090C-LLAJ-BK Ball Engineer Master II Pilot GMT watch is $2,499. ballwatch.com