Ball watches has been prolific lately — but that’s not uncommon for the Swiss watchmaker with a formerly American name that is primarily owned by a businessperson in Hong Kong. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed so much variety from Ball watches that it can be overwhelming to catch up if you haven’t been paying attention to where the brand is going. The reason I admire Ball so much is that, like watchmakers of old, its team considers each of their production runs to be an opportunity to experiment with something new — even if the change is minor.
This tendency, on top of the many different production runs Balls engages in each year, has led to a veritable evolutionary tree of watch designs, parts, concepts, styles, and names that all belong to the great Ball watch family. Today, I review an interesting specimen known as the Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage reference DM3208A-S4/P4-BK watch. Just don’t confuse it with the slightly more expensive Ball Engineer Master II Skindiver Heritage, which also happens to look nearly identical to this model unless you know what you are looking for. That said, as of right now, Ball only offers the Engineer II Skindiver Heritage — and not the Engineer Master II Skindiver Heritage in this black titanium carbide-coated steel case. The models also have different bezel materials. The Engineer Master II Skindiver Heritage has a ceramic bezel with traditional luminant inside it, and this Engineer II Skindiver Heritage has a rotating bezel with a curved transparent sapphire crystal cover and tritium gas tube-lit markers underneath. I frankly like this look a bit more than ceramic bezel (which is trendy and functional, but also starting to look a bit generic at this point, as polished black ceramic bezel inserts on dive watches are now very common).
What this particular Ball Engineer II Skindiver Heritage does have is a fun multi-color tritium gas tube hour marker display that, in combination with the yellow tritium gas tubes in the hands, features blue, pink, green, orange, and white-colored tritium gas tubes. According to Ball, between the watch dial and bezel, the Engineer II Skindiver Heritage has a total of 31 tritium gas tubes. The case is also water-resistant to 200 meters, has an AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial, and, in these models, has a very practical knurled crown design with matching texture on the outer periphery of the bezel. Given the “heritage” part of the name, the watch case does not have any crown guards.
The black-colored steel case is 42mm-wide, 14.6mm-thick, and has a roughly 53mm lug-to-lug distance, though it wears a bit large and, on the bracelet, the lug-to-lug distance is closer to 58mm. Like many Ball watches, this timepiece boasts better-than-average shock and magnetism resistance (but with its exhibition caseback, this isn’t going to be Ball’s most anti-magnetic watch). In fact, the Engineer Master II Skindiver Heritage is a better choice if serious resistance to magnetism is what you are looking for in a timepiece.
Inside the watch is a base Swiss Made ETA 2836 automatic movement that Ball refers to as its caliber Ball RR110w automatic. It features the time, along with a day/date indicator window, at 3 o’clock. The automatic-winding movement operates at 4Hz with a power reserve of about two days. As a mid-range Ball watch, this Engineer II Skindiver Heritage comes on a simple version of Ball’s Engineer-style bracelet. It has the distinctive look of the links but a more straightforward fold-over locking deployant clasp (that has a stamped metal diver’s extension in it, as well). Even if this isn’t one of Ball’s fancier bracelet enclosure systems, it is a tried and true approach and offers the right combo of comfort, security, and adjustability.
The matching black-coated steel metal bracelet is actually value-priced at just $100 more than the Ball reference DM3208B-P4-BK, which is this same watch but on a black rubber strap. Having said that, I am not sure why Ball doesn’t just sell one reference of the watch that comes with both the black rubber strap and matching bracelet.
Going over to the dial of the watch, I am impressed by the overall legibility. Ball has called so many watches “Engineer, Skindiver, Heritage, etc…” that there is no real expectation of what the dial should look like. The most “Ball thing” about the dial is the Engineer Master-style hands. Otherwise, this is a rather straightforward, if not instrumental-style, watch dial with a lot of appeal. Of course, having date/day discs in black (versus white) to match the dial would have been a more appropriate design decision, in my opinion.
I sympathize with those watch lovers who enjoy what Ball produces but find it hard to decide what timepiece to buy. On the plus side, Ball’s prices are reasonable, and it isn’t uncommon for people to own a number of them, flipping them every once in a while. That said, there are timepiece hobbyists who seek “perfect watches,” and the manufacturing concept employed at Ball sort of defies this notion. Ideally, you have to buy into the latest stuff the brand is currently doing, knowing full well that in a couple of years, something similar but improved will come along and beg for your attention. What I happen to like a lot about this particular Engineer II Skindiver Heritage flavor is the black-colored case, elegant and legible dial, and colorful dial-illumination scheme. It also happens to be a practical and mostly conservative daily wear with enough oomph to be considered a “watch guy’s watch.” Ball has produced this reference DM3208B-S4-BK Engineer II Skindiver Heritage as a limited edition of 390 pieces. Retail price is $2,299 USD. Learn more at the Ball watches website here.
>Model: Engineer II Skindiver Heritage reference DM3208B-S4-BK
>Price: $2,299 USD
>Size: 42mm-wide, 14.6mm-thick, and 53mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a convenient and fashionable masculine daily wear watch that has some enticing features meant to appeal to enthusiasts.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Tool and military watch lover who has a slightly playful side and enjoys enthusiast brands.
>Best characteristic of watch: Engineer II case looks great in all black with the matching bracelet. Colorful tritium tube dial is enjoyable to look at. Legible dial and comfortable wearing experience.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Like many Ball watches, the product lacks a distinctive name or story that helps pair this product with more fans who might enjoy it. It’s challenging for Ball customers to choose a watch model given the often overlapping or confusing features, prices, model names, and new-product availability among similar products.