When Ball Watch asked me to take a test dive with one of the company’s newest watches, the Engineer Master II Diver Chronometer, I was a little hesitant. Ball Watch didn’t ring a diving bell for me, but something else from history rang. A brand’s “history” section is always the first thing I check before testing a watch.
Apart from divers watches with their limited history, there are pilot watches, which have had much more time in history than divers, and railway watches, which have the longest histories related to technical requirements.
All three watches have one thing in common: if they are turned off for minutes – or even seconds – life is threatened.
The 1891 Ohio Great Kipton Train Wreck, which happened because an engineer guard had stopped, is the point generally regarded as the impetus for creating a reliable railway timing system. Webster Clay Ball was appointed Chief Time Inspector of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railways after the tragedy, establishing precision standards (“RR Standard”) and a timepiece inspection system for chronometers used by railroad workers. Ball was an Ohio-born watchmaker and jeweler, and his local business eventually grew into the Ball Watch Company.
Ball reacted quite quickly to make the railroads of the late nineteenth century safer. And in the early 1960s, the company named after him again quickly realized that the same is needed to make recreational diving safe, introducing its diver’s watch to the newly formed recreational diving community in the United States. This community was already using the then newly invented Aqualung to dive to greater depths with an increased risk of decompression sickness.
Only a water- and pressure-tight watch with a separate timekeeping device can help deep divers safely control their no-decompression dive time if they want to go deeper or stay longer – or both – to control the necessary decompression time at different depths, a fairly complicated process. system that I will describe in the stories to come using famous diving watches.
All in all, this is my kind of history – and one that I expect from a true dive watch, regardless of cost, regardless of appearance. I am the resident diver at Quill & Pad, skilled enough to test any self-proclaimed diver’s watch to its limits. I subject both of these watches to the same pressures that divers experience and explore their history and achievements on the wrists of true aquanauts.
And that’s what I did with my dive buddies on the first weekend in October, much later than I wanted and much later after Ball sent us their latest dive watch. But as you may already suspect, Corona is to blame.
Testing the Ball Watch Engineer Master II Diver Stopwatch
Let’s look at the watch first before we baptize it. Stainless steel case with a rubber strap – as expected – but two crowns, one to adjust the time and date and wind the watch and the other to move the inner diving bezel.
All very normal for a more fashionable diver’s watch that wants to look like a regular watch (rather than a tool watch), but has some extra sporty features for adventures not only on land, but also in the air and the watery depths . All in all, my kind of watch.
Not being a big man, the 42mm watch looks great on my skinny (for a diver) arms and would look even better on a female diver’s arm in my opinion. But I was also excited and a little nervous to go for a test dive, knowing the three main problems these kinds of watches could ever cause me deep down.
Three possible problems when diving with the Ball Watch Engineer Master II Diver Stopwatch
The very first problem I imagined could crop up just looking at this diver’s watch with its tiny indexes and bezel markings was eliminated the first night I wore the watch. I have rarely seen such small indices shine so brightly. This forced me to get up at night, fire up my iMac, and google Ball Watch.
Wow, yes, I’ve found the answer: this watch doesn’t use LumiNova or even Super-LumiNova, but rather a system of 36 tiny micro-gas tubes to illuminate the markings at night or in the depths of a cloudy lake. So no problem with the smaller markings that are typical of a more fashionable watch, but wouldn’t fit on an instrument watch.
Problem number two: No matter what watch I test, they rarely, if ever, have a strap that fits over my wetsuit. The best ones available are those with an extension. But rubber tires come with buckles, which only work when the tire is self-tightening (down) and self-expanding (up).
If they don’t (and I don’t know of any that actually do it the way I want it to), you’ll have to tighten and loosen it through the buckle. With camera gear and scooter in hand as I dive, this is totally impractical. And that’s exactly why dive computers have Velcro straps on their wristbands.
Velcro is perfect for diving, but quite ugly on a fashionable wristwatch. And this is why I use NATO leather straps on mine and have one custom made to fit the Ball Engineer Master II Diver Chronometer I tested. Not a cheap replica with a pin buckle but one with a real double-D ring.
With its steel buckles, it even matches the technical look of our dive gear, and with the double-D ring for one-handed tightening and loosening, it works for almost all technical divers who want to use instruments on their arms.
And yes, it took me some time to get a matching leather wristband made for my Ball Watch test. And I know what you think about the leather, but don’t worry, I use hydrophobic leather which works great for divers like me. And yes, specialized wristbands for divers will soon be another story here at Quill & Pad.
Fixed two out of three problems in advance; the third problem would have to wait for the dive. And the dive had to wait until the air filling was possible again, my wetsuit was back from service and we could stay in a nice hotel with access to the lake (Corona made that impossible for a while).
For a suitable environment that matches the watch, we have opted for Schlosshotel Fernsteinsee with its two private Alpine lakes – Fernsteinsee and Samaranger See – both within walking distance of the hotel and both excellent for cold water diving, photo ops and a rather fashionable setting to show off a luxury watch.
This setting was ideal for testing a diver’s watch and documenting the dive. Not good for deep diving, but if a watch remains water resistant in shallow water, it will certainly be water resistant in the depths where divers roam. And the lake is cold because it has its own spring. We measured 13°C at the end of September, requiring the full wetsuit I would wear to go very deep.
Luckily I was enjoying the lake with some friends and was able to get Ortwin Khan, one of our best underwater photographers, to take pictures of the watch.
In the end, we were unable to solve the third problem, which I recognized beforehand: the bezel cannot be operated with gloves, nor the neoprene gloves our female tester wore, nor my wetsuit gloves. If you’re serious about using the watch for diving — which is the fun of using a watch for diving — you’ll need to move the bezel to mark decompression times (see The Dive Bezel: The Most Versatile Watch Complication Even If You’re Not diver).
That’s almost impossible these days anyway with all the inner frames being moved by tiny second crowns. Which in the case of this Ball Watch Engineer Master II Diver chronometer is a shame as the company has already remedied the problem with its “newly designed rotating external bezel that has been reworked for easier, faster setup and easy wearing.” – especially with scout gear – the timepiece now has a rotating external ring for controlling the inner ring” (quote from company material).
If you are a technical diver who uses watches for your dive and you like the look and – above all – the history of Ball Watches, then I recommend that you go for the ball watch Engineer Master II Diver World Time (42 mm). If you’re not diving in cold water or using dry gloves, everything else will work just fine. If you like the look of an inner ring and those two crowns like I do, you can easily use the watch on your dives.
The Ball Engineer Master II Diver Chronometer (why do fancy watches have such long names?) is an extraordinary diver’s watch for recreational diving and everyday use.
In addition, Ball Watch is a company with a real history in technical diving watches.
With its small markings, the watch is quite fashionable and does not look like a diving instrument. But it is sturdy and easy to read in all situations, especially in the dark.
Changes I’d make would be to add a diving leather strap (a topic I’ll write about in my next story).
As a diver, what I do not need with this watch is the magnifying glass over the date or to read the time during the day.
I love inside frames and love the idea of outside functionality like in the Ball Engineer Master II Diver Worldtime. And the world time function (even if it is “hidden” in the ring) is a very nice feature for divers as we travel a lot looking for the best dive sites in the world.
Would I use the Ball Engineer Master II Diver Chronometer for daily diving? Absolutely yes.
For more information about the Ball Engineer Master II Diver chronometer, visit www.ballwatch.com/global/1/collections/engineer-master-ii/diver-chronometer.
Quick Fact Ball Engineer Master II Diver Stopwatch
Case: 42 x 13.5 mm, stainless steel, bidirectional rotating inner ring, screw-in crown, water resistant to 300 m
Movement: automatic Caliber RR1101 (ETA base), shock resistant to 1,000 Gauss (80,000 A/m), officially COSC chronometer certified
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
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