You could be forgiven for taking a first look at Ball Watch Company’s new Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II USA Edition and thinking that you’ve seen this colorful design before. The Ball representative who showed it to me acknowledged up front the influence of Rolex’s famous GMT-Master on this model, but take a closer look and you’ll find that this sporty travelers’ watch offers up some of its own unique charms.
To start with the basics: the 42-mm stainless steel case is designed, like those of most timepieces from this Swiss-made, American-born brand, for toughness in trying conditions: water resistance to 100 meters, impact resistance to 7,500 Gs, antimagnetic resistance to 4,800 A/m, and sealed by the maker’s patented crown protection system. The case is attached to a tapered steel bracelet with a folding buckle with extension (also patented), with a rubber strap with standard buckle also available. The 24-hour bidirectionally rotating GMT bezel, in the red-and-blue “Pepsi” colorway that first debuted on Rolex’s iconic aviator watch, is here made of scratch-resistant sapphire (it’s ceramic on contemporary versions of the GMT-Master) and also boasts Ball’s most emblematic element, micro-gas tubes filled with tritium to illuminate the numerals. Tritium, used by Ball and very few other watch brands, glows brighter and longer than Super-LumiNova, the luminous substance used on most watch dials.
Speaking of dials, the dark blue one on the AeroGMT II, is notably different from its ancestor in that it features a 24-hour scale rather than a more conventional 12-hour scale. (There is a 12-hour track surrounding the main dial on the flange.) Potentially, this arrangement allows for viewing not just two but three time zones at once: the home time via the red-tipped GMT hand, the local time on the main hands, and the time in a destination city on the 24-hour bezel. The micro-gas tubes are used liberally on the dial as well, glowing yellow on the main hands and hour markers with double tubes at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock; orange at the double 12 o’clock marker, and green on the GMT pointer as well as the bezel’s numerals. It can truly be said that the watch is actually more bright and colorful in the dark than in daylight.
Inside the case, behind a sapphire exhibition caseback, beats the Swiss-made automatic RR1201-C caliber, based on the ETA 2393-2 and chronometer-certified by COSC. Driving a date indication as well as the hours, minutes, central running seconds and the adjustable 24-hour GMT hand, it has a frequency of 28,800 vph and carries a 42-hour power reserve. The model, which Ball touts as “the world’s brightest-bezeled GMT aviator watch,” comes in the aforementioned bracelet options, along with an additional NATO strap. In case you’re wondering, yes, you will definitely not have to dig as deep into your wallet (nor, in all likelihood, wait as long on a list) for the Hydrocarbon Aero GMT II as you would for a Rolex GMT-Master: it’s priced at $3,449.