A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of owning a white dialed Rolex Explorer II. I very much loved it, but it was a tad on the small side. This NEW incarnation of the Explorer II with maxi dial and hands, also features a larger 42mm case, a trip-lock crown and much upgraded bracelet / clasp.
Here are a handful of excellent pictures for you:
And how about a couple of the black version:
The above pictures are courtesy of Canwatchco.com and if you are interested in these watches, they happen to be for sale here:
I remember the first time that I saw it. It was bigger than
anything I had ever seen. The most powerful I had ever seen. Let me tell you
all about it. I was 9 years old, it was a Tuesday morning around 8am and I was
woken-up by a deep rumble. I rushed down to find my parents, as I thought an
earthquake was happening, but the ground was not shaking, more like a soft
rumble, but it was getting louder!
For some reason my father was very excited and when he saw
me, he scooped me up in his powerful arms and asked “are you ready to see
something special?” I said sure, but I told him that the rumbling was making me
scared. He smiled and said “come on, grab your coat”, so I did.
We headed outside where the rumbling was more pronounced and
it did not seem to bother my father, in fact it seemed to make him walk faster.
I struggled to keep up. Then he stopped and pointed. I looked in the direction he
was aiming and all I could see was a far away locomotive coming our way. My
I could not understand why. We have seen countless
locomotives come by our property on their way to Ogden, Utah, what was so
special about this one. So I asked my father why he was so excited, he said
“You’ll see Son...” I wondered if the rumbling had something to do with this
locomotive. It couldn’t possibly be the locomotive; it was way too far to be
making the ground shake... or was it?
Now I was getting curious. As the locomotive was getting
closer the rumbling became louder. It was the locomotive! How was that possible?
It was still pretty far away! My excitement started to match that of my
father’s and I could start making out the front of the locomotive. It sure
looked tall. A few moments later, I tried to count the wheels and... Well, it
wasn’t possible... This locomotive was impossibly long...
Oh my gosh! It was now close enough to count and I couldn’t
believe my eyes. It had a 4 wheel leading truck, then 8 giant drive wheels and
then 8 more, followed by 4 small wheels under the trailing truck. It was a
4-8-8-4! How could that be? I had never
seen anything like it in any of the railroad books my father liked to collect.
My father saw the awe in my eyes and that is when he told me
all about it. This was an American Locomotive Company 4000-Class 4-8-8-4
articulated, coal-fired steam locomotive. It was over 130 feet long and it
weighed a total of 1,250,000 lbs, with its tender. Yes, ONE MILLION TWO HUNDRED
AND FIFTY THOUSAND pounds! It is no wonder they nicknamed it “Big Boy”.
I will never forget that day.
“I love it when you tell me that story Grandpa!” said little
Johnny “Will we get to see a Big Boy at the Train Museum tomorrow?” We sure
are, the 4014, but it won’t be there for much longer. “How come?” asked Johnny,
sounding a little sad. Well, they are going to restore it and maybe someday
this amazing railway giant will come back to life! “Will you take me to see it
when it does Grandpa?” Yes, I sure will Johnny, I sure will...
The above story is fiction, but I can imagine how it must
have been to see these gargantuan locomotives in action. There were a total of
25 of them in service for the Union Pacific and they really are restoring the
4014. To find out more about this
project, click on the following link:
The subject of this review is the Ball Watch commemoration
to this great locomotive and funny enough; an engraving of the 4014 is on its
case back! I say funny, as it is completely serendipitous that is exact locomotive
is being restored and also featured on the commemoration watch. Here is what
Jeff Hess, CEO of Ball Watch USA, had to say about it:
“We just "got
I was scouting around for cool projects and came
across this iconic Locomotive called "the Big Boy". One of our sales
execs told me his dad was V.P. of Union Pacific. He introduced me to his dad,
one thing led to another and I thought what a cool name for a 46 mm watch. We
made a deal with the U/P/R/R and created the watch.
THEN the news came out a few months later that
the SAME locomotive from the museum was going to be restored for USE!
Now I have owned, photographed and reviewed countless Ball
watches... yes, how sad is that, I have lost count. That being said, this one
has to be one of the most special ones. It is part of the Engineer Master II
line-up and shares so many design features with its cousins, but it is distinct
enough to be a standalone Limited Edition. In fact, it is limited to 999 pieces
and mine is 30/999.
Now I know what you are thinking... it is a Pilot`s watch.
Yes, yes it is, but is it not perfect for a railroad watch? It is large, clean,
accurate and easy to read in all lighting conditions. What more can you ask
for? I bet if you were to go back in time (using your steam-powered flux
capacitor) and show an old time railway man a pilots watch, he would think it
was brilliant! As do I! After all, what is important is the quick / precise
reading of time and this design achieves this goal with flying colors, pun
Now on with the review.
CASE & BEZEL
The entire 46mm wide case is made of brushed stainless
steel. It is generously curved and it shares the same bezel configuration with
all the others in this line. It is rather difficult to explain, but this is my
6th Ball Watch within this family and all I can say is you know it
is an Engineer Master II just by looking at it. Just like all the Fireman have
the same design cues, as do the hydrocarbon and all the other lines.
There is something about it that makes you think this is a
refined watch and that someone took a lot of time carefully brushing all its
surfaces. This is not a cookie-cutter case by any stretch of the imagination.
Someone took the time and methodically brushed each surface, all the angles and
crafted this case with great care. There are no sharp edges, rough corners or
As previously mentioned the screw-down case back is
decorated with the engraving of the Big Boy 4014 locomotive. In fact, it is an
exact rendering of the 4014 on display in Southern California, including the
staircase that allows visitors to pear inside its great belly. The signed crown
is also screwed-down and the whole is water-resistant to 100m. While this is
not a dive watch rating, it is still plenty enough to allow for swimming. It is
also anti-magnetic thanks to the soft iron inner cage that surrounds the movement.
CRYSTAL, DIAL & HANDS
The giant crystal that covers the dial is ever so slightly
domed and coated with anti-reflective material on the inside. The latter helps
reduce some of the glare, but not all reflections. The dial is very clean and
lacks the inner hour chapter ring the Aviator features, instead the Ball Watch
branding is larger and just above the 6 o’clock marker there is an applied
Union Pacific logo. This is not just some painted on logo, there is actually
some depth to it that is very difficult to capture on camera.
The hands are very large and long enough to reach the minute
track, which is a pet-peeve of mine. Nothing frustrates me more than enormous
dial real-estate and tiny hands. Luckily there is nothing to complain about
Speaking of nothing to complain about, let us talk about
lume, shall we? This is a T-100 watch, thus it glows like Chernobyl! Now I am not going to get into the T-25 vs.
T-100 thing, as it has been beaten to death and you can find tons of material
on the subject. Google is your friend. This watch is a ton of fun in the dark! You
can actual read by the light of the dial.
My only complaint about the dial is that I wish the date
wheel’s colors were inverted; white writing on black background, instead of the
reverse. It would have offset the printing on the other side of the dial and it
would have given it a more balanced look. I find this is a issue with many Ball
watches and I truly wonder why they do not do anything about it.
This watch houses the ever popular ETA 2836, which is basically
a day-date version of the ETA 2824. Again, Google is your friend. Many more
qualified people have written up these workhorse movements, so if you need more
details do a little search-a-roo and you will find more information that you
can shake a stick at.
As for the performance, mine has been a consistent +4
seconds / day since day one. No breaking in period, nothing. Just bang on solid
performance. This is terrific, as it is not COSC certified and it just goes to
show that Ball must regulate their watches before sending them out. I have
owned a tremendous amount of timepieces with these movements and not all are
created equal, I assure you.
Unlike Ball’s Aviator watches, I prefer this one on its
steel bracelet. In fact, I find the bracelet design very railroad inspired, with
alternating lines on the inner and outer links. It is perfect for this watch
and somewhat “odd” on the Pilot’s watches, which should be worn on leather. It
is thick and extremely supple, with screws for adjusting the size. The
end-links are solid, like on all Ball Watches and the clasp a hidden
double-deployant, which is very comfortable to wear.
I feel this bracelet goes with this watch just like a nice
chain goes with a railroad pocket-watch. It is the perfect combination for this
tribute watch, in my opinion of course.
Ball Watch has recently made many successful Limited Edition
railroad inspired watches, like the Canadian Railway Time Service and many
others, but to my knowledge, this is the first outside of the Fireman collection.
This move is quite a step up, as the Engineer Master II collection is much more
refined and there is quite a bit more attention to detail.
I truly feel this is a worthy tribute for this incredible locomotive
and just like Johnny in the story above; I look forward to the day the Big Boy
runs again. Until then, I will proudly wear my Ball Watch Big Boy and smile
every time I look for the time.
By the way, the tiny arm in the above wrist shot is that of my 10 year old son Alexi. After reading the prologue story he wants to go back to the Exporail Museum again. It would be our third visit.