Ball is back with a new addition to their Roadmaster collection, the Icebreaker. The brand known for tritium tubes and ties to railroad timing has branched out in its current incarnation to more modern aesthetics, and the Icebreaker has a contemporary sports watch look as well as a few other bits of added value both on the surface and just beneath it. Let’s take a closer look.
Ball Roadmaster Icebreaker
Case Material: 904L Stainless steel
Dial: Black, Blue, White
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Crown: Screw down
Movement: Automatic caliber BALL RR1702-C (chronometer-certified) or BALL RR1702, both based on the ETA 2897
Strap/bracelet: Stainless steel bracelet
Price: $1,799 or $2,049 (for COSC certified version)
Expected Release: Shipping in early 2020
Described by Ball as “the ultimate explorer’s watch,” the Icebreaker shares more than a some product description copy with watches made iconic by the Crown. The big news here is Ball’s use of 904L steel, long used by Rolex in their sports watch lineup. This type of steel offers some tangible benefits over the much more common (and still industry standard) 316L variety. 904L steel is known to be more resistant to corrosion over time, and has a subtle but noticeable difference in look and feel. The higher grade steel is said to take a polish better than 316L, making it easier to remove small scratches that are bound to happen over time, while maintaining a lustrous appearance almost akin to a precious metal. More than anything though, it’s simply a more robust and stronger steel, completely fitting for a watch designated as one for the explorer.
Ball is producing the Icebreaker in two versions, one with and one without a COSC-certified movement ($1,799 for the standard movement, $2,049 for the chronometer). Chronometer certification ensures a level of precision timekeeping that is to a higher and more specific standard than the base caliber ETA 2897 leaves the factory with, but it should be said that the standard movement without COSC certification is no slouch, and has a reputation for performing well. Either way, Ball has included a power reserve indicator that spans between 5:00 and 8:00. It’s slightly asymmetrical, but with a date window at 3:00 it offers an offbeat balance to the dial. Some purists will scoff at a power reserve indicator on an automatic watch, but for a collector wearing this watch as part of a rotation, it’s actually a useful complication.
The overall aesthetics of the Icebreaker are somewhat sober. There isn’t a flashy design element here — it’s just a simple, no frills (besides the power reserve indicator) sports watch. With large baton-style tritium tube indices, the watch should be highly legible in a variety of conditions. Available in blue, black, and white dial variants, there’s a choice for any taste, and the way the lugs angle directly into the bracelet gives it the look of old school sports watches with integrated bracelet-and-lug designs. In my estimation, though, the real draw here is the use of 904L steel. Not just in the case, but on the bracelet as well. This will be a highly durable watch that should also feel a good bit more luxurious than the same watch made in 316L.
The Ball Roadmaster Icebreaker is available for pre-order until September 4, and watches are expected to ship between January and February 2020, just in time for some actual icebreaking. Ball
Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.