Introduced in 2021, the limited edition BALL Watch Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT Sled Driver pays tribute to United States Air Force (Ret) Major Brian Shul, one of only 92 pilots to fly the SR-71 Blackbird.
Called “The Sled” by some pilots who flew it, the Blackbird was a long-range, high-altitude, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft. Shul, a legendary Sled Driver, is a true example of courage under adverse conditions.
About Brian Shul
Born in 1948 at the Quantico US Marine Corps base in Virginia, USA, Shul obtained a Bachelors in History in 1970 before joining the US Air Force in that same year. Later, he served as a Foreign Air Advisor in the Vietnam conflict.
While flying covert ops toward the end of the war, Shul was shot down while flying his AT-28D aircraft near the Cambodian border. He survived a horrendous crash landing in the jungle, but was trapped inside a fiery cockpit. With no visibility through a melting helmet visor, he managed to free himself and crawl from the flaming wreckage – all while severely burned. A Special Operations Para rescue team extracted Shul by helicopter from hostile territory and evacuated him to a military hospital where he was not expected to survive.
After two months of intensive care, Shul was repatriated and continued his recovery journey at the Institute of Surgical Research in Texas. Although he was told he would never fly again, one year and 15 surgeries later, Shul beat the odds.
Determined, he began physical therapy and astonished the military world by overcoming his traumatic injuries; he passed every flight physical demanded of him and once released, flew fighter jets for the next 10 years. He eventually applied to pilot the super-secret SR-71 Blackbird, requiring an astronaut physical just to apply. He passed with no waivers.
With a titanium pin in his finger and nerves of steel, Shul became part of an elite group of pilots, also known as Sled Drivers, skilled enough to fly the famed spy plane. He united man and machine at the edge of space, rocketing around the world at sonic speeds on stealth missions with unyielding precision and unrivalled performance in the face of 1,000-degree heat.
BALL Watch Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT Sled Driver
The AeroGMT Sled Driver pays homage to Brian Shul and his determination to persevere. The dial has been emblazoned with the SR-71 planform at 6 o’clock, the legend “SLED DRIVER” above the planform, and Major Brian Shul’s signature just below center dial.
Moreover, the case back is engraved with the Mach 3+ insignia emblem, worn by all qualified SR-71 Blackbird crewmembers.
The Engineer Hydrocarbon AeroGMT Sled Driver is equipped with triple function displays — Standard time zone, GMT time zone, and a scratch-resistant, sapphire-coated bidirectional 24-hour rotating bezel that serves as a third time-zone. A pilot or frequent traveler can use the GMT hand to track home city time, the 24-hour bezel to track destination city time, and the standard hour and minute hands to set the aircraft’s local time.
Advancing BALL Watch’s reputation for resilient watches, the AeroGMT Sled Driver absorbs impacts up to 7,500Gs, and carries an anti-magnetic resistance of 4,800 A/m. The robust 42mm stainless steel case is water resistant to 100 meters and sealed by BALL’s patented crown-protection system.
The aviator-inspired black dial features hour indexes and main hands of yellow H3 gas tubes. The 3, 6 and 9 o’clock markers have double gas tubes while the 12 o’clock index boasts a pair of vivid orange gas tubes. The second time zone blue GMT hand offers a green gas tube in homage to BALL’s corporate color and the bezel comes in a black and blue combination.
The timepiece is equipped with a Swiss-made BALL RR1201-C automatic mechanical movement—certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
The Engineer Hydrocarbon Aero GMT Sled Driver comes with a patented (extendable) BALL triple-folding buckle or an alternative rubber strap, both customized to fit over a pilot’s aviation apparel as a handsome accessory in form and function.
This special edition is a limited edition consisting of 1,990 pieces – a nod to the year 1990 when four National Aeronautic Association and three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale speed records were established on the final flight of the SR-71 Blackbird in USAF service.
Model: Ball Watch Engineer Hydrocarbon Aero GMT Sled Driver
Model Number: DG2018C-S17C-BK/ DG2018C-P17C-BK
Automatic caliber BALL RR1201-C
Chronometer certified COSC
44 micro gas tubes on hour, minute, second, second time zone hands, dial and bezel for night reading capability
Luminous three time zone indication
Shock resistant to 7,500Gs
Anti-magnetic to 4,800A/m
Water resistant to 100m/330ft
Hours, minutes, sweep seconds and date
Ø 42mm, height 13.85mm
Bidirectional rotating curved sapphire bezel with micro gas tubes for night reading capability
Titanium case back
Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
Patented crown protection system
Tapered stainless steel bracelet with patented folding buckle & extension system or rubber strap with pin buckle
Limited edition of 1990 pieces