The second watch I’m going to present, from the Ball Mini Marathon, is the Trainmaster Standard Time.
With this watch, Ball has gone back to where it all started, to the late 19th century and their roots from the American railroads.
Pre-1883, there were over 70 different time zones in the U.S., each city having its own, using the positioning of the sun. Having a precise and safe railroad system was not an easy task under these circumstances, and in 1883 the U.S. railroad companies set a new standard, dividing the nation into only four time zones. A change that has continued to be the official standard to the present day.
Webster Clay Ball, the founder of Ball Watch Company, was the first jeweler in Cleveland to use the time signals from United States Naval Observatory in Washington DC, to display the most accurate time from his chronometer, showing in the window of his shop. In Cleveland, this was the very first chronometer and phrases as “on the Ball” and Ball’s time” were used when describing being right on time.
In 1891 Webb. C. Ball was appointed as Chief Time Inspector by the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway Co. The reason for this was the accident, a collision between two trains causing the death of a total of 11 people. The conductor on east bounding train was to let the mail train, going west, to pass at the station at Kipton. Not knowing that his pocket watch had stopped for four minutes, and then started again, the conductor thought they had seven minutes to get to the station, but in the reality, they only had three minutes. The mail train hit the accommodation train in full speed and the catastrophe was a reality, caused by a non-working pocket watch.
Ball set new standards to ensure the watches would be reliable, accurate and easy to read. The RR, Railroad Standard, was born and the watches were adjusted to keep a certain accuracy, being made from quality materials and having an easy to read, white dial with black numerals. Once every two weeks, the watches were inspected to check the accuracy towards the standard Washington time.
The design of the Ball Trainmaster Standard Time is as close as it gets to the old pocket watches used by the conductors and clerks. A clean stainless-steel case, white dial and black numerals. No fuzz or fanciness, just a solid and sleek timepiece showing the time as it should. Or is it?
The dial is made of enamel and gives the watch a clean and classy look. The crystal is an anti-reflective, sapphire dome that really looks like an old acrylic. On the back, you will find a sapphire crystal that let you look at the movement, the Ball RR1105-C. The base for this movement is the ETA 2895-2, a movement that sits in small second watches from a large range of respected brands. Ball has juiced this up, adjusted it to fit the restrictions of a COSC-certified watch. The movement shines with the purple jewels, blue screws and golden parts and details. The Swiss made, RR and Ball Watch Company engravings on the rotor gives it a warm and exclusive touch. Another little detail that I find charming is the number 7 on the dial. At first it looks like a normal 7, but if you go up and close, you will see that it is built up by the text “BALL & C”.
As I mentioned earlier, the dial is made of enamel, giving it a clean and kind of soulful touch. The hands are in the category called “Spade Hands”, used in the the old Ball pocket watches, and are truly amazing. Smooth shapes that explode into a blue color show when hit with light from certain angles. The almost glassy texture makes the light reflect in a variety of clear, light blue and all the way to dark blue, almost black. For me, the hands give the watch another dimension.
Another feature that gives this classy watch an almost candy’ish look is, of course, the lume. The difference from the highly lumed-up models, the Standard Time has 12 dots, rising on the edge of the dial. The dots from 1 to 11, and the tubes on the hour and minute hands, glows in a delicious green and the dot at 12 glows in a warm yellow.
These small details are some of the reasons I love this watch. Being a quite childish, naive and curious guy, this watch makes me want to pop off the crystal and taste the tritium dots. It’s maybe not the most intelligent thing to do, in many ways, but I know that I will get the taste of lime and orange from the 12 small and tempting candies, standing gently on the enamel dial.
The design is kept clean and simple, to keep the looks as close to a pocket watch. The inscription “Automatic Chronometer” lies elegantly above the small seconds, the “T25”, describing the amount of radioactivity used, and “Swiss Made” are placed at the bottom. The date window is at three o’clock. The shape of the case is classic and polished, giving it the right looks. The screw down crown is engraved with the RR symbol and is incredibly smooth to operate! When winding a watch by hand, I sometimes get the feeling of destroying the movement, especially when the watch is fitted with a cheap movement. But with the Standard Time you will get the feeling of silk in hot butter. I’m not sure if that is the 100% correct way to describe it, but I hope you get the point…
With a width of 39,5mm, it’s not the largest watch out there, but I have to say that it has the best fit and comfort of any watch I have worn. From lug to lug it measures 46mm, the height is 11,15mm, to be accurate, and the lug width is 20mm. It is fitted with a soft crocodile leather strap with a standard Ball buckle. It also comes with a stainless-steel bracelet with folding buckle.
I think this is great watch, combining the classical looks with modern specs and features, but there are two things I would have changed, to make this the perfect dress watch. The first thing is that I would love to see the croco strap with a folding clasp. When having such an elegant watch, why the standard buckle? It makes it look just too casual.
The other issue I have is the date window. For me it is placed too close to the “3”, making it look like it’s squeezed up against the wall. To be specific, if the black frame around the window had been removed, it would have worked out well. Maybe a no-date would be the cleanest and best looking way to go?
Will these two issues make me doubtful about this watch? Not at all. If Ball decides that a folding clasp is something they want to fit it with, it is an easy thing to do. The date window might be a bit trickier to change. I have worn this watch for a while and I must admit that it doesn’t bother me enough to be an issue of substance.
So… will this classic, back to the roots, candy-lumed, blue handed, super comfortable, enamel dial watch, with some small issues, make the Chrickenwrist excited? Being a watch I want to taste, the answer can’t be anything but yes!
Its time to buckle up, with the standard buckle, get dressed and go to the tracks and do some trainspotting. Like a pro.