The 2014 Ball Engineer II Pioneer Chronometer (ref. NM2026C-L4CAJ-BK) delivers all the usual treats from the brand that was founded in America, but later moved to Switzerland. The compact, deliberately simple body would look good on almost any wrist, its dial is high-contrast and easily readable even to older persons with poor sight. However, if your idea of a dress watch doesn’t include more than two dozen glass micro-tubes filled with a mildly radioactive, self-glowing gas, you may find this timekeeper slightly difficult to adapt to.
Like most of their other “Engineer” models, the new wristwatch leaves a somewhat dubious impression.
Its main selling point is most probably its superior legibility. The 28 tiny gas tubes that comprise its three Arabic numerals as well as its eight stick-shaped hour markers and all three hands not only look contrast in good light, but also glow brightly when lighting is not that great.
On the other hand, the layout of the dial would look better on a military watch styled like those Luminox tactic timekeepers. On a piece, that is supposed to look dressy and will be more often worn with formal attire rather than with green fatigues, the elements look like bull bars on a new Porsche Cayenne: probably useful in certain circumstances, but a bit inappropriate in most.
However, if you don’t mind having such a ‘technical’ layout on a dress watch or just always dreamed of a timekeeper, that is radically different from the rest of the crowd (in this price range, you will probably not find another watch that so nicely combines refined finish with superb legibility provided by tritium tubes that are not just unbelievably bright, but also preserve their brightness for more than twenty years), this gadget will probably never disappoint you.
Equipped with a bullet-proof Ball caliber RR1103-C automatic movement that is based on the well-known ETA 2824-2 slightly redecorated and certified as a chronometer by no other institution, but the reputable COSC, the watch is as sturdy as the Soviet T-34, as elegant as the German King Tiger, and as compact as the American M4 Sherman. According to official specs, the 40 mm stainless steel body gives the watch a pretty impressive shock resistance rating of up to 5000 Gs and it is also antimagnetic up to 4800 Amperes, so you can use the device even in the most stressful environments.
The ETA 2824-2 usually comes equipped with a calendar wheel that features rather small numerals printed on its white surface and this particular iteration of the mechanism is not an exception here. To compensate for this shortcoming, BW’s designers have equipped the timepiece’s sapphire, AR-treated dial with a nicely shaped bull’s eye magnifying lens that not only successfully solves this minor legibility problem, but also looks pretty cool.
The watch, as many timepieces in this segment, comes with two “base” straps. While the stainless steel bracelet with a comfortable folding buckle is a lot more practical, I would easily go for the brown Nubuck leather strap that gives the Engineer II Pioneer that irresistible vintage aura.
Photos: Ball Watches
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Ball Engineer II Pioneer Chronometer (ref. NM2026C-L4CAJ-BK) specification
Price: €1800 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Ball caliber RR1103-C, base ETA 2824-2, COSC-certified as a chronometer, shock-resistant to 5000 Gs, anti-magnetic to 4800 amperes, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 25
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 38 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 40.00 mm
Case height: 12.10 mm
Dial: Black enamel / Silver
Numerals: Arabic, tritium gas tubes
Hour markers: Luminous, tritium gas tubes
Hands: Polished, luminous, tritium gas tubes
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet with folding buckle / Nubuck leather strap with standard buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective, bull’s eye magnifying lens over the date aperture