[UPDATE: BALL is now selling some of their watches online. Discounts at dealers are a thing – if you can find one.] The first rule of sales: make it easy to buy. A rule that BALL Watches rips to pieces and tosses in the wind. Truth be told, I found it impossible to buy a BALL watch. In fact, an authorized retailer advised me not to buy one. We’ll get to that. Here’s my sad tale of horological woe, a journey that began when I started writing “BALL Watches – Three of the Best,” I kid you not . . .
I started my quest at ballwatch.com. The website’s laid out sensibly enough. Hitting the “Collections” tab, you’re confronted with ten model lines. As the proud owner of five Ball pocket watches, I clicked on the first option: “Official Railroad Watch.”
A watchmaking tribute to railroad history, the Official Railroad Watches are perpetuating the timeless attributes of elegance, lightness and simplicity of the early BALL timekeepers.
Oh baby! See that image of the watch? Right. There isn’t one. Aside from the text, the Railroad Watch page is Blank. Not a single timepiece on display. It was an inauspicious start.
Thankfully, there’s a good selection of watches in the other Collections. And let me be clear: BALL makes some extraordinary timepieces. Many of their watches appeal to my love of bullet-proof build with minimalist moxie. And then there’s tritium tube illumination. As a lumatic, I’m totally down with that.
We’re talking about Swiss watches with a wide range of chronological and protective technology:
904L stainless steel (also used by Rolex), COSC-certified movements, SpringSEAL Patented Regulator Anti-Shock System, SpringLOCK® Patented Anti-Shock System, A-PROOF® Patented Anti-Magnetic System, Amortiser® Patented Anti-Shock System, Temperature Measurement, Anti-Magnetism, Cold Temperature Endurance, Water Resistance and Crown Protection System.
After some major surfing, I settled on the BALL Engineer III Marvelight. So . . . how much? The price isn’t on the product page. Um, OK. Time to call an authorized BALL dealer.
I clicked on the “Retailers” button and drilled down to the U.S. There’s a list of five service centers (who don’t sell BALL watches) and a toll-free number for Switzerland.
It was late in Geneva, but I figured WTH. I enjoy talking watches with “Bob” in New Delhi.
The phone rang. And rang. And rang. “There is no answer at the destination called,” a British voice eventually informed me. “Please try calling again later.” An American voice repeated the message – just in case I didn’t speak plummy. After that it was disconnect city.
I called three of the BALL U.S. service centers and asked if they know who sells their watches in the Home of the Free. Third time lucky: I was blessed with the name of an online dealer (whom shall remain nameless to protect the salesman’s job).
The first thing I noticed: there were watches for sale on the dealer’s website that aren’t on the mothership’s website. I asked the helpful associate how to tell if a given model’s been discontinued. We settled on comparing the models on their site to the ones on BALL’s official website. As for the Marvelight, it’s $3600.
“Do you want it in 40mm or 44mm?” he asked. Hang on – there’s only the 40mm on BALL’s site. Before I could decide, the sales person felt obliged to share his opinion of the company’s products. “I hate BALL,” he admitted. “They break easily.”
The sales guy told me he’s come across several BALL watches that ran fast, or broke, that he had to send back. “They’re hit or miss,” he said with no small measure of disappointment. I knew the feeling.
Not that I asked, Sales Guy recommended an OMEGA Seamaster as a suitable alternative. “It’s a little more money and a thousand times better.”
Call me naive, but I don’t believe the salesman was bouncing BALL to earn a larger commission on an OMEGA. He seemed truly passionate about the subject. He even stepped out of the office to give me the inside dope. Either that or have a quick toke.
No matter how you slice it, this is not how you sell watches. BALL needs to put sales online STAT.
At the least, BALL should have a contact number on their product pages that connects to a knowledgeable rep who sells their watches – not someone else’s. An online chat function? That too.
If it’s true that BALL has quality control issues, that needs to be sorted out faster than STAT.
Anyway, I’m still BALL-less (so to speak). I’ll call Switzerland tomorrow to see if I can get a watch on loan – assuming they don’t read this post. Or do. Meanwhile, it has to be said: this no way to run a railroad.