13.12.2023 | 7 MIN
I'm faced with one hell of a task... How do you objectively review something that you love so much from the first moment that you are willing to forgive a lot of things? Hopefully I won't face any suspicions of shoddy PR, because my strongly positive relationship with the Ball Engineer Master II Aviator Automatic is based purely on the excellent feelings I've experienced with it throughout the review process. Ladies and gentlemen, buckle up, we're taking off!
The Ball Engineer Master II is actually the first "old school" aviation watch I have had the pleasure of handling. By old school, I mean the era of pilot's watches that didn't have the plethora of scales, sub-dials, bi-directionally rotating lunettes and mathematical-logarithmic gadgetry that we know, for example from Citizen's high-end stable of models.
Just imagine... You're sitting in a pioneering machine of wooden construction, you can't hear your own words over the roaring engine, smoke from the massive exhausts is whipping in your face, and your watch is now your most important partner in life and death. Then it's just one thing to keep perfect track of time at all times and under almost any circumstances.
Perfect legibility, giant dial and indices and fortellian workmanship. These were the key indications of every good pilot's watch of the last century and they are also the essential features of the Engineer Master II Aviator Automatic. In fact, everything could be summed up in this single paragraph but the "Engineer Master" has more benefits - the added value of quality workmanship and the hallmark of reasonable luxury.
Fortunately I don't perceive ego-complexes, yet I must confess that I enjoy the manly feelings to the fullest with the "engineer" on my wrist. In this respect, the watch works perfectly, which is mainly due to its expressiveness, starting with the strap itself.
Don't doubt the authenticity of the natural leather, the manufacturer spared no expense with the material. The result is an honest quilted strap with a thickness of 3.5 mm and a width of 22 mm, which you will not only feel but also hear on your wrist, literally. It "squeaks" beautifully and loudly when you move your hand, which is majestic and rebellious at the same time.
You will also be reminded of the phrase from the chapter title quite often when handling the strap, because unbuckling and buckling it requires a real amount of strength. It's a chore at first, and I can imagine that wrestling with a strap while getting ready for an important meeting in the morning can get on your nerves.
It can be assumed that this phenomenon will disappear or at least diminish over time, the strap can be replaced with a more suitable one at any time. I hope I'm not being a barbarian for considering that, for example,a NATO strap would also suit the watch and Ball itself offers a steel bracelet option.
The unobtrusive buckle is decorated with a very successful imitation of four screws and as expected, the manufacturer's logo. An unnoticeable element of the strap are two large and masculine steel rivets with a purely decorative purpose. Although at first they made an unnecessary even distracting impression on me, over time they grew on me and today I cannot imagine the strap or the watch without them.
The sturdy steel case is 46 mm in diameter and slightly over 13 mm high and the matt finish really suits it. Its strengths lie in its patents and technology. Worth mentioning is not only the Amortiser, the Swiss cousin of the Japanese G-Shock, protecting the movement from external shocks and shocks but above all the ferromagnetic nickel-iron alloy known as Mu-Metal. This acts as a low-frequency antimagnetic shield, so that magnetic fields are prohibited from entering the watch.
The sapphire crystal glass is directly dominant here, giving the watch a luxurious look and spatial depth. This privilege is allowed by the absence of a lunette in particular, which I personally don't miss at all. On the contrary, I enjoy a great overview of everything that is happening under the anti-reflective glass, especially the current time.
And here I must highlight probably the biggest benefit of the Engineer Master II Aviator, i.e. perfect legibility. The literally huge indices, lining the black dial at five-minute intervals, dominate the smaller, but still perfectly legible dial, marked in a simple, heel-less font.
First-class clarity is also guaranteed thanks to the massive sword-shaped hands, and the time information is perfectly accessible even when viewed from relatively extreme angles. You can enjoy this comfort, for example, while driving your car, when a glance with your peripheral vision at the hand on the steering wheel is all it takes to be "in time".
Legibility is not impaired by the small details on the dial in the form of the manufacturer's logo, information about the movement technology or water resistance to a depth of 100 m. I haven't personally verified this, but I suppose a premium brand can be trusted in these respects.
If you're a detail-oriented watchmaker like me, you'll adore the slim seconds hand, which only seems to levitate around the dial thanks to its white tip. The opposite black end then hides a beautiful detail in the form of an ornate double "R", referring to the brand's logo and symbolizing the "Rail-Road" acronym.
The day-of-the-week complication (in two languages) and the date are sensitively set into the dial at the index of the third hour and their flipping at the break of day occurs in a flash. The only thing I consider a bit unfortunate is perhaps the too subtle and for me, already harder to read typography used by the manufacturer here.
On the broad indices, hands and seconds hand, permanent radioluminescent illumination has found a home. Ampoules filled with radioactive tritium work well and although the luminescence is not very pronounced at first glance, you can tell the time effortlessly even in the midst of deep darkness.
In addition, Ball's designers have creatively played with the admixture of phosphors and the result is a pleasing change in the colour of the luminescence to orange on the royal twelve index. While Ball can do better color "shows", in the case of the Engineer Master II Aviator Automatic, moderation is in order in my opinion. Clever research defines the half-life of tritium at 12 years; according to the manufacturer, the watch will shine for at least three years longer. If only radioactivity were always used for such nice and useful things...
The radioluminescence is complemented by the classic and very effective SuperLuminova luminescence, which is brought out by tiny numerals and which cuts through the darkness quite clearly when illuminated.
The screw-down crown, or rather the proper crown on the right side, is sufficient for complete control of the watch and also serves as an example, which I give high praise in all respects. It is easy to handle, it does not get in the way and it does not lack the decoration on the front with the already mentioned double "R". The watch features hacking, setting the time accurately has always been a bit of a fun roulette. The wide spacing between the minute indices and my inability to stop the seconds hand exactly where I'd like are to blame.
The documentation states a running reserve of 38 hours and here I have to disagree strongly. The piece I tested managed to tick relentlessly for a real 45 hours, i.e. a full 7 hours longer and if we add to that the daily accuracy deviation within an acceptable tolerance of 3-4 seconds, then we can say that the automatic movement marked BALL RR1102 runs excellently. The manufacturer relied on the proven "four-hertz" stalwart ETA 2836-2 with twenty-five stones. BALL has enriched this calibre with SpringLOCK and SpringSEAL technologies, both of which protect the movement from shocks and impacts.
If you're into pretty things with a story, then you'll also be delighted by the watch's screw-down dial, decorated with a beautiful motif commemorating the Wright brothers' famous first flight, held in 1903. This is such a sympathetic and collector-appreciated detail that I exceptionally don't mind the lack of a view of the movement's innards through the transparent dial this time.
The conclusion of the review will be as simple and clear in the case of the Engineer Master II Aviator Automatic as the watch itself: in truth, I can't think of a watch with better legibility, praising the precise movement, the quality materials, the unique technology and the robust yet unspectacular workmanship. The durability beyond expectations is also a pleasant surprise. The manufacturer's claimed total weight of 112g was accurate to within a tenth of a gram for the piece I tested and I can confirm from experience that it is quite acceptable for the wearer even after a full day of wear.
The Ball models belong to a higher price category though and if you desire a reliable aviation watch with good legibility, there are undoubtedly a number of significantly cheaper solutions. However, Ball is also a symbol of top quality on a slightly different level, which can be perceived at every look and touch and I have no doubt that the target group will be happy to appreciate this uniqueness.