How do they stay in business? Despite making rock solid watches at bargain prices, despite a storied history, Ball has a lower profile than Giacomo cigars. It’s a shame. Ball timepieces are so well made I’d even compare them to . . . wait for it . . . Rolex. Starting with the fact that . . .
The Pioneer’s made from the same corrosion, rust and acid resistant 904L steel as a Rolex. Well, not exactly. Rolex cooks-up its own unique blend of chromium, molybdenum, nickel and copper, dubbing the result Oystersteel.
But as far as I can tell, the Pioneer’s heavy metal mix is just as good. The Ball’s bracelet serves up the same silky smooth gravitas as an Oyster Perpetual. Slipping on the 6.1 ounce steel Pioneer is a tactile delight that rivals tickling the ivories of a Steinway piano.
Yes, well, if the Pioneer’s a piano, it’s playing Jerry Lee Lewis to Rolex’s Mozart. I ain’t fakin’! There’s a whole lot of glossin’ goin’ on! The Pioneer’s H-bracelet’s outer links are shiny AF – but not as shiny as the glintastic inner links.
Which are as shiny as the watch’s slippery smooth case and bodacious bezel. Unlike the semi-bling Rolex Explorer, this Ball’s balls-to-the wall bling – an unabashed medley of brushed and high polished steel singing money honey!
The Pioneer boasts a tastefully reserved, eminently legible black dial with meticulous applied indices and a dead useful railroad track minute marker. The dial’s printed logo and performance boasts are perfectly balanced. All ruined by a date wart.
The date magnifier is NBD in the official product shots. It balances out the 6, 9 and 12 indices and disappears into the anti-reflective sapphire crystal. Out in the real world, unless you’re looking directly down on the cyclops, it’s an abomination.
I know: plenty of horophiles welcome the date wart, as per Rolex. I view it as the equivalent of a huge spoiler on the back of an attractive sports car (downforce be damned).
How different, how wonderful the intertwined “RailRoad” initials on the end of the second hand would look if the date wart didn’t clamor for attention. How much more the entire design would gel. Sigh.
That said, I’m completely on board with the Ball Engineer III Pioneer’s funky main indices.
They’re a bit goofy in a built-out-of-matchsticks kinda way, but the 28 micro gas tubes are a lot less objectionable than the humongous versions standing proud on the DeepQUEST II. And all is forgiven when the lights go out, when the Pioneer becomes a horological tyger tyger burning bright.
The Pioneer’s “we don’t need no stinkin’ recharge” always-on lume makes the watch more legible in the dark than in the daylight. If you’re looking for a timepiece that throws shade on Rolex’s Chromalight, it pays to be on the Ball.
Sure you’ll need a new dial in 25 years, when the tubes’ tritium electrons cease emitting. But you’ll be so old by then health complaints will make the issue seem minor in comparison. Meanwhile, the Ball Engineer III Pioneer will be providing faithful service.
A miniature Mu-metal Farrady cage shields the the watch from magnetic fields up to 80,000A/m (the same resistance afforded by a Rolex Milgauss).
Ball’s patented SpringLOCK anti-shock system protects against impacts up to 5000 G’s. Combined with other Ball technology, there’s no need to worry about the longevity of the Pioneer’s caliber BALL RR1103-C (base ETA 2482-2) movement.
The Timegrapher pegged our review Pioneer’s accuracy between +4 and +5 seconds per day – within the COSC-certified Chronometer required −4/+6 seconds per day standard. With its logo-enhanced screw-down crown, the Pioneer provides 100m water resistance and a 38-hour power reserve.
All of which makes the 40mm X 12.45mm Ball Engineer III Pioneer suitable for work, rest or play. It’s not a Rolex, but it feels like a Rolex. And it brick shit houses like a Rolex.
Needless to say, the Pioneer costs a lot less than a six-grand-and-up Rolex. We’re talking $1899 msrp. New Jersey’s River Edge Jewelers is talking a box fresh Pioneer for $1239. At that price, the Ball Engineer III Pioneer is a slam dunk.
Case: 40mm X 12.5mm, screw-down crown
Material: 904L stainless steel
Crystal: Anti-reflective sapphire
Movement: Automatic caliber BALL RR1103-C, Chronometer certified COSC
Lume: 28 micro gas tubes (on hour, minute and second hands and dial)
Shock resistance: 5,000Gs
Weight: 6.1 ounces
Water resistance: 100m/330ft
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * *
A wonderfully minimalist watch dinged by a date wart.
Legibility * * * * *
A wonderfully minimalist dial dinged by a date wart.
Comfort * * * * *
Hefty (in a good way); the same 904L steel used by Rolex is a silken delight.
Overall * * * * *
A rock solid restrained timepiece with awesome lume for a bargain price.
TTAW is a fully independent watch website. Ball lent this watch for review. No other consideration provided.