BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball

Angus Davies provides an in-depth review of BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball, a modern day chronograph inspired by a historical pocket watch.

 This detailed review of the BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball includes live pictures, specification details and pricing.

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

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”, travelling 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 towards 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.

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Cannonball Original Pocket Watch

Webb C. Ball, a jeweller from Cleveland, was tasked by the General Superintendent of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad to look into the time keeping of engineer’s watches. The outcome was the establishment of “Official Railroad Standard” in 1893. Indeed, such was Ball’s influence on the 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 pocket watches 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 favourite is the very attractive white enamel version presented on a brown crocodile leather strap.

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball range

 

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

 BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball – ref CM1052D-L1J-BK

 

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

 BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball – ref CM1052D-L1J-WH

 

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

 BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball – ref CM1052D-S1J-BK

 

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

 BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball – ref CM1052D-S1J-BK

 

The dial

BALL Watch Company has referenced the original pocket watches used on the railways, but tailored them to meet the needs of today’s wearer by creating this highly practical wristwatch.

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

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 the Fireman Storm Chaser Pro. The micro gas tubes use tritium, a radioactive substance safely contained within glass tubes which deliver matchless readability.

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball – ref CM1052D-L1J-BK

The bi-compax layout of the dial on the BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball includes a small seconds display at 3 o’clock and a 45-minute chronograph counter at 9 o’clock. Each subdial is snailed and marked with small, but legible, Arabic numerals.

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Below noon, an aperture reveals the date. Because the movement is of modular construction, the date sits a little deep within the dial. However, it remains perfectly legible when viewed directly from the front and should not cause too many concerns. At first the aperture appears square, but the upper and lower edges are slightly curved, following the line of the nearby minute rail.

The Arabic numerals encircling the dial are traditional in appearance and include serifs. Interestingly, the upper portion of the number “7” on the dial, states the word, “BALL” in small capitalised italics. Indeed, wherever you choose to survey, the dial has subtle design details which bestow delight.

Gracing the perimeter of the dial, a minute rail reinforces the symbolic links to railways. Each hour is marked with a luminous pearl and at noon a triangular index features.

The case

The stainless steel case has a diameter of 43mm and height of 14.8mm. I found the scale of the watch very wearable.

 

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Despite the crown being rather large, at no stage did it rub against my arm or hinder free movement of my wrist. The design of the crown has a vintage feel, reminiscent of the crown gracing the top of a 19th century BALL pocket watch, albeit, in the case of the wristwatch, positioned at 3 o’clock.

The upper step of the bezel, case band and case back are highly polished. By contrast, the lower step of the bezel and the upper surface of the lugs are satin-brushed. The blend of finishes is very appealing.

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

An exhibition case back accords a view of the movement within.

The movement

The self-winding Caliber BALL RR1401 in the BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz), contains 49 jewels and has a power reserve of 38 hours.

BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The oscillating mass features Côtes de Genève motif and perlage, visible beneath on the bridges.

BALL has a well-deserved reputation for crafting robust watches and this model proves no exception with an impressive shock resistance of 5000Gs.

Closing remarks

The BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball is a good-looking watch. It offers the convenience of a self-winding chronograph movement and looks capable of shrugging off minor impacts and shocks, courtesy of its sturdy construction. This watch also represents very good value at £2590 (RRP as at 25.7.2014).

I particularly like how the watch references the past, capturing some of the design elements of the BALL Watch Company pocket watches from the 19th century. However, this watch has been tailored to suit modern-day life, designed for wearing on the wrist and imbued with a palpable robustness, making it worthy of consideration.

Technical Specification

  • Model: BALL Watch Company Trainmaster Cannonball 
  • Reference: CM1052D-L1J-WH
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 43.00 mm; height 14.80 mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph.
  • Movement: Caliber RR1401, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 49 jewels; power reserve of 38 hours.
  • Strap: Crocodile leather strap presented on a steel pin buckle.
  • Price: £2590 (RRP as at 25.7.2014)

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank CW Sellors Jura, for kindly providing access to this remarkable timepiece.

Related Links