The first word that comes to my mind has to be build quality. Build quality with a capital B!
Of all the watches I have had in my years as an enthusiast, this is amongst the best when it comes to the feeling of having a rock-solid watch on the wrist.
The Ball Engineer III Endurance is a tribute and a salute to Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 28 brave men.
Sir Shackleton was a polar explorer who led several expeditions to the Antarctic. In 1914, three years after Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole, Shackleton set for a journey that was named the «Imperial Trans-Atlantic Expedition». The crossing of Antarctica from ocean to ocean, via the south pole. The vessel for this expedition was the Endurance.
«Men wanted: For hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success».
This is the advert that was put out to gather a crew that would follow Sir Shackleton on this exploration, and I have to say I like it. Straight forward, no nonsense and definitely an honest approach. Truly different times, but I can feel his presence in this writing, a slightly ironic touch can be found behind the dead serious content.
On august 1st, 1914, the Endurance left the harbours of London. This was just after the first world war started, and the needs of ships, supply and volunteers was high. Even though Shackleton offered ships and services to the British nation, Winston Churchill refused and told Sir Shackleton to continue the journey.
In January 1915, the «Endurance» was stuck in the ice, just 100 miles from the destination. The constant low temperatures and extreme conditions made it clear that the ship was completely stuck, with no possibility to go further. Sir Shackleton and his crew had to abandon the «Endurance» and set camp in these hostile environments.
Several months later the ship was crushed by the packed ice and sunk into the ocean. With limited amount of supply and the knowing that no one would come for them, Sir Shackleton had to pick a small group from the crew to join him to get help. They had rescued one of the «Endurance»’s lifeboats and used this to get help.
With only a sextant and a chronometer of unknown accuracy, they had to navigate through 800 miles of ice, cold and stormy waters. Sir Shackleton and his small crew reached the shore of South Georgia and on August 30th, 1916, the rest of his crew were saved.
So, back to the watch. The model I have is the Classic version. The 40mm case with blue dial. From lug to lug it measures 48mm, the height is 13,45mm and the lug width is 20mm, perfect for my collection of natos.
The Classic version comes in the sizes 40mm and 46mm, and with blue, black or silver dial, stainless steel bracelet or rubber strap. For me the 40mm was the only option. With my chickenwrist, the 46mm would look like a frying pan on a chopstick…
I’ll come to the passion-part in a while, but a little more technical information is needed. As mentioned earlier, this watch is a salute to Sir Ernest Shackleton and his Trans-Antarctic Expedition. To pay tribute to a person and an event of extreme conditions, Ball has really made this watch with some hefty specs. To withstand extreme temperatures, the oil inside the watch is a special blend that makes it reliable from -40 to +60 degrees Celsius. It is also fitted with the Amortiser system, that protects the movement from external shocks and the anti-magnetic is rated to 80000A/m.
The watch has a water resistance of 100 meters, a slightly domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflecting coating and a screw-down crown. The movement is a Ball RR1102-C, a COSC Chronometer-certified caliber that uses ETA2836-2 as the base movement. This calibre is used in a large range of Ball watches. The Endurance is a Limited Edition, numbered to 1000 pieces.
If you wonder why I haven’t mentioned the tritium-tubes, that’s because they deserve to be described in the passion-part of this review. What is it about Ball that makes them stand out in the crowd of watches? The first time I saw a Ball was many years ago. I have never heard of the brand and was a bit surprised by the name. Ball… How could anybody call their watches Ball? After a quick search I learned about their history, that is heavily linked down to the American Railroad. A train accident in 1891 with several causalities, the need of a standardisation of time, accuracy and reliability.
And of course, Webb C. Ball, the father of it all.
I knew from the start that Ball had something that triggered me. The peculiar design on the Hydrocarbons case, with the outstanding crown protector. The Arabic numerals made out of strange tubes. At that time, I didn’t know anything about the tritium lume, and when I saw the glow for the first time, I was head over heels. For a long time, I couldn’t agree with myself about the design of the numbers on the dial. Put together with small tubes, making them look like nothing I have seen before. Was it odd? Was it cool? For me, that little piece of genius design, is one of the things that makes Ball a brand that I really desire. To dare to be different, be bold and make a design that is recognizable at first gaze. And if you think it’s all about design and fanciness, think again. Accuracy, reliability, build quality, innovation and the amount of specs Ball puts into their watches is outstanding. From dress-watches to the most extreme models like the NEDU and the DeepQUEST, I’m sure some of Balls watches will outlast humanity.
Let’s get back to the Endurance. Will this watch bring the passion to the limits where Ball has brought me earlier? It’s hard to come close to the first love, almost impossible. But I have to say, what a watch this is! As mentioned in another post in my blog, I’m a nato-guy. Or was… The bracelet on the Endurance is so well built and comfortable that even I can wear it. I want to wear it! The feeling having this watch on my wrist is fantastic. Even though my chickenwrists aren’t made for heavy watches, I really appreciate the weight of it. It makes me feel powerful and smooth at the same time. I love to wear the watch, looking at it as the sun sparkles in the lovely blue dial, how the 13,45mm-high case just slips right under the sleeve and shows just enough to make me stare down at my wrist and quietly say «well hello there little fellow».
Even if this is a technical masterpiece with all the specs needed to be ready for the extreme, it still has got the charm and warmth that I love so much about Ball. The tritium-tubes stands tall, raising 1mm from the dial. When looking on the watch from an angle, you’ll see how the tubes gives the dial another dimension. 17 tubes firmly placed on the hands and on the dial. It’s amazing to look at them glowing in almost a 3D way, not just as a flat, painted lume. I am a bit addicted to lume, and the difference between these tubes and ordinary lume is massive. The steady, edged and almost «lightbulbish» tritium tubes are so delicious to watch!
I can’t wear all my watches at the same time, and sometimes the Endurance has some time in the closet. I understand that the watch needs some time on its own, free from all my stares, touches and love. I’m always looking forward to taking it out again, and the moment the doors open, I can see the smooth lume shine towards me, reflecting in the cases of the other watches, just lying there, dark and sad…
Do I need all the features of this watch? Am I extreme? Yes. I have ridden a BMX at 69km/h, watched 8 episodes of the latest Twin Peaks in a row, in complete darkness, jumped an 18-meter cliff, 23 times and I have worn black pants, made of PVC, in Spain at summer.
I need Tritium. I need a Chronometer Certified Watch. I need a watch that can join me through a MR-scan. I need a watch that can withstand the bumpy roads. I need a watch that makes me feel outstanding! I need the Endurance.
It’s time to wrap this up and hit the shower. Birthday party next, and I can’t be late. And I promise you, with the Endurance, you will not be late, and you will arrive with style and power!