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Thread: From pocket to wrist - American RR grade to Swiss - the transition

  1. #1

    From pocket to wrist - American RR grade to Swiss - the transition

    If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that I'm a pocketwatch kind of guy. In particular, American made RR grade pocketwatches. Kinda like this one - the first serious watch I ever owned (and still own). It was on my hip nearly every day for 40 years (until I was corrupted; it still takes a turn in the rotation) - a 1970 (retail sale) Hamilton Railway Special constructed out of parts still in stock after the production line shut down in 1968 - a so-called "4C 992B". I got this one as a college graduation present on 1 June 1970 (that's what's engraved on the back cover). I now own about 10 4C 992B's, and I'm always on the lookout for more (at the right price). But only if they are "wearable" - no museum pieces. One of it's precursors, the 4992B, is on my hip as I type.

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    Since then, I've traced back the history leading up to this crowning achievement (and eventual commercial failure). I have Waltham, Elgin, ...oh, just look at my signature...specimens from 1869 forward. A big player in the American made RR grade pocketwatch was Webster Clay Ball. The Ball Company bought movements from various manufacturers and tweaked them to the standards laid out by...Webster Clay response to a famous train collision. There are Ball Howard, Ball Elgin, Ball Waltham, Ball Illinois, and...of course...Ball Hamilton watches from 1899 to the 1960's. In the end, only Hamilton survived - until it didn't. My earliest Ball is an 1899 Ball Waltham "Official Standard" 16s 17j beauty - my latest is a 1953 Ball Hamilton "999B" (train freaks can explain the "999" to you) - after that it's all Hamilton, all the time, until 1970 (or 1968, depending on how you count). I'm still looking for a decent Ball Illinois RR grade example that I can afford (I just bought a "Commercial Standard" that isn't quite RR grade - but mostly for reasons that don't actually matter).

    What did Ball (the company) do? Hopped the pond back to Switzerland. Now, they make big honking chunks of bling - but for a little while they continued the fiction of producing watches that might be used to keep the railroads marching to a single drummer. In that transition, there are Ball RR wristwatches, e.g., the "Trainmaster".

    Once, I viewed these as "traitors to the cause". But today, the confluence of just the right vibe, just the right watch, and a good price, brought me completely over to the dark side. Behold, my INCOMING Ball wristwatch. A Swiss ETA 2821 movement, still hardy and workmanlike (no bling, thank you), with some pretensions to still being a working man's railroad timepiece. Still worthy of the Ball Official RR Standard Trademark.

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    The floor is now open for suggestions on an appropriate strap. I suspect the original was a SS bracelet. A NATO would be an abomination (pace, NATO freaks). Perhaps something in a custom distressed leather strap?(if only someone here made that sort of thing...and sold them) Restoration to the "original" look is probably not cost effective (and, I'll wager that a real working version would have had it's strap replaced several times over) - so "original" is not the goal - rather "respect for the tradition". I think I'll even keep the current acrylic crystal.

    The case is reported to be 35mm, I don't (yet) know the size strap required.

    So - what would *you* attach to it? (fifty lashes for the first person to say Speidel)
    Last edited by KennethRSloan; May 8, 2015 at 03:37 AM.
    La lutte elle-mme vers les sommets suffit remplir un cur d'homme; il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.

  2. #2
    Random guy vinylgreek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Central Texas, USA
    Thanks for the background. 112.5 mph eh? Pretty impressive. If the case is 35mm my best guess is a strap of 18mm width. I like your idea of distressed leather and you might consider a tan buffalo grain or dark brown oil tanned strap. Different looks but ones that would, I think, work for you.

  3. #3
    A simple brown/dark tan with non glossy finish will do.. but a black crocs leather would also look classy on it.. very nice looking Ball!

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  5. #4
    Simple black leather. POSSIBLY with white stitching if you're feeling adventurous.

    I also have a fair interest in pocket watches....I've been looking for Seiko ones for YEARS. Rare as hens teeth

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  7. #5
    Yep, I agree: basic matte black. Maybe with a light alligator print, but nothing too distracting. Simple dial, simple strap.

    I've never paid much attention to pocket watches, but the more posts like this that I read, the more appreciation I have for them. Thanks!

    Eterna | Tudor | Seiko | Casio | G-Shock | Orient | Swatch | Mondaine | Zodiac (pre-Fossil) | Rolex | Wenger | Pulsar Time Computer | Omega | Timex | Bucherer | Citizen | Bulova | Glycine

  8. #6
    A firmly shiny (if not glossy) black strap will embolden that red seconds hands so that it feels like a colossus striding etc etc etc

  9. #7
    A semi matte black pigskin. It's business like and manages the feat of being strong enough visually to match the dial with being muted enough not to impose on it. Google the time factors aviator, as that's pretty well what I have in mind.

  10. #8
    wind-up merchant OhDark30's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014

    From pocket to wrist - American RR grade to Swiss - the transition

    Thanks for the history, Kenneth! (Mr Sloan?)
    And a new phrase to pass on to my pocketwatch collecting friend: 'on the hip' :-)
    I love honest, working men's watches, and that has been designed with an elegant utility to it
    For a 35mm watch that's likely to be 18mm
    I'd go quite simple, ruddy brown or black with a subtle texture - buffalo grain or vintage pigskin
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    buffalo grain from Weston Watch Straps
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    Vintage pigskin - you'll want a darker brown
    Good luck with your hunt, and be sure to post pics! :-)
    It's the final countdown! PM me before they're all gone!

  11. #9
    The Dude Abides Nokie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Northern CA
    Black shell cordovan gets my vote for a suggested strap.
    "Either He's Dead, Or My Watch Has Stopped....."
    Groucho Marx

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  13. #10
    Hall Monitor Samanator's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Sebring, Florida
    I believe the strap size is 19mm, but wait to check. I would go with dark burgundy with black stitching.

    As a note I believe, your way off on modern Ball watches. I would see these examples as evolutions of where Webb C. Ball would go. The RR was the "it" way to travel in his time, but Autos, Air and Space would be his pursuits today.

    Last edited by Samanator; May 8, 2015 at 11:04 PM.


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