Designed as an ultra-limited model for the members of the CronotempVs club, the Ball Engineer III 00RED edition rethinks the traditional “tool watch” from the American brand and turns it into something a lot more modern (and arguably more desirable.) My only problem with the 00RED is that Ball Watches doesn’t plan to make more of them.
The Overall Impression
It had to happen. Despite Ball’s Engineer line of magnetically-shielded three-handers being as diverse as a San-Tropez beach, it desperately needed something that would cater to the younger generation of enthusiasts.
Their appetite for risk still seems low: the company needed nothing less than a special order from an exclusive club of watch enthusiasts to make this limited-edition Engineer III 00RED, but, well, it’s a start. Perhaps, someday we will see another variation of the design in their “core” collection.
I mean, it’s a beautifully designed gadget that successfully combines high legibility in all lighting scenarios that one can imagine with the aesthetics of a “technical” watch, a high-quality (despite being mass-produced and sort of old) mechanism certified to the COSC standards, and a relatively affordable price.
At a time when classic watches are being gradually pushed to irrelevance by all sorts of wearables manufactured by everybody and their dog, we need more of these unique models manufactured by solid brands.
For this model, Ball Watches decided to use the legendary (mainly thanks to Rolex’s PR department that went to great lengths to advertise it as the next best thing unique to the crème de la crème of the Swiss watchmaking industry ) 904L grade stainless steel alloy.
Compared to the more popular 316L steel, this mix is a bit softer and more prone to scratches, but, thanks to the higher chromium and nickel content, looks a lot more expensive when properly polished.
It is also more corrosion-resistant, which is somewhat important for a watch designed to be passed from father to son. It is also non-magnetic in, as finetubes.co.uk puts it , “all conditions.” These properties make the 904L an alloy of choice in the pharmaceutical, oil, and gas, as well as chemical industries, although it, too, is almost replaced by a less expensive duplex stainless steel 2205 . We’ll see what Rolex makes of that.
At 43 millimeters in diameter and about 13 mm thick, the Engineer III looks good on any medium-sized wrist and the 00RED variety is no exception: after all, the cases are identical.
I didn’t wear this particular specimen, but another Engineer III felt really nice on my (19cm or approximately 7.5in) wrist. The round body is finely sculpted and the crown’s shape is ergonomic enough for most fingers. The case’s only problem is that it looks generic. That could be intentional or not, but the people behind the 00RED managed to turn the problem into a solution: the non-specific shape of the body serves as a perfect frame for the industrial-style dial.
The 21-millimeter H-Link bracelet, too, uses the same 904L-grade steel. Thanks to the mix of brushed and mirror-polished surfaces, it looks extremely, um, expensive, giving the watch an even more premium feel.
As usual for this price range (the watch costs more than $2700,) the solid bracelet is very well-made and features all the necessary adjustments (even though their folding buckle design has always been sort of dividing among enthusiasts.)
As its source of power, the 00RED uses a slightly modified version of the same Ball caliber RR1102-C automatic movement that we have seen in their 2013 limited-edition Hydrocarbon Spacemaster Captain Poindexter and many other collections.
The mechanism still uses the old ETA 2836-2 blank movement as its base but has several modifications that turn the inexpensive workhorse into a COSC-certified chronometer.
Funny thing: ETA designed the 2836-2 as a version of their more popular 2824-2 mechanism with an “expanded” calendar that features a day-date display. The 00RED, on the other hand, had the calendar apertures removed to give more space for the Arabic letter “3”.
To make it even more accurate, Ball uses a so-called “Mu-metal” (a nickel-iron soft ferromagnetic alloy) cage to shield the mechanism against static or low-frequency magnetic fields  up to 1000 Gauss (80,000 Amperes.) This may seem superfluous if you are not a real engineer, but if you consider all sorts of magnetic fields that constantly attack our watches, extra protection is always welcome.
The Dial & Legibility
Compared to the original Engineer III (I mean, there are a lot of versions of the model, I am talking about the general feel here,) the CronotempVs-edition looks almost like a different watch.
The elements are not only smaller: they are somehow more subtle if that makes any sense to you. Surprisingly, the textured gray dial serves as an almost perfect background for the collection of tritium tubes assembled into the Arabics and the hour markers and inserted into each of the three hands.
The tubes, by the way, ensure perfect readability at night: unlike Superluminova and similar premium-grade compounds, the tritium gas inside them doesn’t need to be charged by the Sun or other sources of light and the tiny cylinders will happily glow literally for decades before they finally go bad.
This limited edition comes without the traditional date window, so the crystal with the usual magnifying lens is gone and replaced by a more “normal” sapphire cover.
The Pricing & Availability
This is a small batch of just 91 pieces. Issued exclusively for the members of the CronotempVs Club of watch collectors, the supply of these beauties will be scarce. One can only hope that some of the owners ordered the 00RED with a single purpose of flipping them at a (hopefully, not very outrageous) premium when the time is right.
If you are still for some reason interested in the MSRP, it is set relatively low at just $2749, although I can imagine that it can easily double on the second-hand market if the watch gets enough attention from other collectors.
See also: Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Hunley Diver PM2096B-S1J-BK
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
2022 Ball Watch Engineer III 00RED specification
Price (MSRP): $2749
Movement: Caliber RR1102 (based on ETA 2836-2,) COSC-certified chronometer, Swiss Made
Movement finish: Polished screw-heads, oscillating weight with Ball Watches logo
Number of Jewels: 25
Cadence of Balance: 28,800 vph
Power Reserve: 38 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Case: 904L Stainless steel
Crown: Stainless steel, screwed-in
Bezel shape: Round
Size: 43.00 mm
Case height: 13.50 mm
Lug width: 21.00 mm
Dial: Textured gray
Numerals: Arabic, luminous tritium tubes
Hour markers: Luminous (tritium tubes)
Hands: Black, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: 904L grade steel bracelet with a folding buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, anti-reflective coating
Back: Solid, engraved