1879 – 1969
On April 19, 1892, a fatal collision in Kipton, Ohio between a freight train and a passenger train, was attributed to a faulty engineer’s pocket watch which stopped for 4 minutes. This accident became the impetus for the adoption of new quality standards for railroad chronometers in 1893.
The first example of this was demonstrated when railroad officials commissioned Webb C Ball of Cleveland, Ohio as the General Time Inspector. Ball was the inspector of over 125, 000 miles of railroad and was responsible for creating the time inspection system for the railroad. Ball determined that the most important factor in maintaining operating safety of the railroad was a uniform watch that would be both accurate and durable enough to handle everyday usage by engineers for the railroad.
The first pocket watch created for this system was an 18-size ¾ plate by E Howard. There were many specifications that all watches manufactured for the Ball Watch Company had to adhere to. The watches needed to be able to withstand temperatures as low as 30 and as high as 95 degrees. In order to adhere to these temperature requirements, these antique pocket watches are found to have five positions of adjustment. These positions are dial up, dial down, pendant up, 9-up and 3- up. Later pendant down was added as a sixth position requirement. The purpose of these positions was to adjust spring tension within the watches to ensure accuracy during weather fluctuations.
After the initial watch was made for the company by Mr. Howard, the Hamilton Watch Company created a smaller watch that abided by the requirements of Webb C Ball, followed by Waltham Watch Company and later by the Elgin National Watch Company. All watches used by railroad employees were required to undergo inspections by a time inspector every two weeks and were only allowed a 30 second (+/-) leeway in accuracy.
Mr. Ball not only affected the history of the pocket watches with this design and demand for uniform time accuracy, but he also had a huge impact on the formation of the Horological Institute of America in 1921.
Image provided by: oldwatch.com
Source: Heritage Pocket Watch
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