Ballast timepieces is in the business of creating big, bold timepieces that are inspired by naval history, particularly historic icons like submarines captained by the Royal Navy. aBlogtoWatch previously reviewed the Ballast Valiant BL-3105 here, and now we’d like to discuss the new Ballast Trafalgar BL-3133 watch.
A little brand history before we get into the Trafalgar, Ballast timepieces was not the first to use submarines as an inspiration, but the brand is certainly unique in their affinity towards positioning themselves on the historical side of the Royal Navy. Ballast’s personality seems to be the more disruptive narrative of the Royal Navy. To quote some of the marketing blurb…
“Over hundreds of years of service, the Submarines and submariners of the Royal Navy have evolved from being regarded as renegades ‘underhanded, unfair, and damned un-English’ to being regarded as a crucial part of the country’s Naval Defense. It is this, remarkable match of man and machine a harmony of courage that Ballast Trafalgar celebrates.”
The New Ballast Trafalgar BL-3133 timepiece features a patented bezel control system which is used to both manually wind the mainspring of the automatic movement, and more critically, the bezel is used to set both time and date as opposed to the crown which normally handles both of these tasks. Using the outer structure of the case as part of the adjustment mechanism harkens back to submarine clocks and timers that had to be opened from the front to be adjusted. To that, we think the “bezel geared” mechanism is a novel, though retro-inspired, and innovative detail for the Ballast Trafalgar BL-3133.
While the Ballast Trafalgar BL-3133 at first glance looks relatively straightforward and familiar, re-engineering the gears under the bezel means the case is pretty intricate and complicated on the inside. At the same time, it’s possible to draw the parallel to a working submarine, which looks sleek and smooth on the outside but on the inside is a complex yet robust wiring of mechanics, electronics, and navymen.
Operating the bezel is straightforward but still quite ingenious. After removing the canteen crown – which has some cool detailing on it indicating the ability to use the outer bezel to “adjust” – a setter needs to be pressed and thereafter the bezel is engaged. Turning the bezel in either direction moves the date wheel, which is visible through the dial. Pushing the setter all the way down activates the hour and minute hands.
This entire process is an interesting and cool feature and eradicates any fiddling with the crown, where especially on canteen crown-type watches the crown can be annoyingly small and require perfect nails to lift from the case.
The Miyotas are utterly reliable and a sensible choice for a watch like this. The Ballast Trafalgar BL-3133 is powered by the Miyota 8215, 21-jewel automatic caliber. This movement beats at 21,600vph and provides a power reserve of over 50 hours with an accuracy of -20/+40 seconds per day. The movement is visible via the see-through exhibition caseback which has the faintest etched Ballast “B” logo on the underside of the lens for a subtle piece of branding.
The canteen lock is made of 10 separate pieces that are plated and add extra protection for the setter button. The case and construction of the Ballast Trafalgar BL-3133 provides an example of how great the build quality is. It’s a contemporary size at a little over 46mm on the wrist. There are also intriguingly subtle and explicit references to the inspiration and roots of the Ballast Trafalgar BL-3133. A nice nod to the Royal Navy is evident immediately from the left side of the watch with the motto of the submarine service, “We come unseen,” carefully affixed by screws to the case.
We also note a great deal of detailing, from the inner ring, which has a slanted coin-edge detailing to the canteen crown and its various screws. The plating combinations, featuring IP black, rose gold, and stainless steel work well together and blend with the leather strap.
The strap itself is robust, yet supple, hand-painted and tanned in Italy with a sturdy cross stitch pattern to it. The submarine silhouette buckle, which is normally an aftermarket addition for Panerai fans, comes standard and works well to tie the submarine motifs together. While the strap is affixed for a strong, snug fit, it is also easily removed by a self-removable spring bar for future customization and versatility.Overall, there’s no doubt that the Ballast Trafalgar BL-3133 is a unique timepiece and the standout feature has to be the patented bezel mechanism, which offers the collector a lot of watch for a sensible retail of US$499.