Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Long Term With The Ball Fireman

I’ve had the pleasure of spending about 2 ½ years with my Ball Fireman 43mm and thought I’d pass on some of my long term impressions of the watch. The fireman is one of the mainstays of my collection and really falls somewhere between a dress and sport watch. I purchased mine on the leather strap and wish I had gotten it on a bracelet, but at the time I made my purchase I wasn’t able to get the blue numerals with a bracelet. I’ve since put the watch on a color keyed silicon strap after trying some other rubber combinations and find this to be a great match.

Let’s get the specifications out of the way: (shamelessly cribbed from Ball Watch USA)

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Sweep Seconds, DateCase: Stainless Steel, Diameter: 43mm, Height: 11.1mm Bezel: PlainGlass: Anti-Reflection Convex Sapphire CrystalCrown: Screwed Type3H Gas Light: 16 Micro Gas Tubes on Hour, Minute, Second Hands and Dial for Night Reading Capability. Movement: Automatic Calibre ETA 2824-2Band: Stainless Steel Bracelet or Calf LeatherWater Resistant: 100m / 330 ft.Shock Resistant: Withstand 5,000Gs Shock Test Dial: Black with Orange, Yellow or Blue Accent

I suppose we need to talk about the tubes to begin. What can be said about the micro gas tubes? They glow strong and long and allow maximum legibility under zero light conditions. Part of my attraction to this particular model was the fact it only had 16 tubes and didn’t include tubes in the numerals. This gives the watch a very conventional and classy look. In my opinion some of the Ball models just look too overtly tube based, especially when the tubes are incorporated into the numeral on the dial, giving them a rather blocky appearance. Suffice it to say the 16 tubes provide plenty of light for reading. In fact, this is one of the few watches my wife has ever acknowledged as being cool. I distinctly remember her commenting n it as we tucked my young daughter into bed one night some time back. She actually said, “Cool watch” and believe me while she is understanding about this hobby, she is mostly ambivalent about my timepieces. Some might argue the tubes on a Luminox or Traser might glow brighter and I don’t think I would argue that point as my Traser Unterwasser has tubes that just beam, but the Fireman provides more than enough light for reading the time in zero light.

Many might classify the Fireman’s dial as military style, but it’s never given me that vibe. The dial itself, while matte still has a touch of luster giving it depth and character. The dial has tubes at five minute increments with 12:00 being occupied by two tubes. In addition each tube/indice is marked by a blue accent with the 12 and 6 Arabic’s also being the same hue. I believe Ball offered the accents in both orange and yellow along with the blue. The date at 3:00 might look tougher with a black date wheel. The hands are thick sword style with tubes. They are painted black at the axis and then abruptly become white for maximum contrast which again equate to high legibility. The seconds hand features a tube and at its tail the Ball RR logo adds a touch of historic class. This neat arrangement resides under a flat “convex” sapphire which has AR on the inside. The crystal practically disappears making one want to dive right in the inky dial. This dial is handsome, simple, and elegant with a touch of utility. At 43mm with very little bezel, the dial is large without being monstrous, allowing the wearer plenty of presence without being too in your face.

The case and crown on the watch are nothing short of amazing at the asking price. The case is brushed in finish and has held up amazingly well showing little to no wear. The lugs are generous and curve gently downward making the fireman extremely comfortable to those with even the daintiest of wrists. The case sides are stepped from the lugs which make it subtly refined and rich. The case steps up to the bezel adding another layer of dimension to the case. I often find myself caressing the case side and lugs as I find the gentle curve of the case and lugs mildly intoxicating. All this finished with and intriguing caseback design which speaks to the railroad heritage of the Ball brand.

The ETA 2824 is set by the use of a generous crown. The crown build and operation are the equivalent of watches costing double the asking price of this Ball. The crown is finished nicely with ridges for easy grasping and the Ball RR logo. The crown screws in and all functions operate smoothly as surely with no slop whatsoever.
The 2824 has proven to be a stalwart and though I haven’t ever opened the case, my assumption is this is a high grade movement as it has broken in nicely and run darn near within COSC spec. I really couldn’t ask for more in this regard.
The supplied strap perfectly fit the 21mm lugs and came equipped with a beefy tang clasp. As I am a bit of a sweater and was wearing the strap roughly I’ve long since swapped it out for aftermarket numbers in 22mm. I favor rubber and silicon on the Fireman which may detract from the somewhat dressy side of the watch, but I find this allows me to give the watch much more use. With its screwdown crown and overall quality build, I find the Fireman a perfect companion that I can wear with little regard to preserving it.
I’ve described the watch in detail but let me tell you what I really think. Simply put, the Ball Fireman was well wroth what I paid for it, and I bought it well. The fit and finish and quality of the build of the watch and components are easily on a par with watches which might be defined a luxury watches. This is a finely made Swiss timepiece and should be cherished as such. I also find the 43mm size to be ideal for my 7.25 wrist. This is a large watch which really never appears so. Its size is subtle and the case remains thin at about 11mm so the fireman never overpowers the wearer. This is a watch which would be right at home on the large or small wrested among us. Performance and durability have been outstanding again rivaling the best Swiss timepieces. I’ve still got about three months left on the warranty (Ball offered and additional year upon registering your watch) and can’t imagine I’ll need to test Ball’s warranty service.
I find myself wanting another Ball (always best to have a pair of Balls), but often I’m thrown by the other designs Ball has come out with. Some are too “Ballish” for me while others puzzle me like the models featuring 2836 movements with split day/date. I like the Aviator and Aviator GMT but most often I simply find myself quite contented by the Fireman.


Anonymous said...

快樂是你與生俱來的權力,它不應該取決於你完成什麼。 ..................................................

線位未來 said...


magal said...

You contributed to my decision to bid on an orange Ball Fireman 43mm(pre owned)
on e-bay and I won! Now I am waiting for delivery. Can't wait actualy!

jrexgis said...

this precious timepiece just fills the room with awe.. it glamorous looks adds up to the wearer's appeal.

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