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Among the extant heritage American watch brands, the expression of that heritage and legacy is sometimes difficult to see. The challenge, of course, is keeping a brand relevant. The fact that many of these brands have managed to stay in business for over 100 years isn’t because they’ve clung to the past — it’s because they’ve managed to evolve with the market and consistently deliver attractive watches. A brand like Ball Watch, founded in the heart of the United States in 1891, is steeped in and inextricably linked to the American story. Unlike other American brands, though, Ball Watch has always kept one foot firmly planted in its remarkable history. And its other foot has never settled for resting upon the brand’s laurels. From the very beginning when it provided the most accurate timepieces to ensure railroad safety, to its myriad patented cutting-edge technologies, Ball has always had an eye on what’s next and has been part of defining what a modern watch is and should be. This is exemplified in the Ball Roadmaster Collection.

When Webb C. Ball founded his eponymous brand at the end of the 19th century, it was in response to the Great Kimpton Train Wreck, a tragic two-train crash that left eight dead. The crash had been caused by one of the conductors’ watches failing for four minutes, throwing off the schedule. As Chief Time Inspector, Ball was the one responsible for figuring out how to prevent further tragedies, which he did by establishing precision standards and a timepiece inspection system. Ball Watch first distributed railroad chronometers, then started producing its own pocket watches. Since establishing the Railroad Standard and creating its own timepiece, the Ball Watch brand has evolved considerably.

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Ball Watch still produces timepieces in its Official Railroad Watch and Trainmaster collections that pay tribute to those original railroad chronometers, but its scope has broadened. The brand’s expansive Engineer collections offer tough-as-nails tool watches for almost every occasion, while still maintaining a connection to the brand’s backstory through their Double R counterbalance, “Official RR Standard” dial text, and commitment to precision. The Fireman collection is similarly appointed but delivers sleek, elegant timepieces for those times that call for sophistication above all else. But it is without a doubt the Roadmaster Collection — named for the people in charge of guiding railroad infrastructure — that defines and demonstrates the true modernity of Ball Watch.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Ball Watch Roadmaster watches is their cases. One of the hallmarks of the collection is its extensive use of titanium; there are twice as many titanium models in the Roadmaster collection as there are across the rest of the brand’s collections combined. Employing titanium not only gives the watches and bracelets a warmer hue compared to steel but significantly reduces their weight, creating exceptional comfort on the wrist for the cases, which range from 40mm to 43mm. The bracelet, too, separates the collection from the rest of Ball Watch timepieces. A more streamlined design, the tapered Roadmaster bracelet features end links that create a seamless silhouette as it sits on the wrist. The bracelets feature Ball’s signature raised-link design and secure butterfly clasps, with half-links for getting the perfect size. Further, whereas many Ball Watch models balance polished surfaces with brushed, the Roadmaster collection emphasizes the more durable, edgier brushed finishing throughout, with selective use of polished accents to provide a dynamic aesthetic that moves away from the brand’s storied past and brings the watches into the modern age.

Of course, the Roadmaster timepieces also benefit from Ball’s many functional innovations. The bezels are all fully lumed and many of them are ceramic. On the Ocean Explorer, a unique bezel system allows you to adjust both the internal tide bezel and the internal two-week bezel simply by turning the bezel clockwise or counterclockwise. The pushers used for actuating the chronograph on the Rescue Chronograph or for adjusting the GMT hand on the Pilot GMT and Marine GMT are all lockable with a single twist, ensuring that you’ll never accidentally start timing or change your time zone. In case there was any doubt, every model has both front and rear sapphire crystals for optimal clarity and the chance to admire the beautiful Ball Watch movements, and while every case has at least 100m of water resistance, most are rated to 200m or more.

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The dials of the Ball Roadmaster collection bring the same exceptional legibility and balance that all the brand’s models have, but with a few tweaks that give the Roadmaster models an undeniable edge when being considered by those looking for the latest designs and functionality. Ball continues its iconic use of tritium micro gas tubes for its indices, offering constant luminance to the watch dials for ideal readability in every condition; the look is enhanced in many cases with accents of Super-LumiNova, whether on the dial or bezel. In lieu of the brand’s traditional “Double R” counterbalance on the seconds hand, almost every Roadmaster timepiece is fitted with a sleeker tapering counterbalance.

One of the defining features of all Ball watches is their emphasis on utility. Across the brand, the timepieces are remarkable for how well they present information, often highly specialized. It’s a seemingly simple task that is too often handled poorly, but not by Ball, and certainly not in the Roadmaster collection. The Rescue Chronograph features a rotating timing bezel, a 12-hour chronograph with enlarged hands, a running indicator, and a pulsometer scale; When considering a watch, it’s everything a rescue worker might need to get his or her job done and save lives. The GMTs have independently adjustable hour and GMT hands, with the latter standing out with its bright color. Perhaps most notable is the Ball Roadmaster Ocean Explorer’s tide-tracking function, which is unique within the brand and exceedingly rare in analog watches. The Ocean Explorer pairs its dual-function bezel with indicator on the dial that shows the phase of the moon as well as whether the tide is neap or spring.

The Roadmaster series is home to some of Ball’s most novel mechanical innovations. While past models have utilized some of Ball’s many in-house calibers, the current collection capitalizes on Ball’s talent for making in-house modifications to some of the world’s best Swiss movements from ETA and Sellita, many of which are COSC-certified. Every model features antimagnetic protection up to 4,800A/m and several of the movements feature the brand’s patented Amortiser anti-shock system, elevating the watches’ resistance to sudden jolts to an impressive 5,000G. The Rescue Chronograph is lubricated with a special oil that allows it to endure blisteringly cold temperatures down to -45°C / -49°F. To achieve the functionality of the Ocean Explorer’s tide tracking and the pusher-actuated hand adjustment in the GMTs, Ball has developed and installed its own movement modules.

Just as a brand’s heritage may not be evident in its watches, there are times when historic brands can seem to get bogged down by their pasts, whether it’s because of stagnant design, elements that may tie it too closely to history, or something else. Through its Roadmaster Collection, Ball Watch shows that it has ably avoided any such pitfalls, delivering an array of modern timepieces with novel complications and contemporary design that still manage to be recognizable as one of the brand’s exceptional watches. Whether it’s for the seafaring adventurer, the daring rescue worker, or the jet-setting traveler, the Ball Watch Roadmaster Collection has the right watch. The Ball Watch Roadmaster watches featured in this article are priced between $3,249 USD and $3,749 USD. For more information, please visit the Ball Watch website

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