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Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

While more dressy watches have been part of the Ball watch collection for most of the brand’s modern existence, I have almost exclusively focused on their interesting and dynamic range of sport watches (mostly in the Hydrocarbon or Engineer collections). That ends now, as I review the very capable and not overpriced Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase watch with its neat-looking glowing moon.

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

If you are interested in the Ball watch brand, there are two things you need to know. First is that their history is deeply involved with the American railroad, which is why you have collections called “Conductor” or “Trainmaster,” and why “RR” (for “Railroad”) is part of the brand’s logo and also happens to be the counterweight on the seconds hand. You also need to know that Ball watches make extensive use of Swiss-made tritium gas tubes for illumination.

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Over the years, Ball has used a range of tritium gas tube types and colors to create a truly dazzling array of styles and methods for illuminating a dial. Their tireless pursuit of this experimentation is one reason the brand feels truly innovative to me. While tritium gas tubes are used rather traditionally in the hands and hour markers of the Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase, the fun part comes in with the moon phase indicator, as thin columns of long tritium gas tubes are used to backlight the moon disc itself. Ball uses a range of special little textures and materials to create a fun, fantasy look to the moon and stars which in practice feels both attractive and classy.

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

In the dark, the moon glows serenely not as one flat yellow circle, but broken up by the texturing that attempts to make it look more lifelike. I wouldn’t call this a “photo-realistic” moon phase, but it certainly looks more interesting than if it were a flat color that might look like a glowing wheel of cheese. The yellow color of the moon’s tritium backlighting is matched by the marker at 12 o’clock while the rest of the hour markers and hands are in a green color. Another thing that is probably obvious but worth mentioning is that, unlike most moon phase indicator complications that have a disc with two representations of the moon moving behind a window, here the moon is static with a black disc moving over it as the moon display waxes and wanes.

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

For those watch lovers who appreciate a nice and simple moon phase indicator, watches like this are perfect – especially if the “decorative” dial style is up their alley. Ball produces this particular Trainmaster Moon Phase with three dial colors including silver, black, and this metallic blue which I think is particularly handsome. The deeply textured dial emanates in a sort of sun ray pattern out from the moon part of the center in the dial. Dauphine-style hands add a classy element to the overall design and match well with the applied baton-style hour markers.

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Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The dial also has a window for the date at 3 o’clock which is nicely framed, albeit set a bit deep into the case. Text on the dial is existent, but pleasantly minimal. My only real complaint about the Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase watch is minimal and really a matter of taste. I would have preferred the 12 o’clock hour indicator to be slightly different than the other hour markers to make it easier to align your view of the time when looking at the dial from an angle. It is often a “best practice” to make the 12 o’clock hour indicator slightly different than the others – but again, this is a minor quibble and, in some instances, simply a matter of personal preference.

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

As a dress watch, the Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase has a moderate case size of 40mm wide and is produced in steel. It nevertheless has a stately fit with its arguably thick 14.55mm case, but that just gives it a sort of modern sporty feel despite it being a more formal design. As a Ball watch, it has some added durability including being shock resistant to 5000Gs, though the case water resistance is only 50 meters, which just means you probably shouldn’t go swimming with it.

Case style is handsome and very comfortable on the wrist. The mostly polished case lends itself well to a dress watch feel and the traditional “desk bell”-style crown is intentionally something from another era. At least for my wrist, the steeply sloping lugs assist the watch in having a great look and the relatively narrow, polished bezel helps the dial look its maximum size. On the rear of the case is a sapphire crystal window with a view to the movement – and we apologize for having failed to get hands-on images of it.

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Inside the watch is what Ball refers to as their caliber BALL RR1801. It is a base Swiss ETA or Sellita automatic movement (I am guessing a 2836) which has been modified to include the moon phase indicator system. The movement operates at 4Hz with about 2 days of power reserve. The movement isn’t richly decorated or anything, but that is perhaps something Ball might consider giving a bit more attention to in the future in order to up their game a bit for their dressier fare. I do think that having more finely decorated movements in their watches with exposed casebacks would help the brand assert just that much more value.

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Ball offers the Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase watch in all three of its dial colors on both a black or brown crocodile strap as well as a steel metal bracelet. There isn’t a clear winner between the two strap options, as, again, it is a matter of taste. Being someone who typically prefers metal bracelets I find the almost thin and very comfortable bracelet to be a handsome compliment to the case. The multi-link style adds some visual class, and, in my opinion, prevents the overall look of the watch (apart from the dial) from looking boring. The butterfly-style deployant clasp sits relatively flush on the wrist, making for an overall elegant look.

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Those looking for a dressier watch with the soul of a sport watch and a lot of daily wear appeal will find a lot to enjoy in the Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase – or other Trainmaster collection watches, for that matter. Ball offers a solid value mixed with quality fit and finish in an attractive package that doesn’t have a “me-too” or overly retro feel to it. It is a “nice watch” for people who eschew being too conservative but don’t want something “weird” on their wrists to go with their normal office or work attire. Price for the Ball Trainmaster Moon Phase watch reference NM3082D-SJ-BE is $2,299. ballwatch.com

Necessary Data
>Brand: Ball
>Model: Trainmaster Moon Phase NM3082D-SJ-BE
>Price: $2,299 USD
>Size: 40mm
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Moon phase complication lover who wants an attractive albeit slightly different daily wear.
>Best characteristic of watch: Succeeds in its design experiment to offer a unique take on a illuminated moon phase watch. Very comfortable on the wrist and easy to wear regularly.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Cool-looking moon phase display and dial is not going to be universally loved – but that is typical of non-conservative designs. Could arguably have used a different hour marker design at 12 o’clock.

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Comments

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  • Would like to see the strap options. Paired with a nice saddle brown strap might be nice. I don’t know why an ETA 2836 is suggested over an ETA 2824 (since there is no day of week display) but whatever. I assume the movement also has the Ball invented Spring-Lock system (which helps account for the 5000 Gs of shock resistance). Would have been nice if they started with an elabore rather than standard grade movement. I usually don’t think of Ball and dress watch, but this seems like a credible effort and the moon phase illumination is clever and unique.

    • Maybe the day-of-week is modified to operate the moon phase? (just guessing)

      • iamcalledryan

        I think you are right. Instead of a 14-toothed date wheel, they use a 59-toothed wheel for the moon disk.

        • Shinytoys

          I’d agree with Andy, one gear change on an old but proven engine, and it’s a brand new day…

  • A_watches

    Love the design particularly the dial, a coherent well thought out design. Could see myself wearing this for an evening out with the missus… if only the thickness as mentioned could come down a couple mm it would be perfect, but anycase, I still like what they have done here.

  • iamcalledryan

    Aside from the Freudian crown, I am really pleased with what they have done here. I am all for making the moon phase more accessible!

  • I like how the moon actually glows at night. Can’t think of another watch where you can see the moon phase in the dark.

    • iamcalledryan

      Not many, but then there is this one!

      • iamcalledryan

        And it was my pleasure to handle this beauty a couple weeks ago – arguably the best lume/moon grail watch!

        • Wow, that is a beautiful watch. Congrats

          • iamcalledryan

            Unfortunately I had to give the thing back when I left the boutique! But it is an absolute marvel in the flesh!

          • Raymond Wilkie

            Much Mush better finish on the moon. What you get for a few dollars more,…….

        • Is the “3” just a spillover from the date wheel?

          • iamcalledryan

            The dial is smoked sapphire and you can make out the entire dial-side of the movement in daylight, but at night the lume takes over.

          • egznyc

            That is super pretty! But as Ray notes, it’s just a “few” dollars more than the Ball variety ;-). Ball’s effort isn’t bad at all, except the white background on the date wheel at 3:00. Move it to 6:00 at the very least.

        • Shinytoys

          the air is becoming more rarified…

      • Is that a watch or a night light, lol. Pretty cool, what model is that. Is that lume or light?

        • iamcalledryan

          It’s the Sarpaneva Korona Northern Lights – that’s all lume courtesy of Black Badger (who have recently also worked with MB&F and Schofield).

        • Raymond Wilkie

          15 mins or more with this on and you turn into the hulk !

          • Shinytoys

            careful Ray, people will begin to think you have a sense of humor…that won’t do at all, no, no, no…:)

  • word-merchant

    This is one of the major difficulties of running a watch blog; on the one hand you want to tell your readers about a large selection of new watches (which we appreciate), but on the other hand, it means finding words to say about a watch like this.

    Not easy. I’d have been happy with:

    “Ball have just released another watch. They’ve got someone to graft a moonphase layer on top of a very standard ETA movement. It’s been done many a time before. Here are some photos…”

    • TechUser2011

      What a really inane comment. “They’ve gotten someone to graft …”. Yeah, that “someone” is called “employees of the company”.

      And no one cares about watch “movements”.

  • This, my friends, has character!

  • SuperStrapper

    It’s nice, but this is not the aesthetic I think of when I consider a Ball watch. Love that bracelet though.

    • JimBob

      I prefer the faux Nautilus bracelets to the faux Speedmaster bracelets.

      • SuperStrapper

        That’s a bit of a stretch.

        • JimBob

          My bad, this is not the bracelet style I was thinking of. Just shows what is possible when you load a page on a proper display device.

          • SuperStrapper

            Pobody’s nerfect.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Am a sucker for a nice moon phase but sprinkling some sea salt on it wasn’t the best look for the texture. Are the stars white or silver ? , difficult to tell. Lovely classic design. tad pricey. I would love it.

  • Shinytoys

    One of the most underrated watch companies in the world ! I do love this group and the history behind it. Always a great story to tell. Thanks A.A.

  • wallydog2

    Nice watch…but, had I one, I don’t think I’d be inclined to bellow “All aboard!”

  • Beefalope

    I normally can’t stand blue Balls, but I wouldn’t mind handling a couple of these.

    • iamcalledryan

      oh no he didn’t?!

      Does this model work in a cold shower?

      • egznyc

        Uh, right … Except it is only rated for 50m WR 😉

    • Larry Holmack

      Well, as Larry the Cable Guy says…..” Now dat dere is funny now, I’s a don’t care who ya are!!”

  • Ball’s made some strange, perhaps even questionable marketing choices as of late, but their designs just keep getting tighter and tighter, and that macro moon shot is proof of it. Truly innovative usage of tritium, and the whole reason Ball continues to stay on my radar.

  • Marius

    Doesn’t this watch look surprisingly similar to the recently released Arnold&Son Moonphase?

  • funNactive

    Love this watch. I like Tritium watches (always sleep with one on, stays on my night stand). The moon’s tritium backlighting with a rotating disk is a nice design feature. My only grip would be the water rating. Not that I want to go swimming with it but I think all watches should be designed to 100m.

  • Larry Holmack

    Very nice looking watch. I love the blue dial and the moon phase, and the use of the tritium tubes to back light the moon phase is totally cool looking!!!

  • cg

    Ball can do no wrong in my opinion. Superb.

  • otaking241

    I’m a big fan of Ball and think they do wonderful things with their dials, as beautifully exemplified here. On the other hand, I wish they would come up with a couple nicer bracelet designs and work on better matching them to the overall watch. Here I find the 7-link a bit too busy given all that’s going on with the dial, and the width makes the lugs look awkward and stubby on an otherwise elegant case. They get 95% right but it’s that last 5% that separates the “good” from the “great.”

  • Vukasin

    Such a beautiful watch. On a leather strap it would look even better. Really like tritium tubes, glowing moon and that blue dial. I would only prefer date at 6 o’clock.

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