Founded in 1891, the Ball watch company is the brainchild of Mr. Webster C. Ball, a jeweler, and watchmaker from Ohio. Originally born in Cleaveland, United States, the Ball watch company shares an intricately woven history with the American railroad.
To this extend, Mr. Ball brought the concept of accurate timekeeping to the American railroad. This reflects in the brand’s watchmaking history and precision timekeeping. The company’s pinnacle of success comes with an idiom “on the ball”, referring to the timekeeping standards with high accuracy and precision.
Currently, the headquarters of the watch manufacturer is located in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland and owned by Hong Kong-based Asia Commercial Holdings Ltd. Over the years, the company developed several technologies to withstand diverse extreme railroad conditions. Now, these components find it’s way to their wristwatches making them highly functional and error-free.
Ball Brand History
The history of the Ball watch brand is quite interesting. Intertwined with Mr. Ball’s success, the watch company found its way to the upper echelons of the watchmaking industry. For, the company’s timely intervention advanced the American railroad’s dependency on timekeeping.
The iconic image of the American rail, dashing across vast desert lands and fields, depicts the country’s symbol of freedom and onset of the industrial revolution. Yet, for this industry to thrive, Mr. Ball played a very crucial role. Much prior to the success of the American railroad, timekeeping was an issue as most towns used their own methods of timekeeping. Later, the adoption of Standard Time paved the way for Mr. Ball to showcase his fine watchmaking skills with high precision and accuracy.
Where It All Began
In 1981, two trains collided head-on in Ohio that caused several deaths. Upon investigation, one of the conductors of the train admitted to his watch stopping for four minutes and then running late. As a result, two trains going in opposite directions on the same track took on serious impact. Subsequently, Mr. Ball, appointed as the Chief Time Inspector, standardized timekeeping throughout the railroad industry. As the official website for the Ball watches proudly proclaims, Mr. Ball is the reason for the establishment of standards that put in place uniformity and accurate timekeeping across the American railroad.
Using Standard Time, Mr. Ball developed time signals that went on to be used across most of America, Canada, and even Mexico. For this, he developed almost 2300 Ball-certified timepieces for all passenger and freight trains, conductors, engineers, and all personnel involved with the railroad to address the inconsistency in timekeeping across the country. Not just this, he also kept track of the timepieces to ensure accuracy every 2 weeks once. Any watches with 30 seconds or more variation got upgrades.
Hence, the success of the American railroad proudly falls on the shoulders of Mr. Ball for his timely inspections and innovations.
Modern Day Ball Watches
Staying true to the company’s mission, Ball watches continue to focus on superior quality watches that withstand extreme conditions. However, the brand modernizes with time. While retaining the essence of industrial functionality, the watches manufactured today look different from the bygone days to match the consumer preference. Yet, the brand strives to retain the original details and design guidelines as laid down by the founder. Consequently, this ensures accuracy and precision timekeeping, despite changing times and demands.
Resultantly, Ball watches are classic pieces that are truly contemporary in design, yet, timeless in essence.
To maintain precision time under adverse conditions, the company developed various technologies in line with the official railroad standards. These include high shock resistance, visibility in complete darkness, anti-moisture, water-resistance up to more than 400-600 ft., anti-magnetic system, cold temperature measurement, etc. The section below on Ball Watch Collections will enlist some of these technologies and how they improve the functionality of the watches, as a reason thereof.
Above all, the Ball mechanical watches go through rigorous Chronometer Certification. Consisting of seven tests, the certification process tests for accuracy, precision, and performance. Failure in any one test results in rejecting that movement.
Ball Watch Collections
Currently, Ball watches offer around eight different collections. Boasting of meticulous craftsmanship, high-quality materials, and pioneering technology, the brand creates watches suitable for any and all occasions.
Built to withstand extreme conditions, the Engineer Hydrocarbon collection is a true embodiment of what the brand stands for. If you are a kindled explorer, this collection will suit all your needs, unifying time, the moon and the tide in one timepiece.
The face of the watch showcases a unique design. The Ball logo with the RR engraving delicately sits on the face of the watch. You can pick from either a black or blue dial with a 42 mm case. The outer bezel denotes tides – high or low, set to indicate for two weeks at a time – and the inner bezel showcases the days. Additionally, the watch also comes with a small date complication* sitting in between 4 and 5 o’clock.
To add to its aesthetics, the Moonphase complication located right below 12 o’clock combines all the components into a wholesome design, perfect for the adventurous soul. Moreover, Ball watches always strives to ensure maximum visibility during complete darkness. For which, the watches part of this collection have 36 micro gas tubes to illuminate the time, tide and moon always.
Furthermore, these timepieces are resistant up to 120m (400 ft.) underwater and shock-resistant up to 7,500Gs.
*To learn more about watch complications, read our curated piece here.
Engineer Master II
One look at this watch, it resonates the true passion behind the brand’s promise to craft beautiful yet industrial functional watches. The Engineer Master II collection proudly showcases two intricately designed dive watches. The watches meet the requirement for professional sea-diving, making it perfect for nautical adventures.
Designed with exclusive rotating inner bezel, the timepiece also comes with chronograph with accumulated 12 hours measurement, a circular slide rule, and sub-dials for hours, minutes and seconds. A 44mm case diameter, the watches part of this collection are water resistant up to 50m (166ft) underwater. Moreover, the timepieces also come equipped with 21 micro gas tubes on hours, minutes, seconds hands and the dial for clear visibility in darkness.
Unlike the above-mentioned collections, the Roadmaster collection is versatile, and an ode to those in charge of railroad infrastructure. With almost 40 timepieces forming part of this collection, the diversity resonates with changing times and yet all the models are unified by the brand’s logo and micro gas luminosity. From a simple dial to intricately designed with multiple complications, this collection has it all. We are highlighting two different types of watches from this collection below
The Roadmaster Worldtime is definitely worth a mention. The functions include a unidirectional moving bezel, an inner world time indicating bezel, and an additional date and day complication.
On the other end of the spectrum, is the Roadmaster M Icebreaker. With a simple blue dial indicate hours, minutes, seconds, and date, the M Icebreaker is elegant. It qualifies as highly functional, given its 5000Gs shock resistance and 200m (660 ft.) water resistance.
This collection saw light as a celebration of the successful years of the American railroad, thanks to the founder Mr. Ball. The Trainmaster collection features three timepieces, slightly different from each other.
The Trainmaster Pulsemeter Chronograph comes equipped with an automatic BALL caliber movement and the anti-shock system. Ideal for medical professionals, the pulse meter can indicate up to 15 pulsations. The chronograph allows for accumulated 45 minutes measurement. And finally, the face of the dial comes with minutes, seconds and date sub-dials. The Trainmaster Pulsemeter GMT is a similar timepiece to its contender, minus the chronograph and also comes with a leather strap. The Trainmaster Endeavor Chronometer, on the other hand, attributes simplicity, elegance, and precision. With a simpler design, the essence of this timepiece is just for time and date keeping.
Ball Brand Reputation
Ball watches, once the reason for the success American railroad, now the underdogs of the watchmaking industry.
While they are highly durable and functional, the brand is not as famous or celebrated. Watch enthusiasts and aficionados know about the brand and its significance but the general consumer market knows little about the brand. Ball does not market itself much in comparison to other brands of the same nature. Nevertheless, patrons of Ball watch swear by its functionality and use. New customers are smitten by its designing and Moonphase complications. The reasonable affordability of the watches, given its advance and pioneering technology, definitely works in favor of the brand.
Why are they underrated? To answer this, we need to look at the watchmaking history in comparison to the watches they produce today. From the official website, the brand themselves admit to changing design over time to match consumer demand. However, watch enthusiasts, for reason whatsoever, tend to prefer Ball watches of the bygone era, rather than modern-day watches. This is mainly due to the fact that Ball watches have gotten “sporty” over time, while customers actually still prefer their classic designs.
Is Ball A Good Watch Brand?
Watch reviews, like most watches, offer mixed reviews. While customers are drawn particularly over the watchmaking history, many watch enthusiasts show dislike towards its “over the top” designing.
Forums also note that the tritium used for luminosity in darkness tends to fade over the years, and replacing it is on the expensive side.
On the flip side, customers note that their Ball watches stand the test of time, without any defects or issues. Ever since its inception, Ball watches have focused on manufacturing high-quality watches to withstand working under high pressure. It’s difficult to find a forum or Ball customer that disputes this fact. The technology used is as good as it can get. It maintains the accuracy and precision timekeeping even after years.
More so, when compared with its competitors, customers prefer Ball watches over Omega or Rolex in terms of quality and price. Some enthusiasts even believe that Ball watches are better than TAG. The self-built technology and lowered cost compared to Roxlex definitely make it the icing on the cake. Some aficionados compare Ball watches to Sinn watches for its longevity and sturdiness.
However, while buying a watch, merely the cost or the brand value does not merit the purchase. Other factors like functionality, usage, watchmaking history, technology, in addition to the budget, help decide what kind of watch best suits you. If you are looking for a reasonably priced tool watch, Ball watches fit the bill. However, if you are looking for simpler movements and lesser functionality, then there are other brands to consider.
Where To Buy Ball Watches?
You can buy Ball watches directly on the official website. The online e-commerce website allows you to directly place orders, including international shipping. You can also locate a store near you to buy one in person.
If you are based in the US, you can also check out Discounted Ball Watches on Overstock.com
Please ensure you purchase Ball watches from authorized dealers only. For, any other purchase will disqualify you to enjoy the warranty.
Note: If you are placing an order on the official website, note that the website offers an option for engraving the name on the watch for free upon purchase.
Where Are Ball Made?
All of the Ball watches indicate “Swiss Made” at the back of the watch. This indicates that the movement, designing, assembling, and final inspection ought to be tasked in the company’s headquarters in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
However, Ball watches could possibly be importing components like the case, strap, hands, etc from abroad. Although, this does not contradict the term “Swiss Made” since the standards allow for importing components. But, assembling and testing should be done in Switzerland.
Ball Watch Warranty
The Ball Watches offer an international warranty of either two or three years, depending on the timepiece, based on registration on the website within 90 days from purchase. If you obtain the premium warranty card, the warranty extends to 4 or 5 years, upon registration on the website within 90 days from purchase.
Regardless of the timeframe, the warranty covers all manufacturing defects. Watches bought either from the official website or from an authorized dealer will only be eligible for a warranty. The user manual will further detail terms of usage, special recommendations, and warranty information.
Once the warranty comes into effect for a defective piece, Ball watches will service or repair free of charge. The warranty, however, does not include normal wear and tear, damage due to negligence or abusive use, and services by non-authorized dealers.
To identify an authorized dealer, you can locate the nearest store here.