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8n249015anthraciteBallastcanteen crowngreymiyotatrafalgar

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Ballast Watches are a part of Dartmouth Brands, which also own Avi-8, Spinnaker, Thomas Earnshaw and Duxot to name a few. Browsing the site, there’s very little information about the brand itself; there’s no story or inspiration behind it. Whilst it would have been a load of baloney anyway, it’s a surprise to me that they’ve not even bothered. 

These two watches are the BL-3135 (slate grey, $750 / ~£535) and BL-3134 (anthracite, $520 / ~£370), both of which are part of the Trafalgar collection. One of the most recognisable features of this range is the canteen crown guard reminiscent of U-Boat watches, with a cap that screws over the crown which is attached to the case via a small articulating arm. However, that’s not the most noteworthy part of the watch. 

The crown isn’t actually a crown. In fact, the crown is just a pusher, and the bezel acts as the crown. What, I hear you say?

The Trafalgar collection features patented bezel control engineering, which is interesting to use. Once you’ve removed the crown guard cap, you push in the button, and then you simply rotate the bezel to set the time. Once you’re done, you press in a disc on the side of the case at 3 to push the crown button back out, and put the cap back on. 

Ingenious? Yes. Does it make setting the watch interesting? Sure does. Is it worth the money? At full RRP, I don’t feel it is. Personally, I’d prefer a standard crown within the canteen guard and a cheaper watch. 

At $750 / ~£535, the slate grey is my favoured out of the two; not only for overall looks but also the fact that it’s a stone cool blasted titanium case. The anthracite at $520 / ~£370 offers better value for money, but I’m just not as keen on it. In any case, both house unspecified “Japanese movements” according to the site, but more on them later.

They’re not a particularly easy wear for me and my 7” wrist. The diameter is large in itself at 47mm, but that doesn’t take into account the oversized canteen crown guard. 

The watches come loaded with a supremely thick and high-quality leather strap and feature a heavy-duty pre-v style buckle which has a hollowed-out top bar with a silhouette of a submarine. Of course. 

There’s a plaque on the side of the case opposite the crown, which appears to be not only real but secured in place with proper screws. Often these plaques are completely fake, but these look and feel like the real deal. 

The slate grey dial heavily features a turbine-style disc where the date window is. There are some epic raised hour markers at 1, 3, 5, 7 and 11 which raise right to the crystal; and indeed, there is great depth all over. The big Ballast logo counterweight on the seconds hand draws the eye, whilst the blue section provides a splash of colour and matches the bezel insert.

The anthracite dial is all about that amber window to the skeletonised movement. I appreciate it, as I always love seeing movements, but I am not too keen on the colour; it looks too much like faux patina / aged glass and just doesn’t look right to me. Apart from that, it’s a great balance of being detailed and interesting, yet simple – with an array of screws, pips and applied elements. 

Both watches have an interesting knurled rehaut surrounding and framing the dial with detail. 

The bezel grip is very good and easy to use. Interestingly, whilst the watch is in standard mode, you can rotate the bezel anti-clockwise to hand-wind it. The colour-matched bezel insert is also eye-catching and tastefully done.

Finally, the movements. Ballast doesn’t specify what they are, but after some digging, I believe the movement found within the slate grey is the Miyota 9015 (https://miyotamovement.com/product/9015/), whilst the Miyota 8N24 Gilt (https://miyotamovement.com/product/8N24+Gilt/) is in the anthracite. Neither of these movements exudes top quality, but they are rustic with very good reputations, particularly the 9015, which has a high beat rate of 28.8k bph (8 ticks per second) and demands a higher price. It is good to see proper custom rotors too – the turbine rotor on the slate grey is particularly impressive, especially when it starts to spin. Both movements have clearly been regulated and are impressively accurate; the Slate grey running at +5.3 sec/day; the Anthracite at +2.8 sec/day.

Final comments

I’ve had these watches for a little while, and I’ve not really been excited enough by them to rush into a review. The patented bezel control is a great feature, and I applaud Ballast for creating something with genuine ingenuity. However, the price is higher than expected and the overall build quality leaves some to be desired. Whilst they’re ultimately very interesting watches with a lot going on and a lot to appreciate, I don’t find myself excited by them. If you can find one on offer, then it would be a good buy, but at full RRP, I’d rather spend my money on something else.

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