Although the 2014 Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Hunley Diver (Ref. PM2096B-S1J-BK) still features that “polarizing” patented crown guard system as previous iterations of the watch, it is still one of the most elegant members of the growing family. As refined as a diving tool can be, it is also not expensive sporting a price tag around $1000 lower than that of an IWC Aquatimer.
Compared to their previous models, the Hydrocarbon Hunley definitely looks like an improvement. There is still a family resemblance between the new watch and, say, the last year’s Hydrocarbon Spacemaster Captain Poindexter. Yet, the PM2096B-S1J-BK features a more elaborate design.
All of its elements are now more organically connected to form a convincing object of art. The dial, which is still equipped with the brand’s signature H3 tritium tubes (a whole 30 of them), now looks a lot cleaner and easier to read than ever before. The effect is partly achieved thanks to transferring the minute track from the dial proper to the white inner bezel flange.
This not only gives the extra-wide hour and minute hands more visual space to breathe but also allows to place the simple calendar display, as well as a miniature power reserve indicator in the lower part of the dial. This is done without interfering with other elements of the timekeeper’s face.
Well, to be frank, I don’t like the way they placed the power reserve display.
Meant to visually counter-weigh the date aperture, the indicator looks a bit off-balance here, almost like it was placed as an afterthought. I understand that this possibly has something to do with the layout of the ETA 2893-2-based Ball Watch caliber RR1201 automatic movement. The way the complication module rides atop of it, too, played some role. Still, was it THAT expensive to redesign it a little to make the dial look a bit more symmetrical?
For a watch, which is offered at a street price of $3900 USD (even despite it being limited to 500 pieces), this is probably not such an economically unfeasible thing to do. Well, the power reserve is, perhaps, my only complaint about this otherwise absolutely gorgeous timepiece.
Like other members of the family, the Hydrocarbon Hunley features a special body design that puts an extra emphasis on their patented Amortiser system. Letting you lock the oscillating weight via a simple switch at the back, the Amortiser allowed increasing the mechanism’s shock resistance rating to 7500Gs.
Also, thanks to a soft-iron cage surrounding the movement and a solid case back cover, its anti-magnetic protection is increased to 4800 A/m: pretty much standard for a Swiss-made “anti-magnetic” mechanical watch, but still nice to have in an “engineer’s tool.”
For such a massive-looking timekeeper (measuring just 42 mm in diameter, it is more than 17 mm thick, and for a diver of these proportions you at least expect a 1000M-style thick sapphire crystal that could withstand the pressure!), the Ball Watch Engineer Hydrocarbon Hunley features a pretty unimpressive water resistance rating of just 200 meters, but that would probably be enough for most amateur divers out there.
All in all, the watch makes a good impression (to my taste, it would be almost perfect if not that uncomfortably protruding crown guard) and I could only recommend one for an enthusiast. Just don’t expect it to be a collectible piece just because its production number is limited.
Photos: Ball Watches
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Hunley Diver PM2096B-S1J-BK specification
Price: $3900 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Ball caliber RR1201 (base ETA 2893-2), Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 21
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 42 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 42.00 mm
Case height: 17.30 mm
Numerals: Arabic, luminous (H3 Tritium tubes)
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 200 meters
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet with patented folding buckle and diver suit extension system
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective