Tough as Nails: Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original 15th AnniversaryBy Suan Futt Yeo
Ball Watch Company isn’t kidding when it says the Engineer Hydrocarbon is its most robust and distinctive collection. Hulking cases pervade this branch of the family, along with a crown protection mechanism that is one-of-its-kind in the business (as far as we can tell), in watches that look fit to survive an apocalypse. To mark the 15th anniversary of the collection, Ball has released the Engineer Hydrocarbon Original that encapsulates the numerous protective technologies that Ball has developed for this collection over the years.
We feel it’d be prettier without the crown protection system, but the tradeoff translates into a very tough watch engineered to shrug off ocean depths and other hardships without missing a beat in telling accurate time. All this at a nice size, too – one doesn’t need a wrist as thick as ham to carry off the 40mm size, and time is readily read in any condition, at any time, courtesy of Ball’s self-illuminating gas capsules that light up 100 times brighter than Super-Luminova.
At its heart, precise time-telling in the Engineer Hydrocarbon Original is ensured by a self-winding COSC-certified chronometer movement. But a watch is only as tough as its most fragile or most delicately poised component, and one of the most common causes of watch failure or inaccuracy is damage to the escapement after a hard knock. To protect the movement in such an event, Ball’s SpringLOCK® system shields the balance spring within a cage so that shock to the balance spring is cut by some 66%, thereby reducing the risk of breakage or deformity in the balance spring. This is supplemented by the SpringSEAL® that secures the regulator assembly and keeps it in place upon impact.
Where the crown fits into the case is a point of vulnerability to both shock (decapitation) and water ingress (incomplete seal). That is why crown guards are such a common sight among sports watches. Ball’s Engineer Hydrocarbon Original goes a step further, its Crown Protection System comprises massive shoulders around the crown, and a protective plate over it to ensure that the crown is fully and properly screwed in after use. A bit like the HANS (Head And Neck Support system) used in F1 racing. According to Ball, the crown is shock-tested to 7,500Gs.
What sets the Engineer Hydrocarbon Original apart, even from the other watches in the same collection, is its very attractive use of the company’s signature glass microcapsules. In most of the collection, these come in the form of micro tubes as hour markers and on the hands, somewhat like fluorescent light tubes. Might not work if one prefers round markers on a dive dial. Ball has solved this by using for the first time, capsules under round cut-outs in the dial – a sandwich dial of sorts. It is also one of the few watches in the Ball catalog to have gas micro tubes under a sapphire timing bezel. As a result, time on the dial and elapsed time on the bezel are always illuminated and clear, in a display that is not restricted to lighted-stick renditions of before.
For a sports watch built tough that doesn’t break your heart before it does, the Ball Engineer Hydrocarbon Original makes a solid proposition wearable by most.
Automatic BALL RR1102-CSL; COSC-certified chronometer; SpringLOCK® anti-shock system, SpringSEAL® regulator anti-shock system
40mm stainless steel; 14.55mm height; curved sapphire bezel with illuminated micro gas tubes; shock resistant to 7,500Gs; anti-magnetic to 80,000A/m; water resistant to 200m;
Stainless steel bracelet with extension system