Ball - Waltham 1912

JeffL

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Jul 19, 2010
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I recently acquired a Ball watch (B245327) made by Waltham in 1912. Is the movement basically a 21 jewel Crescent Street or is it distinct from any model made by Waltham? The watch runs fine and keeps accurate time.

The case appears to be original to the watch - "Ball Model" stamped into the Keystone case cover (there is a dust cover too), but the case has brassing around the edges and the dial has hairlines. I assume I should leave the watch as is versus getting a replacement dial and/or case?

Thanks, JeffL
 

Dutto11

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Hi Jeffl,
I will start by saying I am no expert when it come to Ball watches or any other model for that matter, I just read and ask a lot of questions.

With a fine quality watch like a Ball it should be cleaned before any long period of running if you don't know when it was last cleaned that is.

As for when it was produced just read what Larry Treiman sent to me about a 19 jewel Ball Waltham watch I recently purchased.

From the very first watches that Waltham made for Ball, they took the regular Waltham serial number, then took off the millions and ten-millions place digits and substituted a "B" prefix. Thus 9060701 presumably should become Ball s.n. B060701. That is what usually happened....but not always. In some instances in Waltham Balls with Waltham serial numbers in the 10 millions, they apparently dropped only the 1 in the 10 millions place but not the 0 in the millions place, leaving the B followed by 7 digits beginning with 0, like B0XXXXXX. This went on for several years resulting in serial number runs that are all over the place, IOW, a real hodge-podge!

FINALLY when they got up to the Waltham serial numbers in the 13 millions, someone came up with the brilliant idea of allocating large blocks of serial numbers in advance for Ball watches. Thus starting with Waltham ser. no. 13202001 and running to 13225000, that entire block of serial numbers was set aside for Ball watches. The 13 was dropped and replaced by the B prefix, resulting in Ball serial numbers B202001 thru B225000. By the time they had used up all those serial numbers, Waltham production must have been approaching the 15 millions, so to keep things continuous, they set aside Waltham ser. nos. 15225001 thru 15240000, which became Ball numbers B225001 thru B240000. Those ran out when Waltham production was up around the 18 millions, so a new block of Waltham numbers, 18240001 thru 18255500 (according to the "Gray Book") was set aside for Ball numbers B240001 thru B255500.

The process continued through the rest of Waltham's production for Ball. In the 20 millions they set aside 20255001 th....oops....there's a little glitch there! Either the last s.n. in the 18 millions should have been 18255000 or the first in the 20 millions should have been 20255501. That is typical of the "glitches" (i.e., errors) that turn up in the "Gray Book". If Kent and Ed or someone else can come up with some Ball watches in the range B255001 - B255500, the mystery here will be cleared up! If not, that's life in the "Gray Book." You can wake up now! The worst is over.

Anyway, you can see that about the best we can say ( or I can say, is that a Waltham watch in the 13 millions serial number block allocated to Ball Production would have been made c.1904. But that many watches were likely produced over a longer period of time, and the next group of numbers to be set aside in the 15 millions would have been made around 1907 and later, the best guess would be just that, a guess. Also, keep in mind that when Waltham was finished with their part of the process, the movements were not yet adjusted or cased. They were shipped to Ball's Cleveland, Ohio, facility where each watch was torn down, checked over, reassembled and then adjusted to Ball's standards by Ball's own staff of skilled watchmakers, before being cased (and dialed, I think) and shipped out. And I'm not aware of the existence of any records showing when the watches were shipped out from the Ball facility.

Oh yes, I'll repeat something I have mentioned a number of times in the past. In correspondence with a retired Canadian railway watch inspector (many years ago), who had apprenticed with the Canadian Ball Watch Company, he told me that the Ball people considered their best running railroad standard watch to be the 19-jewel Waltham Ball.

Larry Treiman

If the hairlines aren't too bad the dial can be cleaned with a soft brush and "Simple Green" solution and then soaked in a Polydent solution over night to lift out the remaining dirt.
I have read that putting it in the polyydent solution in a dish and then placing it on top of the refrigerator will help loosen any dirt.
The gentle vibration of the fridge helps the process.
I have had great success doing this in the past.
A word of warning though just be very careful when cleaning any old dial as they may be damaged more by over zealous cleaning.
Cheers
Gary
 

Larry Treiman

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Jan 18, 2009
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Hi JeffL,

I was sort of procrastinating in replying to your post about your Waltham Ball; I just wasn't up to doing a lot of typing tonight. Then Gary (Dutto11) posted from down under, and saved me a lot of typing by quoting my answer to a post of his. THANKS GARY!

Now all I think I have to do is address your question of whether the movement is basically a 21-jewel Crescent Street or if it is distinct from any model made by Waltham. That's a tough question to answer. The 16-size watches that Waltham made for Ball (both Official RR Standard and Commercial Standard grades) were of course based on the Waltham 16-size 1899 and 1908 models, and many parts were interchangeable as far as I know, though I haven't studied the extent of interchangeability. However, the Ball plates and bridges were of a very distinctive appearance in shape and finish, and were made to Ball's designs and specifications.

Besides the shape and finish of the plates and bridges, there were other differences. The Waltham Ball watches used the Whiplash style regulators (Reed's Patent) while most 16-size Waltham railroad grades usually used the star-wheel regulator or (later) Ohlson's 1908 patent regulator. I was told by my Canadian correspondent that Ball watches often used a larger balance wheel with smaller screws to minimize the effect of changing atmospheric pressure with altitude on the balance, but I don't know how extensively that feature was used. And, most importantly, the Waltham Ball watches were taken apart completely, then reassembled and adjusted in Ball's shop by his own personnel and to Ball's standards.

Considering all that, I would hesitate to say that any Waltham Ball was the equivalent of any particular Waltham grade, but neither would I rule out such a comparison. And I'm purposely not addressing any other makes of Ball watches. The subject is really way beyond the scope of a reply to a post, as I have come to realize as I write this.

Besides, we really don't fully understand the differences between various Waltham grades, and I'm not so sure that Waltham always did. For example, I doubt that anyone can explain why (in the 1917 Waltham catalog) the price of the 21-jewel Crescent Street was $46.60 while the 19-jewel Riverside was $47.80. Hmmmm, let's see now. They took the Riverside, added conical pivots on the escape wheel pinion and a pair of endstones, changed the grade name to Crescent Street, and lopped $1.20 off the price. Yup, that must have made sense to someone at 221 Crescent Street in Waltham. Come to think of it, maybe the idea emanated from someone in Elgin....or had the "Trust-Busters" in Washington found out about THOSE shenanigans by then? Wait, didn't a guy named Shenanigan work for Hamilt......no, that was Halligan. Nevermind!

Larry Treiman
 
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johnbscott

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Feb 25, 2007
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Whilst on the interesting subject of Ball-Waltham ORRS watch serial numbering, here is some more from "up top" (we are actually closer to the centre of the Universe, here).

The Gray Book shows allocations for Ball ORRS at 12037001-12037500 and at 12511501-12512000, the nineteenth and twentieth ORRS runs, respectively. Even so, you will never find watch movements having directly comparable serial numbering.

In fact, the run 12511501 was allocated Ball serial numbers B200001-B200500 whilst the run 12511501-12512000 was allocated the serial numbers B200501-B201000. When you dis-assemble the movements the true serial numbers become apparent, behind the plates. Movement B200406 is illustrated in the 1905 Ball catalogue.

The movements in the range B200001-B200500 do not carry the "Sapphire Pallets" marking that is applied to most ORRS Ball watch movements. Ball-Waltham ORRS watches of the third run (B134201-B134500) and the fourth run (B134601-B135000) share this deficiency (the intervening 100 movements were Commercial Standard). It is interesting to theorise about the reasons for this.

As the Ball-Waltham movements were the first ORRS grade in 16s they are deserving of study. There were some interesting variations amongst them, especially in the developmental years at the turn of the Twentieth Century. When properly restored the timekeeping performance of these movements can be second to none. After a century of use there are few of them to be found that are entirely original as to movement, dial, hands and case. Serious study of Ball catalogues and the odd specimens that do seem to retain their original configuration can assist conscientious restorers.
 

Larry Treiman

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johnbscott, you are certainly correct that the Ball 16-size Official Standard movements by Waltham, especially the early ones, are deserving of study. However, when I got interested in studying and collecting Ball watches (between the late-1960s and early 1980s), the BIG impediment to serious study was the dearth of catalogs and other original documentation covering Ball watches in general (except perhaps Hamilton Ball watches). There were only the few early Ball catalogs and the limited number of ads reproduced by Roy Ehrhardt in some of his publications, plus a couple catalog sections pertaining to Ball watches from Norris, Alister-Ball and Ball Company from the late 1920s and early 1930s, also reproduced by Ehrhardt. There was also the information in "American Railroad Watches" by the late Col. George E. Townsend, but there were problems there.

The first I ever heard of the Waltham-Balls numbered from B200000-B201000 was fairly recent information posted here from Kent Singer's and Ed Ueberall's data base, and I wasn't aware of the actual Waltham serial numbers until I read your post (above). Has there been any evidence of Waltham-Ball watches numbered B201000-B202000, or is that still a gap in the numbering?

I might add that over the years I have become much more circumspect when it comes to relying on catalog art/illustrations for serial numbers and movement details. I have encountered many instances where catalog illustrations have been altered considerably by retouching, etc., or where where wrong illustrations have been used.

Good luck to anyone willing to give these watches the careful study that they deserve. johnbscott, it sounds like you are off to a good start in that direction.

By the way, I'm just a bit curious. Roughly where is "up top?" I don't remember studying it in any of my geography classes, and it seems to have been omitted, no doubt in error, from my gazetteer. I guess I should also ask why, if it is a proper place name, "up top" isn't capitalized.

Larry Treiman
 
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johnbscott

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Larry, there does not seem to be any referece to Ball watches in the Gray book between the listing for the twentieth run of ORRS and the twenty first (B640001-B640800). Nor have I observed any instances of Ball-Walt movements numbered in the range B201001-B202000. I am the custodian of movements B2000016 and B200889, by the way.

Without denying the wisdom of your advice in respect of catalogue illustrations I will say that I have studied a range of Ball catalogues without finding serious flaw, so far. I will be careful! A related matter is the lack of an actual specimen of an ORRS dial having wavy numerals as pictured on page 20 of the 1903 Ball catalogue. My post about that is at: - https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?t=43862 .

I am undertaking research and I aim to write about it for NAWCC. Unfortunately, the incessant claims upon my time by my employer have been a handicap.

By "up top" I refer to anywhere south of the Equator. My work has taken me north of the Equator five times during this calendar year, thus far, so I do know the difference. As to capitalisation, the terminology would need to gain wider acceptance for it to qualify. Perhaps you could help! I trust that my compatriot, Gary Dutton, will approve. I note that you chose not to capitalise "down under"!

I do appreciate your encouraging response.

JBS
 

Larry Treiman

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Jan 18, 2009
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You said that by "up top" you refer to anywhere south of the Equator. So, by your definition, "down under" is actually "up top"!?!?

By the way, according to my dictionary, "down under" is not capitalized (maybe I should spell that "capitalised" while (or whilst) "up top" doesn't even make an appearance! Oh, well, I asked for it!! That'll teach me to stick with horology, at least on this MB. But ain't English fun......occasionally? Perhaps not as much fun as "Strine" though!

Actually, I once spent nearly an hour, about 25 years ago, browsing through a book on "Strine" by a bloke who called himself "Afferbeck Lauder" (which is Strine for Alphabetical Order) at a then-Aussie-owned shopping mall near my home here in L.A. I think that the Aussies were wise to shun English in favor of Strine! Oooops, now I'm probably in trouble again! When will I ever learn? Never mind! At least I just reminded myself to pick up a carton of 1-1/2 dozen "cackleberries" on sale at the market for 99 cents.... with coupon.

Sorry about this, Gary, and apologies to JeffL for doing this to his thread! Jeff, if you still have any questions about your watch, tack them on to this thread; maybe it isn't too late to get it back on track and save it from me.

Larry
 
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rrwatch

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FWIW, we do not have any serial numbers documented in our database between B 200,953 and B 202,105.
 

Larry Treiman

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Jan 18, 2009
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Thanks, Ed. FWIW? Well, it's worth enough that, at the very least, I would feel reasonably safe in "assuming" that it is very unlikely that there were any Waltham Balls (how's that for hedging?) made between s.n. B201001 and B202000. That's taking into account the fact that neither "the two guys in Georgia" nor the guy from "up top" have seen (or heard of) one.

Larry
 
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