To understand the BALL Trainmaster Railroad Standard 130 Years know this: once upon a time, the American watch industry ruled the world. And then it didn’t. Setting aside the factors leading to its extinction, casualties included two of the greatest watch companies the world had ever seen: Hamilton and Ball. (The latter using Hamilton movements.) Before they breathed their last, Swiss companies swooped in and bought their names. Not their designs, employees or facilities. Their names. They’re both still in business, trading off their horological heritage. Hang on. Their heritage?…
Ad victor spolia. Hamilton and Ball’s Swiss buyers paid for the right use the legendary American watchmakers’ name any way they chose. Besides, today’s Hamilton and Ball make excellent watches, as robust and reliable as anything either company produced in their pocket watch heyday. Shouldn’t we judge the companies’ “right” to exploit their heritage based on the spirit of the watches they create?
Works for me. Meanwhile, both Swiss watchmakers promotional materials assume an unbroken history from the watchmakers’ illustrious past to their current ownership. Which brings us to the product page copy for the BALL Trainmaster Railroad Standard 130 Years:
THE CONTINUATION OF A LASTING TRADITION.
BALL Watch has been the synonym for accuracy since 1891. In celebration of our 130 years anniversary, we are proud to present the Trainmaster Railroad Standard 130 Years – a classic and elegant timepiece inspired by a BALL vintage pocket watch from the early 20th century to represent our rich heritage and watchmaking ethos.
Limited to 999 pieces, the commemorative timepiece features a 40mm case, micro gas tube luminosity and subsidiary seconds design.
Pocket watch aficionados will smile at the nod to the past. “The Ball Hamilton Pocket Watch Railroad Grade 999B Model 5 [was] one the highest-grade pocket watches ever manufactured,” The Pocket Watch Guy reports. “New, stronger and more flexible metal alloys in both the hairspring and mainspring increased accuracy and durability.”
The 2021 BALL Trainmaster Railroad Standard 130 Years’ engine – a COSC Chronometer certified BALL RR1105-C (base ETA 2895-2) – more than lives up to the 999b’s movement’s reliability, durability and precision. There’s no doubt that Webb C. Ball would approve of the wristwatch’s 4,800A/m magnetic resistance, 5,000Gs shock resistance and 14 micro gas tube illumination. And then Mr. Ball would have a hissy fit.
The BALL Trainmaster Railroad Standard 130 Years is an ill-conceived homage to the dial design the Cleveland jeweler created, that set the standard for all railroad pocket watches, that helped ensure railway safety for millions of Americans, that elevated watchmaking to stunning heights (click here for The Truth About The Ball Railway Watch).
When it came to Ball pocket watch dials, at-a-glance legibility wasn’t everything. It was the only thing. To achieve that life-or-death goal, Ball pocket watches were minimalist masterpieces. The BALL Trainmaster Railroad Standard 130 Years is anything but.
I won’t bore you with nerdy watch collector complaints, such as the fact that a true “Montgomery dial” Ball pocket watch (numbers 1 – 60 printed on the outer edge) placed the 6 inside the seconds subdial, which sat lower down on the dial. Or point out that Ball pocket watches never combined a Montgomery dial with an inner ring with 24-hour numbers (a.k.a., a Ferguson safety dial).
Suffice it to say, Ball’s webpage – featuring a Swiss (!) recreation of an original pocket watch – leads us to the inescapable conclusion that there’s way too much stuff on the new watch’s dial, from extraneous text (“Automatic Chronometer”), to altered text (the number seven is formed by a combination of Ball & Co) to a date window (!).
The BALL Trainmaster Railroad Standard 130 Years is a barely legible farrago of railroad pocket watch design cues that makes a mockery of the clean, crisp, perfectly and instantly legible dials that immortalized Webb C. Ball. It’s a shame. Not to worry. The spirit of the original company lives on in their beautiful, robust three handers like the BALL Engineer III Marvelight Chronometer above. We’re all richer for its existence, heritage-wise.