Ball Watch Company is a brand with a unique past. Founded in America in 1891 in Cleveland, Ohio, by jeweler and watchmaker Webb C. Ball, the company is credited with contributing to the safety of America’s railroad system thanks to its incredibly precise watches. The founder was even celebrated by the Horological Institute of America in 1921. Today, based out of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Ball watch company creates watches that pay homage to the people who work hard to tame the big machines we need, some of whom are national heroes. Collections include the Railroad, Engineer, Fireman, Trainmaster, Conductor, and others.
Founded by Webster Clay Ball in Ohio, Cleveland, Ball Watch is a Swiss luxury watch company based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The story started in 1891 when Webb C. Ball was appointed as the “Chief Time Inspector” to make train rides safe for travelers and employees. Ball began as a time inspection company for railway road watches.
Webb C. Ball started the vast Ball network with his early inspection system. This network eventually covered 75% of the railroads in the United States and protected 175,000 miles of railroad. Webb C. Ball also expanded his system into Mexico and Canada. In addition, Webb C. Ball developed the RR standard certification. Individuals seeking accreditation for the RR Standard were required to meet some specifications. These specifications ranged from the physical characteristics of the timepiece to the watch’s accuracy. The RR standard received a good deal of use from railroad companies and became mandatory for all railroad employees.
After Webb C. Ball died in 1922, his family operated the company until the 1990s. The family then proceeded to sell the business with the right to use the name, which led to the company’s relocation in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
Timekeeping was not very accurate before the development of the railroads across the United States. Each town kept its own local time based on the sun’s position. The advent of trains connecting distant cities made it difficult to avoid collisions. After a tragic train wreck in Kipton, Ohio, in 1891, Webb C. Ball was appointed as the “Chief Time Inspector.”
Webb C. Ball created the Ball Time Service, which every rail employee had to use every two weeks to ensure that their watch was accurate and reliable. His RR (RR stands for Rail Road) certification assured high accuracy of all the timepieces and have to follow criteria:
Ball Watch is a Swiss-owned, Swiss-based, independently owned brand managed by a board of directors whose identities remain confidential.
Ball Watch Company has collaborated with mountaineers, astronauts, and oceanographers to create iconic watches for its Ball Explorer Club. For example, Ball Watch worked with Jim Whittaker (the first American to summit Mt. Everest) to develop the Engineer Hydrocarbon collection. Ball Watch designed the Fireman Ionosphere and limited edition Fireman Skylab watches in collaboration with NASA astronaut Owen Garriott. And Ball Watch Company also worked with Dr. Christopher Hillman (a pro-bono doctor to nomadic communities) to create the Trainmaster Pulsemeter Pro and the limited edition Trainmaster Doctor’s Chronograph.