b a c k g r o u n d Established in Cleveland, Ohio in 1891 by Webb C. Ball, a man whose system set the standard for railroads in those days, helping to establish accuracy and uniformity in their timekeeping, Ball Watch are one of the United State's most respected and established watch brands. Today, though they can be found more than 4'000 miles away nestled in the heart of Swiss watch making territory in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, where their neighbors include two fellow pioneers of the deep, Breitling and Girard-Perregaux.
With a history steeped in the American railroad system it would seem pretty unlikely that Ball Watch would become one of only a handful of Swiss watch companies to produce a mechanical diver capable of 3000 meters or more. However in 2006, when champion free diver Guillaume Néry joined the BALL Explorers Club they began a renewed focus on diving instruments that has lead them to this point, where they are currently known for producing high quality, well priced Swiss made divers, and which ultimately culminated in the production of the DeepQUEST.
PACKAGING The DeepQUEST comes in a black water-proof case of the type made by Pelican Hardigg™ (FYI these companies have now merged). This type of packaging has become very popular with purveyors of dive watches and is used by everyone from Blancpain to Timex. It’s extremely durable, it protects its contents from shocks, dust and moisture and it looks cool.
s a f e t y f i r s t Also included in the box along with the watch’s credit card-type warranty card and its CD instruction manual was a professional inflatable ‘diver-down’ buoy. There seems to be a certain element of tongue-in-cheek with the inclusion of this item because if truth be known only a fraction of Ball’s DeepQUEST customers will find any practical purpose for it. Also, it contributes to about half of the total weight of the box’s contents. I appreciate the sentiment, but would have much preferred the inclusion of a rubber divers strap along with the necessary strap changing tools - things that the owner could really benefit from.
AESTHETIC While the design of the DeepQuest is sleek it also posses those desirable tank-like qualities that we have come to expect from our deep divers. It’s a fairly formidable looking beast, but has plenty enough refinement to satisfy those of us who require our Swiss made divers to look so! Apart from some polished detailing on the bezel and the HEV the watch has a matte finish.
As an item of jewelry the polishing serves its purpose, accentuating the lines and proportions of the bezel and the left lateral side of the watch in the case of the HEV. As a diving instrument it serves little purpose, and that isn't because I believe shiny watches attract the unwanted attentions of potentially aggressive fish as some might have you believe, but because (imho) to achieve a purely utilitarian aesthetic there shouldn’t be any polished surfaces anywhere.
CASE Ø 43mm x 19mm (height) The DeepQUEST has a monobloc case; meaning that it has been constructed from a single block of metal; the construction of which reduces any potential weakness that could be liable to warping from the effects of extreme water pressure. In this instance the case has been CNC machined from Grade 5 Titanium [video]. G5 Ti is known as the workhorse of the titanium, as it is the most commonly used of all titanium alloys. It is widely used in both aerospace and medical industries.
Apart from its physical properties, it is also hypoallergenic; meaning that it won’t react with human skin to cause irritations, as can happen with steel. Another cool benefit of G5 Ti is that its natural oxidization process can improve its surface wear properties, so that light scratches and swirls can repair themselves over time. On the downside - deeper scratches might look a little more obvious!
b e z e l This is a 120 click-type unidirectional rotational divers bezel with elapsed dive-time scale in SuperLuminova and a luminous 12hr marker. The bezel has wonderful ergonomics thanks to its generous height and the eight widely spaced screw-fixings between each of which are these large piano key-like polished bezel teeth. The movement is a little ratchet-like as it grinds round its cycle; something that is not uncommon with Titanium bezels in my experience.
SafetyDIVE® This is a new BALL Watch patented dive-time setting system that allows the diver to count down their immersion time to half a minute. Sounds cool, but isn’t this just fancy terminology for a 120 click system? Well not quite, because what Ball have been able to engineer and patent is a precise arrangement allowing each click to fall just in front of a minute or half-minute index. That’s some precision engineering – I’m just not sure of its practical use, though.
He v a l v e Another special feature of the watch case is its integrated helium release valve. Rather than have it fit flush with the case side as is commonly done with automatic HEVs, Ball have made a bit of a feature of it by designing the center of the case side where the valve opening is to protrude out a little. As mentioned earlier it has been polished.
c r o w n g u a r d A rather distinguished feature of the watch is its long protruding crown guard which proudly pushes out from the side of the case like the mouth piece of a divers regulator.
c r o w n The crown has been engraved with a ship's wheel (shouldn’t that have been the wheel of a submarine hatch?). It has been designed to allow for the best possible grip by using a similar design to that of the bezel teeth. It has good stability and a smooth operation thanks to a wide stem and overall circumference. There’s something quite reassuring about a nicely engineered crown system, this is one.
c r y s t a l The DeepQUEST is fitted with a 5.3mm thick sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on its inside. The AR has a blue tint that can be seen when it catches the light on occasion – otherwise it gives the crystal added clarity by minimizing reflections. There is usually a certain amount of distortion from domed crystals when viewed from more oblique angles however their lovely aesthetics make up for this. Its shape also helps to resist the extreme pressures from the 300bar of pressure that it has been certified to.
c a s e b a c k No divers’ helmets, seahorses or sharks here! At the center of its caseback, the DeepQUEST features an engraving of a world geographic map along with some text. I guess it depends on how you look at it, but for me, I am reminded of the fact that ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface. Because the watch has a monobloc construction the caseback has no opening.
WR 3000m, 10’000ft, 300bar The DeepQUEST is also shock resistance of up to 7,500Gs and anti-magnetic up to 4,800A/m. It is one of only a handful of Swiss made divers to have achieved a water-resistance of 3000 meters or more. It has done this by using a Titanium monobloc case construction, which minimizes entry points (the Achilles heel of any dive watch) into the watch case to a single point, the crown. As well as this the watch is fitted with a 5.3mm thick domed sapphire crystal, which must be removed along with bezel and dial to gain access to the watch’s inner workings.
I’ll share my thoughts on high depth ratings in the summary further on, but for now I shall say this - higher-depth ratings require watch cases to be far more robust. This typically means thicker casebacks and crystals with better seals for entry points, resulting in a watch that is not only better equipped to stand up to the rigors of an active life, but that is also a lot more masculine in its appearance. If you like big strong, manly looking watches, that’s the DeepQUEST. If you don’t, well then you’re probably not reading this review are you! ;)
DIAL The DeepQUEST comes with two dial options: matte black or silver with a sunburst effect. The dual layered dial is framed by a raised outer section with the hour and minute markers. The hour markers are polished, the minute markers are in white. Each of the hour markers is fitted with a tritium tube. There is some text on the dial [chronometer, automatic, 3000 meters] along with the Ball logo; despite this the dial remains clean. The date wheel is in white - there aren’t many instances where I would prefer a white date wheel on a black dial over a black one, this isn’t one of them.
h a n d s e t The matte black dial is complimented with a simple yet elegant polished sword handset with a sweep second hand with rectangular pointer and Ball monogram at its base. Each hand is fitted with a rectangular tritium gas tube.
LUME The DeepQUEST’s illumination system consists of 3 yellow micro gas tubes on the hour, minute and second hands, 11 blue (+ 1 red) patented rectangular micro gas tubes on the dial for night reading capabilities and green C3 SuperLumiNova, which has been used for the bezel’s dive-time scale. When it’s dark enough the tubes glow like crazy. They look stunning. The [lume] on the bezel has a particularly good application, it's bright and long lasting.
t u b e s They are 100 times more efficient than conventional luminescent paint and ensures perfect luminosity without the need of an external light source for almost half a century. Ball's patented design of the three-dimensional luminescent markers lights the dial up in blue, which is the last color that is visible when descending into the depths! I would rate the lume at very good.
BRACELET I could write page upon page on the virtues of the DeepQUEST's bracelet. It boasts one of the nicest custom bracelets and buckle systems I have ever had the pleasure of using. First engineered by Ball in 2009 for the HC Spacemaster 333m, the bracelet features BALL's patented triple deployant buckle and extension systems, which means that the tapered stainless steel and titanium bracelet can be easily and safely worn even over a diving suit. It has been designed with comfort and strength in mind.
c l a s p When it was first developed for the Spacemaster its buckle's closure, which works with a mechanical lock could resist up to 1,400 Newtons of force - those figures were based on a steel buckle, the DeepQUEST's buckle is Titanium so is possibly even stronger! Opening and closing the buckle couldn't be simpler - depress the lovely Ball monogram signed button in the center of the clasp - et voila! Despite these impressive feats of engineering the buckle remains one of the watch's most attractive features. I would liken it to those of the JLC MC Divers, but if truth be known, the Ball buckle not only looks better, it works better, too. I wonder how much they are to buy on their own?
l u g s the DeepQUEST features dual 22mm drilled lugs that are connected to its bracelet via specialized screws. Ball have not specifically spoken about the decision to use dual screwed lug pins, but there's an obvious benefit - they're twice as strong!
MOVEMENT The DeepQUEST is powered by an automatic caliber ETA 2892, C.O.S. certified chronometer, which has been tested for fifteen days, in five positions, at three different temperatures. The average daily rate for a chronometer should be −4 - +6 seconds per day.
BUILD This is a precision engineered watch. The case as well as its components have been CNC machined, which allows for a perfect fit and finish. Everything on the watch is as it should be, from the tightly fitting bezel and crown to the crisp dial and highly accurate Swiss chronometer movement. It has been flawlessly executed and then subjected to stringent quality control.
FUNCTIONALITY Functions include: an illumination system with 15 colored micro gas tubes, a uni-directional rotational divers bezel with elapsed dive-time scale in Swiss Superluminova, an automatic HEV, a water-resistance of 3000m and an anti-magnetic shield up to 4,800A/m. The bracelet features a divers extension as well has a triple locking system. Time includes: hours, minutes, seconds and date.
o n t h e WRIST It’s difficult to be objective when it comes to how a dive watch wears because in the same way that some fashionable women will gladly suffer for the look of a pair of 'Jimmy Choos' - I will gladly suffer a 365gram block of steel on my wrist if it allows me to feel like Piccard or Cousteau. Despite this I am pleased report that the DeepQEUST weighs just 200grams and although it has a thickness of 19mm it sits very comfortably on my wrist. The downwardly curving lugs are one contributing factor, but the main reason the DeepQUEST wears so well is because of its Titanium construction.
VALUE The recommend retail price of the DeepQUEST is 4,099USD (bracelet) or 3,999USD (rubber). That’s a difference of just 100USD for the bracelet; you would have to be insane to buy the [rubber] strap version! You get a hell of a lot of watch for your money, which could also buy the equivalent Breitling 3000m diver - I wouldn’t say this is a better watch than the Breitling (they do have a certain amount of cachet that Ball don’t yet have), but in my opinion it comes across as more uniquely engineered deep dive watch. With the Breitling you get the feeling that its WR is incidental - with the DeepQUEST it’s all about its depth from the word go. In short the price is more than fair for what you get, but there are alternatives . . .
ALSO c o n s i d e r Actually there are currently only two other Swiss made 3000m Titanium constructed mechanicals. The Breitling Avenger Seawolf became the deepest ever production mechanical diver in 2002. It’s a fantastic watch with: Ti construction, 3000m WR and a C.O.S.C. certified chronometer. It has abysmal lume! They can be had on the secondary market for not too much money. Today the ASW has been updated with better lume; however it is no longer made from Ti and has instead been constructed from steel. MSRP is around 4’000USD.
The other, which has been in production now since 2004 is the Girard-Perregaux Sea Hawk II Pro. A stunningly beautiful watch also with: Ti construction and 3000m WR, but with a GP Manufacture movement. It has incredible lume! MSRP is around 15’000USD (bracelet) and 11000USD (rubber). If you want to buy its Ti bracelet as an additional accessory it will set you back around 5’000USD!!!
If you’re on more modest budget, H2O Watches of Germany have a very cool 3000m diver that also boasts a Titanium construction. The watch is powered by a Swiss mechanical, and is fully customizable. It sells online from H2O Watches for around 1200USD.
OVERALL r a t i n g / 5
The DeepQUEST is an exceptional dive watch. It looks exceptional, it feels exceptional, it has been exceptionally made. Ball have put a lot of thought and effort into developing a very capable extreme diving instrument that has a number of remarkable features and innovations. However it isn't any one of these features alone or even the sum of all of them that make the DeepQUEST so remarkable. It's the way in which they have been combined to create a watch that still feels so refined and elegant, and so damn comfortable to wear, too. It is possibly the most refined tritium diver on the market today. And if that isn't enough, consider also the incredible water-resistance that it boasts . . .
which I recognize that not everyone will appreciate, especially when you consider that the deepest diving humans haven’t reached much further than 300meters and that the average recreational scuba diver doesn’t go much deeper than 30 or 40 meters.
However for some of us they represent much more than just the big numbers displayed on the dials and casebacks. They enable us to have a direct and tangible link with the deep ocean; connecting us with a dark, hostile and alien world. An environment that is as fascinating and alluring as it is deadly. An environment that is still very much unexplored. We aren’t all pioneers of the deep or National Geographic explorers, but if the imagination will allow then perhaps we can for a moment or two journey into realms of the deep with the DeepQUEST - the perfect vessel in which to take us!