Ball Watch Company
By: Jeffrey P. Hess
When Webb C. Ball was summoned to testify about the timekeeping discrepancies that led to the great Kipton, Ohio train wreck, in 1891, he could not have fathomed in his wildest dreams that he would go down in history as the driving force behind standardizing the watch industry worldwide, nor that his dream would live 115 years later. Mr. Ball was, without a doubt an innovator, a salesman and self-promoter. He served the public well in Ohio - selling gold, silverware, jewelry, clocks and diamonds from his little store near the railroad tracks in Cleveland. But mostly he sold watches. And his watches kept excellent time. And he was known throughout Ohio as a man who could fix just about any watch - and that these watches always seemed to be able to be counted on. He was, by most accounts, a genius. So when poor timekeeping and un-standardized time was blamed for the great Kipton train wreck, which occurred in April of 1891 - killing 8 people, Mr. Ball was called into action. Soon, standardization was in place throughout the USA and "Railroad Time" became the standard. Watch companies such as Howard, Waltham, Elgin, Hamilton, Hampden and Vacheron & Constantin worked with Mr. Ball and his new company, "Ball Watch Company," providing him with movements that he then standardized and upgraded to Railroad standards and that bore the name of Ball Watch Company on the outside. (Most were upgraded to sapphire pallets and tuned to the finest of timekeeping capabilities.) Waltham, Hamilton, Elgin etc., all made their own fine pocket watches for railroad service, but a Ball watch was (for almost 100 years) considered to be "the best...the Cadillac" of American Railroad watches.
It was as early as the 1950s that Ball Watch started to use the ETA movements...And today the tradition continues. Ball Watch Company again obtains the finest movements available and "tweaks them" at their factory in Oberbuchsiten, Switzerland to the highest standards - many receiving C.O.S.C. chronometer certificates to timekeeping standards that would boggle the mind of even that persnickety Victorian era watchmaker from Cleveland.
In fact, the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry reported that last year, the C.O.S.C. (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronometers) issued only 1,271,934 certificates, with Ball Watch Company being among the top dozen in terms of certificates received - and also Ball Watch Company obtained more Chronometer certificates than Vacheron & Constantin, Ebel and the prestigious Arnold & Company! As tradition has always held at Ball Watch Company, the good stuff is on the inside. After all, their motto, "Accuracy Under Adverse Conditions" says it all. The timekeeping has always been (and continues to be) the single most important quality of their watches. But the outside of the watches is perhaps even more exciting.
New case designs at Ball Watch Company by some of the world's top designers now ensure that those who wear the new Ball watches will not only have bragging rights as to their accuracy, but will be happy to sport one of the best-looking watches with some of the most outrageous designs on the market today.
The designers at Ball are capable of thinking out of the box, in an innovative manner that mirrors the forward technical thinking of Webb C. Ball over 115 years ago. Great-looking watches with top-notch movements, capable of keeping time in the most adverse of conditions, yes, but able to impress your colleagues with incredible style as well! Take the incredible design of the very difficult to find Ball Inspector watch with its earth-shattering design and featuring the Ball-engineered micro gas light technology and patented gas light function that makes this automatic watch with calendar light up - and it helps world travelers and watch connoisseurs worldwide read their watch in complete darkness. This, Ball Watch Company reports, is 100 times easier to read than Tritium paint and will glow continuously for 25 years!
But it is not just the styling or the patented Moon Glow that sets this watch apart, but also the 200-meter water resistance and the anti-glare domed sapphire crystal - as well as the fact that the company insists that this watch is so scratch-resistant and shock-resistant that it can endure the famous "One M" hammer shock test. Other models available are the Conductor, the Trainmaster, the Trainman and the Railroader. All are automatic and all are water-resistant. The collection is to be unveiled in the USA (already available in other markets) within the next 30 days. Plans are for a very limited (and select) few retailers in the USA with no more than two per state, excepting large metropolitan areas.
Collectors of Ball watches are a very intense and passionate group and the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors has studied the history of this great company and has archival material that covers most of Ball Watch Company's rich history. The people at the helm of Ball Watch Company understand this and are making every effort to ensure that the legend will continue.
CAP FERRAT GRAND TOUR - When designing the Cap Ferrat Grand Tour, Alexander and Dominik placed primary importance on the uncompromising aesthetic features of this line of timepieces. "The result," says Alex proudly, "is a perfect equilibrium between sport and luxury - for anyone with a passion for style." The bezel under the sapphire crystal rotates bi-directionally and is operated via the crown positioned at 10 o'clock.
PORTO CERVO - One of the international Jet Set's legendary destinations of choice has inspired the creation of these original timepieces. Uniting audacity, technical mastery, uncompromising quality and creativity, these timepieces express with total assurance the individualism and the discriminating taste of its owner. For those with "a passion for profile," says Alex.
SCALFARO USA EXPANDS COMPANY'S REACH - After becoming a "must-have" for collectors in the Far East, the brothers Kuhnle decided to test the U.S. market for their watches, and located a distributor who had purchased one of their watches sight-unseen. Scalfaro USA is the exclusive distributor for the U.S., led by seasoned businessman Bob Balekian. "We were looking for someone who shared our vision of the company's future, and held values common to ours," said Alex when explaining how Balekian was selected. "Also, he loved our watch from the moment he saw it, and even before becoming a distributor was one of our most enthusiastic ambassadors."
It does help to love what you do, and to have pride in your products. With Scalfaro, it is easy to see how one could quickly develop both.
Tel. (877) 688-1560
Fax (817) 491-1341
Tel. +49 (0) 72 34 - 94 99 62-0
Fax +49 (0) 72 34 - 54 73
e-mail: info@Scalfaro.ch I am non-unbiased about this collection and look forward to the rumored introduction of the limited edition BALL WATCH 333 model with up/down indicator early in 200:
1) NM 1038D-SJ-WH (Trainmaster 60-second) with classic Railroad dial and sapphire caseback, retailing at approximately $1,199 - To deepen Ball Railroad heritage and appeal to Railroad watch fans.
2) NM 1020C-SC-J-BK (Engineer Chronometer Limited Edition: 999 pieces), with train at its caseback, retailing at approximately $1,499
3) DM 1016A-S1J-BK (Engineer Hydrocarbon) retailing at approximately $1,599 - appeals to younger, trendy consumers, as this watch comes with unique features like 7,500Gs shock-resistance, -40 degree C cold temp resistance and patented locking mechanism.
(The following obtained from The Village of Kipton Web site based on reports in the Oberlin Weekly News of April 23, 1891)
The Great Kipton Train Wreck
According to the report in this newspaper, two trains came together fifty feet east of the Kipton depot. "A large piece of steam chest was thrown on the depot roof and rolled off." The article goes on to say that the concussion of the impact on the roof broke most of the depot windows.
The local passenger train from the east was behind schedule and instead of waiting at Oberlin for the fast mail train to pass by from the west, went on to Kipton. A freight train was sitting on the siding that the engineer had planned to use and - going eight miles an hour by this time - sought a second siding. The mail train came around the curve from the west going forty-five miles an hour. The engineer's view being blocked by the freight on the siding, he did not see the passenger train in time to slow down. Both engineers and a fireman were among those killed. Three postal clerks sorting mail also died. The accident occurred on April 18th and eight people died in the crash.
The Kipton Disaster and Webb C. Ball
Most of the accounts of Webb C. Ball usually begin with the story about the collision of two trains in Kipton, Ohio. The story usually states that the engineer's watch was four minutes slow and not knowing this, didn't leave enough time to get on to the siding. Some still argue about the watch being slow, but due to this wreck on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad in Kipton, the General Superintendent of the Lake Shore Line appointed W.C. Ball as Chief Inspector to investigate timekeeping.
- W.C.Ball was a Cleveland jeweler and as a direct result of the collision he investigated railroad timekeeping, and finding practices woefully deficient, instituted watch performance and inspection standards in 1893. Subsequently he became Chief Time Inspector for many railroads and had many American manufacturers produce a quality Railroad timekeeper: the Ball Railroad Watch.
- You have probably heard or even used the old saying, "Get on the Ball." Kipton is where it started.