One afternoon, instead of writing a feature about the terribleness of the Land Rover Freelander SE3, I was surfing the web, wondering if every automaker with a six-figure vehicle in its line-up has a partnership with a watchmaker. After all, watchmakers need to sell their wares, and who better to cater to than someone who can point to a car on an auto show turnstile, says “I want that one,” and promptly be put on an 18-month waiting list?
While browsing around, I came across the usual suspects: Mercedes-Benz and IWC, Bentley and Breitling, TAG Heuer and McLaren, Ferrari and Hublot, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin. There were numerous references to Ferrari’s dalliances with Giraud-Perregaux and Panerai. There was a Maserati-edition Audemars Piguet Millenary I’d never heard about. And there was even a Sinn and Mazda collaboration that I found. But then I came across BMW and Ball Watches.
Now, a problem I have these partnerships is that many of the resulting watches are existing models with the automaker’s logo plastered on them and a higher price tag. If you don’t own the corresponding vehicle, you’re made to look the fool. Additionally, much of the time, some of these watches don’t sell, and are subsequently marked down to prices greatly below the corresponding model that isn’t a “special edition.”
There are exceptions, of course, like the Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX line, the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti 370, and the Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari, which relegates telling of time to a small corner of the watch, making it quite difficult to check if you’re running late for an engagement while barreling down Modena streets.
I was hoping the BMW-Ball partnership would be different, so I researched what made the Ball for BMW watches unique from the rest of the Ball line-up. The exclusive feature turned out to be Amortiser system, which involves placing a shock-absorbing protection ring around the movement. That particular characteristic is meant to be related to a car’s shock absorbers. (However, after looking at Ball’s other products, it turns out the Amortiser system is available on other watches, such as their Spacemaster Orbital II.)
Despite the Amortiser system, I thought there really wasn’t anything original in the partnership to get BMW owners to buy Ball-BMW watches. There were the usual mix of standard watches, power reserve and GMT pieces, and chronographs in the collection. But then, to my astonishment, it turned out Ball has a limited-edition TMT model in its Ball for BMW line. It’s basically a Ball watch with the Amortiser system, a mechanical thermometer, and a BMW emblem directly below the temperature needle. This gave me an idea.
In a bid to decrease the workload of Ball’s product planners, and create something truly original out of a watchmaker-automaker partnership, I came up with the perfect timepiece that Ball for BMW should make: a timepiece which chimes when the temperature falls below 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
BMW drivers will know what I’m talking about. They know that sound once they drive a mile away from their homes during the winter, when it’s still dark out and the coffee still hasn’t kicked in yet. After much asking around (I know a lot of BMW owners who hate the sound), I’ve been told by BMW mechanics that the chime is meant to be a safety alert to drivers informing them there might icy areas of the road and they must exercise caution.
You may think I’ve focused on the littlest pet peeve of BMW drivers. There’s the iDrive system which controls everything useful, like interior lights, heated seats, and which radio station you’d like to listen to. There is the turn signal stalk which always stays in place, conveniently giving BMW drivers an excuse not to use their turn signals. And the center console hosts a silly joystick-like gear selector which you can’t rest your hand on.
But I think the Ball for BMW TMT with the low temperature notification feature will have applications beyond driving. Imagine walking down the streets in winter, where the chime could warn you that there could be ice on the sidewalk, increasing your awareness of where you take each step. Envision yourself walking out of the home, with the chime making you realize you might need an extra layer. Picture yourself at Everest base camp, where you went so there was no chance of your watch ever chiming again. The function would work all the time, as Ball makes it a point on its website that its watches can endure extremely cold temperatures.
Unfortunately, despite offering many other features on its watches, such as the micro-gas lights that make their watches very readable in the dark, a power reserve dial, moon phase indicator, and a world timer function, Ball does not offer an alarm feature. This was disappointing, as it meant the watch I so wanted Ball to make could not be engineered easily. It would’ve been as simple as rigging the alarm to go off when the temperature needle read below 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
So, if anyone at Ball Watches is reading this, I implore the product planning group, please create a Ball for BMW timepiece that’ll inform someone when it’s really cold out there. It will be a truly differentiated product from the rest of the Ball range of watches and truly create a connection between Ball and BMW.
The best part is Ball Watches can say their newest model is based on a familiar BMW characteristic. And thankfully the characteristic won't be iDrive. Otherwise hundreds of people would spend fifteen minutes changing the date.