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.

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Source: Heritage Pocket Watch

Craig Duling

Craig Duling's fascination with timepieces goes back at least to his college days, when he built a digital clock from scratch for his senior year physics lab class. Currently the head of Heritage Management Services, a business management firm in San Francisco, Craig Duling is also a significant collector of rare antique pocket watches. Pocket watches are often associated with images of 19th-century railroad conductors consulting them as steam trains left the station. This close attention to correct time was essential. In the 19th century, most trains traveled in both directions on single sets of tracks. Sidings were placed at regular intervals to allow trains to pass safely. Printed timetables showed the arrival and departure of trains, as well as when they were waiting in sidings. This system depended on accurate watches. The problem with this became evident in 1891 when two trains in Ohio had a head-on collision, killing nine people. Investigation disclosed that the engineer's watch on the passenger train had stopped and restarted, making it four minutes slow. This tragedy prompted railroad officials to set up standards for pocket watches. These specifications mandated that watches share a common design, as well as being reliable, easy to read, and impervious to extremes of temperature.

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