What do you get when you combine a large, sporty dive-style case with a skeletonized mechanical movement? Something like this Ballast Valiant ref. BL-3105-02 watch. A piece like this doesn’t fit into any of the traditional watch categories and that is because this, my friend, is what we call a fashion watch. Does that make it bad? No. It just means that it isn’t the type of thing hardcore watch nerds will gravitate to. Though it does have the type of appeal to make sense for all those other less ardently geeky watch lovers who are interesting in “timepiece fun.”
Yes, what I am describing is actually the majority of watch lovers out there. These aren’t the people who carefully weigh the pros and cons of a Rolex versus an Omega, nor are they particularly well versed in the operation of a mechanical movement. These are the people who watch overly enthusiastic sales people hawk Invicta watches on television and think that the watch sales counter at their local department store is where to find the best in horological novelties. And if there is anything I can do for them it is to prevent them from buying a Stauer or Stuhrling watch.
Enter Ballast, which, for the money, isn’t too bad. Bloomingdale’s carries them and if you are looking for a novel-looking, yet somehow familiar large men’s sports watch, it is a viable option. I actually happened to really like this Valiant model with the skeletonized Japanese mechanical movement. It isn’t a daily wear for me, but I know a watch like this is prone to get more comments than most of my “historically accurate” dive watches.
The larger tonneau style case combines a range of aesthetic styles from pilot to dive watch. The screw-down crown protector is a feature made famous by the likes of Invicta but is actually from early dive watches–apparently Russian ones. You unscrew the large cap like a canteen top and the actual crown (which is much smaller) is inside of it. The idea was to improve water resistance, but it is mostly a vestigial style element as this watch is water resistant to 100 meters.
If there is anything I really appreciate, it is the crispness of the dial and decent level of legibility. The hour markers are lumed and easy to see, while the hands are legible enough (despite being too short). Actually, Ballast would have makes the hands longer but it would have required them to further increase the thickness of the case. At 47.2mm wide the watch is large, but in a way that fits with a lot of modern fashion sport watches. While this particular model is a steel case with a rose gold PVD coating, there are also brushed steel or black variants.
Ballast makes a range of Valiant models with both quartz and mechanical movements. I would suggest sticking with the mechanical models as the quartz dials aren’t as impressive (though they do offer an additional timezone). In my opinion if you are going to go with a fashion watch it should look good–and for the money this Valiant model is fun and interesting.