BALL Watches – How Not to Sell A Watch

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Ball watches Marvelight lume

[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 . . .

Official railroad watch

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:

SpringSEAL Patented Regulator Anti-Shock System

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.

Ball watches Marvelight

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).

Discontinued Ball watches

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.”

OMEGA Seamaster

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.

Kripton train wreck

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.

20 COMMENTS

  1. From on the ball to dropping it.
    (Phraseology history learnt from your prior post and looking forward to the sequel to this post).

      • Amirite? You mean for the dial or the case? I like the shardiness of meteorite especially if it is the case. This is what I like about this site: today I learnt about Tritium, Amirite and Internet Slang.

          • That an AD rep actively tried to talk you out of this watch, but they are super quick to send out a tester, says a lot about the coverage this brand gets.

            By the way, I am glad to see this site. I would waste time on another site, but the travel alarm was the last straw.

  2. If you are going to get a railroad watch from a historic American company that is now “Swiss Made” I don’t think you can do better than the Hamilton H40555181. It has a very cool sector dial thing going and the grey prices are great. I would get it but I already have an Omega Seamaster, which is apparently 1,000 times better than a Ball.

    I can’t speak to Ball quality but I have heard big issues with the tubes popping out of the hands on all theses tritium watches. Plus even enclosed I don’t trust tritium.

      • I think it is a pretty cool watch. I have a Rolex and an Omega, and I would give someone wearing this a nod over, e.g., a Richemont.

        Look how perfectly the hands match up with the hour, minute, and seconds tracks. Rolex could not get the hands right on the 39mm Explorer until the recent refresh, but here Hamilton nails it.

        My Tissot Petite Seconde is more of a traditional railroad watch in looks and movement, but this Hamilton does have a railroad minutes track, and Hamilton did make railroad watches, so close enough.

        If a bunch of electronic systems had not replaced the railroad watch I can see a conductor or engineer wearing this Hamilton. Obviously in reality those people are more likely to be wearing Apple watches, but so is everyone.

        A big issue with watch “journalists” is that they don’t cover watches like this Hamilton and the prices at which they are truly available.

        On the other topic of tritium watches – like I said, I don’t trust them, but if someone wants one – Marathon.

  3. My complaint about an Amazon listing for a Casio I’d seen in Walmart that had the case diameter wrong by almost 10mm suddenly seems like a more petty issue. On the sales front, I’m no expert but there is a way to honestly concede product concerns with just as much honesty and a lot more tact. Maybe I’m just used to parsing opinions, weighing understatement heavily and dismissing overstatement.

  4. a lot of what you write might be correct…but you do realise if you select the state you want once you’ve drilled down to USA it lists all the retailers in that state….

  5. I have a trainmaster official standard ball watch # 901417 it works great. I will sell for cheap if your interested.

  6. I’m not trying to convince anyone to change their beliefs, but I got a Marvelight, and I think the quality is beyond the price. While I haven’t done anything crazy with it, I sure haven’t babied it, and it’s rock solid. I’m not sure about quality issues; I haven’t heard of rampant issues of that, but I don’t doubt someone that says they had issues. I just pre-ordered another Ball (Legend II), and I don’t expect any issues. I put that watch next to my wife’s DateJust, and if you don’t know about watches, you’d think they were the same price.

  7. I have a Ball Starlight. During that time, Ball’s prices were still reasonable. I got it directly from Ball as a pre-order. I paid less than $1000 for it. Ball was charging less than $1K for most of their watches before, especially for the Engineer variants. When I recieved it, the sender was some Chinese person’s name from an apartment in New York City. Yes, my watch was directly ordered from the Ball website. And from watch forums, people received their pre-orders from different Chinese person’s return address, too. We even found Ball’s main office in Florida via Google maps, in what looks like inside an apartment complex. Ball Watch is owned by a Chinese company. Are the watches manufactured in China and “assembled” in Switzerland or something, that’s up for further investigation. I love my Ball watch. Pretty accurate and quality is perfect. But when they started raising their prices to Breitling, Longines, Tag Heuer or even Omega territory, I’d went back to just buying those brands. For a couple hundreds dollars more, you can have an Omega that holds its value better.

    • I am amazed that they couldn’t put on a better facade of professionalism. Actually being a small time operation running out of people’s homes is fine, but it is something so easily hidden in the modern age that it’s surprising the minimal effort to do so was not exerted.

  8. My husband bought a Ball Timepiece whilst we were on a cruise with Celebrity cruises in July this year.2022. It was sold as an Automatic non winding watch $2300 unfortunately it did not keep time and continually stopped. We complained to Ball on our return to the UK they told us to wind it up and that it would work when fully wound and my husband kept it on to keep the movement going This did not happen and on 29th September after several complaint emails requesting full refund under consumers rights that it was not fit for the purpose we returned he watch to them.
    They said their policy was not to refund and they would send it to the repair section for inspection we disagreed with this and also complained to Celebrity Cruises who. Acknowledged the complaint but never replied any further.
    3rd November they sent email to inform us there was nothing wrong and they want to send the watch back to us. My husband has lost interest as he only managed to wear it for a week keep winding it daily. Terrible reply and help from Ball Watches and Celebrity Cruises. Think twice before buying their watch in this instance is not fit for the purpose.

    • So, there is no such thing as an automatic non-winding watch. ‘Automatic’ means the watch winds itself via the means of a rotor that spins as you move your hand. As the rotor spins it winds the spring; if you don’t wear the watch it will eventually stop, just like a manually wound watch will stop if you don’t wind it. The vast majority of automatic watches can also be manually wound, not necessary but it helps to get it going if it’s stopped. If you hand-wound the watch and wore it continuously but it still stopped then it should be corrected under warranty.

      If the watch is not keeping time, you will need to check it against the specification. If it loses or gains more than the specification then it should be corrected under warranty. However, do bear in mind that mechanical watches (i.e. automatic and hand-wound) can gain or lose up to 40 seconds per day. More premium brands like Rolex, Omega and suchlike, gain one or two seconds per day depending on the watch, age and service intervals. If accuracy is at the top of your requirements, the only answer is a quartz watch, i.e. one that is powered by a battery.

      Hope this helps a bit.

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