Given the watch’s name – the BALL Engineer Master II Skindiver Heritage – you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s another in a long line of back catalogue reissues. While most current throwback timepieces embrace historical aesthetics completely, the BALL Skindiver Heritage simply makes a few visual references to the past. If you take the word “heritage” out of the equation, you’re left with a well-made dive watch with some subtle antique cues (like the lack of crown guards) and plenty of modern tricks up its sleeve. When you put on the Skindiver Heritage, one thing you’ll notice right away is that the size isn’t vintage. We often comment in reviews that a watch wears smaller than its proportions suggest, but this is not the case with the Heritage Skindiver. The 42mm case may not appear to be particularly enormous on paper, but when you consider the 15.2mm height and long 53mm lug-to-lug distance, there’s little doubt that you’re wearing a huge, overbuilt, and fully capable modern diver.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of BALL watches is that they are always overbuilt. Do you require luminance for nighttime legibility? Ball chooses tritium gas tubes for his project. Do you want your watch to be resistant to magnetism? The Skindiver Heritage is 80,000A/m resistant. Ball includes shock resistance of 5,000Gs and water resistance of 300m to round out the package and ensure the watch can handle heavy use. While German brands such as Sinn and Damasko are frequently lauded as the go-to tool for overbuilt apocalyptic timepieces, the austere aesthetics aren’t for everyone. This is where BALL watches come in; they’re capable tool watches with a Swiss aesthetic and execution (albeit with the blood of the American West running through their mechanical veins). End Of Advertising Message (Advertising Message) (Advertising Message) (Advert
Returning to the case, the BALL Skindiver Heritage is a huge watch, but its bulk is mitigated by the design of the midcase, which provides the impression of a much thinner watch, much like the Tudor Black Bay midcase does not. Furthermore, the watch’s lengthy lugs slope down and hug the wrist, making it comfortable to wear on my 6.75″ wrist. Don’t get me wrong: it still looks and feels like the massive, weighty watch it is. The case design is classic for a skindiver, omitting crown guards in favour of a wide, signed crown with plenty of knurling that’s simple to hold and use. On the top and mid-case, the stainless steel casing is finely brushed, with high-polished bevels throughout the transition. The lines are clean, and the quality is flawless, as I’ve come to expect from BALL.
A rubber strap or an H-link bracelet with polished centre links are available for the Skindiver Heritage. Ball chose a 22mm bracelet, but the taper helps to minimise the watch’s visible (and tactile) mass, and the polished middle links turn it into a dress diver, making it more flexible for some customers. However, a totally brushed finish would have been preferable. The bracelet is comfy and matches the case well, however it is let down by a stamped push-button clasp and a pin and collar system for removing links (apologies to BALL; I crushed one of the pins trying to size the bracelet). I’ve said it before, but when microbrands produce bracelets with screwed links, machined clasps, and tool-free adjustments for under $500, it’s time for the major brands to step up.
The BALL Skindiver Heritage has a black or blue dial, but thanks to fully lumed bezels and tritium gas tubes on the markers and hands, both become significantly more vibrant when the lights go out. If you’ve never seen tritium gas tubes on a watch, they’re a sight to behold at night, and there’s a reason for their cult status. Tritium (the radioactive isotope of hydrogen, H3) undergoes beta decay, generating a constant source of light that will be just as brilliant at 5 a.m. as it was before bed. Because the tritium is encapsulated in gas tubes coated with various phosphor compounds, the tubes can glow in a variety of colours while remaining safe because they are contained in a non-hydrogen-permeable container. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, so it will keep glowing brightly for a long time, but when the time comes, BALL will replace the tubes for a small price. Message in Advertising Message At The End Of Advertising
BALL used 15 tiny gas tubes in three colours for the Skindiver Heritage: green for the hour markers, orange for the 12 o’clock marker, and yellow for the hands. Though these hues are most evident at night, they still illuminate softly throughout the day, giving the dial a splash of colour. The result is a joyful and colourful watch that can be worn at any time of day or night, thanks to the vivid orange minute hand. Make sure you’re looking for a bright watch; individuals who favour drab monochromes should search elsewhere. Consider the BALL Marvelight III Caring Edition if you want even more colour.
Though the tritium gas tubes are always the centre of attention in BALL watches, the dial and bezel are as impressive. The layout isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s well-executed and appealing. To put it another way, it’s a recognisable yet modern look that should appeal to a wide range of people. The white syringe hands for the hour and minutes, as well as a bright orange seconds hand, set the watch apart from most others on the market. The seconds hand is brightly coloured, yet the RR counterweight (a tribute to the brand’s origins on American railways) is elaborate. I like it, but I can see why some people don’t. The 3 o’clock day-date function is one of those love-it-or-hate-it features. I have to confess that working from home every day during COVID has made me enjoy the day function much more than usual.
The Skindiver Heritage’s bezel is very stunning. It’s comfortable to hold, and the 120 clicks have a firm, solid action with pronounced clicks and no back-play. It’s lovely. The bezel insert is made of ceramic and features lumed markings that light a faint blue at night, bringing a splash of colour to the mix. There are no issues at all.
The Skindiver Heritage is powered by the COSC-certified BALL RR1102-C automatic calibre, which is a modified Swiss-made ETA 2836-2. This movement, which has 25 jewels, a 38-hour power reserve, and beats at 28.8kbph, is essentially a day-date variant of the tried-and-true ETA 2824-2. Each movement is transported to one of the COSC labs and put through a battery of tests, including certifying that the watch will run at an average daily rate of -4 to +6 seconds per day with low positional deviation. BALL also has an Amortiser anti-shock technology to protect the movement and is insulated from magnetic fields up to 80,000A/m, as previously noted.
When it comes to watches similar to the $2,949 BALL Skindiver Heritage, it all depends on what you’re looking for. The Tudor Black Bay Heritage (although for an additional $850) is hard to overlook if you want a more vintage aesthetic and in-house movement. The Tudor has the BALL beat on the bracelet, and the MT5602’s 70-hour power reserve is a plus, but you’re missing out on the BALL’s superb tritium gas tubes, ceramic bezel, and unusual colour mix. If you truly want the tritium gas tubes but don’t want to spend a lot of money, Marathon has a large choice of military watches, including the 41mm GSAR automatic diver’s watch for $1,608. The Marathon GSAR is a purpose-built diver with incredible tritium gas tube lume, but a radically different look.
The BALL Engineer Master II Skindiver Heritage is worth a close look for those looking for a dressy tool watch with best-in-class lighting, classic Swiss styling and execution, but a colourful personality. The Skindiver Heritage cost $2,949 USD, and further information is available on the brand’s website.