Time on the American Railroad

April 2003

Ball Watches may not mean too much to people in Europe, but in the United States Webb C. Ball played an important part in the history of both the US railroad and American horology.

In America it is generally accepted that the development of the watch industry is attributed to the development of the rail system. Webb C Ball entered the picture in 1879 when he purchased an interest in a jewellery store in Cleveland. That same year he bought out the owner and became a 'time' enthusiast. With the introduction of Standard Time in 1883 he became the first local jeweller to use the time signals to bring accurate time to the city. Ball was also credited with bringing the first chronometer to the city and displaying it in his store window.

Ball set up the Ball Watch Co. and it has sold its robust watches from 1895 to the present day. Ball himself went on to become the Chief Inspector for a part of the rail network, eventually being instrumental for establishing watch and clock standards for the railways. He set up records of the performance of timepieces and instigated a system whereby four standard watches were to be found on every passenger and freight train, carried by the conductor, engineer, fireman and rear brakeman.

'Ball Time' became an established name and anyone wishing to learn the time usually asked someone working on the railway.

The Ball Watch Company Inc. has now re-introduced the watch that ran America's railway - the Ball. The company maintains the tradition of creating 'rugged, no-nonsense quality watches capable of enduring adverse conditions.'

All Ball watches contain a self-powered micro gas light manufactured by innovative Swiss laser technology. The light is 100 times brighter than conventional tritium paint and does not require external light sources to charge the paint. Its lifespan is considered to be valid for more than 25 years. The watches are entirely Swiss Made, with anti-glare sapphire crystals and are water-resistant to 200 metres.