Angus Davies provides an in-depth review of the Ball Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball, a modern day chronograph inspired by a historical pocket watch. You can read more of Angus’s watch musings at his Escapement watch blog.
Few watch brands are more intrinsically linked to train travel than the Ball Watch Company. The company, founded in 1891, was born out of necessity. Deaths on American railways were not uncommon.
Forty miles from Cleveland, Ohio on April 18th 1891, two trains collided. The accident became known as the “Great Kipton Train Wreck.” A mail train, “Number 14”, traveling at full speed, piled into the Toledo Express. Sadly, eight men were killed as a result of the accident.
Ordinarily, the Toledo Express would have pulled into a siding to allow the fast mail train to pass. However, on this occasion the Toledo was believed to have been late. It should not have left the nearby Kipton station knowing the fast mail train was en route, heading toward it on the same track.
An investigation took place after the accident and found the crew of the Toledo at fault. One area which was of concern to the investigation team were the engineer’s watches. It was thought one timepiece was running four minutes late. Whilst this sounds like a small margin for error, the consequences would, sadly, prove very grave.
Webb C. Ball, a jeweler from Cleveland, was tasked by the General Superintendent of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad to look into the timekeeping of engineers’ watches. The outcome was the establishment of “Official Railroad Standard” in 1893. Indeed, such was Ball’s influence on train timekeeping that a phrase subsequently entered common parlance: “Get on the Ball,” a fact marked on a plaque created by The Ohio Historical Society.
The Ball Watch Company pocketwatches of the late 19th century have provided inspiration for the Trainmaster Cannonball wristwatches of today. This model is available with two dial options — black or white enamel — and can be selected with a steel bracelet or crocodile leather strap. My favorite is the very attractive white enamel version presented on a brown crocodile leather strap.
Ball Watch Company has referenced the original pocketwatches used on the railways, but tailored them to meet the needs of today’s wearer by creating this highly practical wristwatch.
Blued poire squélette hands ooze nostalgia and evince an antique feel. A micro gas tube graces each hand, enhancing nocturnal legibility. Micro gas tubes deliver incredible luminescence, as I recently discovered when reviewing Ball’s Fireman Storm Chaser Pro. The micro gas tubes use tritium, a radioactive substance safely contained within glass tubes that delivers matchless readability.