New BALL Roadmaster Icebreaker in 904L Steel Disrupting Rolex Perceptions?
The next model in the Ball Watch lineup is the Roadmaster Icebreaker. It is an automatic timepiece with a power reserve indicator at 6:00. Staying true to Ball DNA, the Icebreaker is packed with 15 flat tubes for all day timekeeping, even in the darkest conditions – such as an ice cave in Antarctica.
Most notable in their marketing of the Icebreaker is that this piece will be built with 904L stainless steel for “superior corrosion resistance, virtually indestructible strength and brilliant polish.” That’s right, now you can get a Ball watch in the same metal as a Submariner or Daytona, but without the two year waitlist or inflated prices.
“At BALL Watch Co., the pursuit of toughness is never-ending. The use of 904L grade stainless steel ensures that the Roadmaster Icebreaker is extremely durable in extreme conditions. Due to its extra amounts of chromium, molybdenum, nickel and copper, 904L steel features superior resistance to corrosion, rust and acids. While its unique hardness allows it to withstand extreme conditions, it also requires special machinery and production processes in order to be shaped. Visually, 904L grade steel has a beautifully high polish and ages exquisitely well. The implementation of 904L stainless steel only fortifies the strength and reliability of our watchmaking, as well as our unwavering desire to build the ultimate explorer’s watch.” –Ball Watch
Ball certainly isn’t the first non-Rolex company to use 904L steel, and the Roadmaster Icebreaker isn’t the first Ball watch to use 904L steel, but it is the first time we’ve seen a brand go this hard with marketing around it.
Ball’s move to start using 904L stainless steel is stirring things up in the watch industry by dispelling a common misconception. It used to be that Rolex was the brand with the 904L stainless steel claim to fame. To this day, many enthusiasts have wrongly believed 904L steel to be exclusive to Rolex because of misinformation being spread on the web. Blogs and watch sellers often build Rolex’s use of 904L up to be something it’s not with phrases like unique blend, giving the impression that only Rolex knows the formula. The truth is that 904L steel is no more proprietary to Rolex than 316L steel is to all the other watch brands.
The 904L Disadvantage
One of the differences between 904L and the ubiquitous 316L steel is that the 904L alloy contains more nickel content. This aids the metal in being more corrosion resistant, in salt water conditions for example. For watch collectors who experience a reaction to nickel, this is a good reason to stick with brands that use the industry standard 316L stainless steel.
Are All Ball Watches Made From 904L?
Ball is not implementing the use of 904L across the entire line. So if the metal is your deciding factor, you’ll want to double check that the model is in 904L or 316L.
“Select BALL timepieces are now built using 904L steel. Though every timepiece is made to handle harsh conditions, the implementation of 904L stainless steel only fortifies our strength and reliability.” –Ball Watch
The retail price will be at an obtainable $2,449 USD, but Ball has set a pre-order discount price of $2,099 USD for early birds (until 9/4/19). For the collectors who could care less about COSC or “Chronometer” on the dial, the pre-order price is even lower at $1,849 USD. Expected ship date in early 2020.
The Icebreaker is limited to 1,000 pieces. They even let you choose your own limited edition number if it’s still available. There is an option for engraving as well, but it’s advisable to avoid this unless you want your resale value to plummet.
If you want a Ball watch in 904L but would prefer a more conservative piece without a big power reserve indicator, the Engineer III Pioneer and Marvelight models both use 904L stainless steel.