For 2016, Ball introduces this handsome steel-cased version of the Ball Trainmaster Standard Time watch that aBlogtoWatch originally debuted in 18k rose gold back in 2013. At the time, the less than $7,500 gold-cased watch was a veritable bargain compared to the price of other gold watches out there, and its classic pocket watch style made for an enduring and friendly conservative design.
Ball was instrumental in the formation of the American railroad industry – which relied to a large extent on everyone agreeing what time it was. The original Ball Trainmaster Standard Time was said to be a celebration of the adoption of standard time in America, which is why the timepiece has this name. Now, in 2016, the Ball Trainmaster Standard Time is back in a nicely polished steel case offered on both a matching steel bracelet or a leather strap – the price isn’t bad either.
Anyone familiar with the look of classic turn-of-the-century utilitarian pocket watches will immediately recognize what inspired Ball to create the dial design. In fact, the dials are actually baked enamel – which, as far as I know, is very hard to find in timepieces at this price. I’ve always been fond of this dial design because of its ability to be both tranquil and elegant, but also supremely legible and utilitarian. The relaxed effectiveness of its display is a testament to good watch face design. Of course, because this is a Ball watch we are talking about, the Ball Trainmaster Standard Time dial is also fitted with self-illuminating tritium gas tubes in both the hands and next to each of the hour markers.
Little touches on the dial are elegant, such as the fanciful way Ball designed the 7 o’clock hour marker to say “Ball & C” (Ball & Co). The dial is very classic in its execution, with a subsidiary seconds dial and blued hands. Of course, Ball does include a date window at 3 o’clock that inevitably some people will dislike, but it doesn’t bother me at all. Not that I really care about watches having a date window or not, but some people dislike them for how they can negatively affect a sense of dial symmetry.
One small downside to the watch (depending on your visual precision) is the painted blue hands versus flame-blued steel hands. The latter offers a better, less shiny, and more even look, as the metal itself is made blue versus being coated. With that said, the overall look is very nice for the price. I don’t think a lot of people would want a dial that is 5% better for a 30-50% price premium… there are clearly other watch choices for that.
As a more classic and dressy watch, the Ball Trainmaster Standard Time case is sized at 39.5mm wide and is just 11.15mm thick. The case is only water resistant to 30 meters – which is odd given how “durably versatile” many Ball watches are. With that said, the Trainmaster Standard Time should be a very suitable choice for casual to formal use.
Through a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback window, the rear of the watch offers a view of the base Swiss ETA or Sellita automatic movement which Ball refers to as their caliber RR1105-C. The movement has further been COSC Chronometer certified, which adds a bit of overall value and explains the $2,000-plus price point. The watch’s automatic movement and Chronometer certification status are memorialized via cursive text printed on the dial wrapping around the subsidiary seconds dial.
I personally prefer the bracelet option on the Ball Trainmaster Standard Time watch, but that is just my personal taste. As a dress watch that is directly inspired by turn-of-the-century pocket watches, you really can’t go wrong here unless you are interested in something a bit larger – and if you are, you might as well just get an actual turn-of-the-century pocket watch that has been converted into a wrist watch (as those do exist).
If anything, this is an excellent watch for people who are suffering from diminished visions or are just starting to learn how to read a watch with analog hands versus digital. You’d be surprised just how many people out there suffer from not being able to readily read the time on analog watches – which is nothing to be ashamed of. Digital watches are easier to read, but sadly just aren’t as sexy as analog watches. Or perhaps the Ball Trainmaster Standard Time is a good choice because you like the subtle “C-cup-style” crown. Price is $2,499. ballwatch.com