Webb C. Ball Watch Adjustment Specifications

Bila

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I do not think I have ever seen anything such as period documentation relating to what adjustment specs Ball used on the watches he procured from different manufacturer's. Is there such documentation that has been found or has it just been taken on face value by Collector's over the years that he actual did?
 

Jerry Treiman

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Whatever those specs were, I surmise that they were internal to Ball. At least with the Waltham movements it was my understanding that they were taken down and adjusted at Ball Watch Co. after delivery from Waltham. When I was doing research in the Waltham archive at the Baker Library I found a memo or letter from 1903 that noted that Ball "finishes, times, dials and adjusts these movements himself". I am pretty certain the writer did not mean that Webb, himself, did this, but the adjusters in his shop.
 
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Bila

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Thanks Jerry, I did find some other posts on a discussion about this subject and also about whether he was a Manufacturer or not, which was very enlightening, including a letter to the Bulletin about some of the things done at Ball. I never found it the first few times I searched due to using "Webb C. Ball" instead of "Ball Watch Co".
 

Jim Haney

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You can send jeff Hess, Moderator of the Wrist watch Forum, a email about it, he bought the Ball Watch Co. about 10 years ago and should have all the info about this.

Personally I believe that it is mostly BS, as Webb was a P.T. Barnum of watch world. :eek::D:p

His main interest was MONEY, and they did very little in the small building in Cleveland, he did also have a nice building in Chicago, but he got elected as a BOD of Hamilton and was their Western agent, so he could not help but count his money.

Also, don't forget that his appointment as the chief watch inspector of Railroad Standard Watches by many Railroads made him the KING in this area.
 
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terry hall

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i'll refer to the Halligan writings, starting at about slide 300 ..... correspondence to Ball from Hamilton regarding costs, etc of adjusting/finishing watches. there is a slide there with some data for the adjustments.
 

Greg Frauenhoff

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Elgin mvts made for Ball were only minimally timed at the factory. As I recall the tolerance was about 30 seconds per day. So Ball must have done the final timing and adjusting.
 

Kent

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In the September, 1893 ad below, Ball claimed to be the adjusters of the Howard-Ball B of LE Standard watches.

1893_Sep_Ball_BoLE_Std.jpg
 

DeweyC

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Kent and Greg,

I often wondered if Ball used his training and testing of inspectors to time watches. From what I know of Webb, he was a canny businessman and left very few stones unturned.

Timing a couple thousand watches at a clip would require space and personnel. Would he maintain this infrastructure on a permanent basis when his order flow was sporadic? In the days before electronic timing equipment?

Did he require them time/service so many watches a year for him in return for their status?

It would be very enlightening to know how he trained his inspectors and how often he required them to return for skill assessment.
 

musicguy

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Interesting theory Dewey


Rob
 

John Cote

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I was friends with a Ball watch inspector named Tom Cook from Indianapolis, IN. Tom may possibly have been the last but was certainly one of the last Ball trained watch inspectors/makers left alive and working in the US. I am sure more people here may have known him. Tom died several years ago when he was, I believe, in his early to mid '90s. Until he fell down and hit his head a year or so before he died his hands were steady and he still did repairs.

Tom was trained at Ball in Cleveland and was sent to work in Indianapolis to work at a jeweler who was a ball agent downtown. At some point, I believe after the jeweler went out of business, he started his own shop. I regret not interviewing him on video. Tom was as good a watchmaker as I have known and I have known a few. He was good on a lathe and a mill and could fabricate just about anything. I know that he kept in contact with Ball for as long as it remained a viable entity but I do not know how close the tie was or whether he went back for training. All I know is that when you sent a watch to Tom, it came back in RR shape.
 

Greg Frauenhoff

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Here is the relevant info from Elgin records showing that the mvts they made for Ball were not fully adjusted at the Elgin factory. The first two are from the page in the so-called Elgin Master Records for the grade 333. Note the line "Adjustment 30". And if we check what this code meant (third pic) we see that the mvts were only checked in 2 positions and that the tolerance was 30 seconds in 24 hrs.

img898.jpg img899.jpg img897.jpg
 

Kent

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... I often wondered if Ball used his training and testing of inspectors to time watches. ...
Perhaps instead of just wondering, you should use your considerable research skills to go and find out how Ball got his watches adjusted.

(*sigh*) I suppose that one had to know that this article existed and what it contained to go looking for it.
Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin and the Watch & Clock Bulletin are available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in.

"The Babcocks - Mary and Harrison - and Webb C. Ball," William E. Miether, NAWCC Bulletin No. 112, October 1964, pp. 439-446.

In the article, the author reports on page 440 that Mary Babcock "... did the final timing of all watches before they were shipped, but I am afraid that this description of her duties was distressingly simple. ... Every watch that bore Ball's name. had to pass through her hands." Of course there's more on the subject.

1926_Aug_Ball_Temperature.jpg
 
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DeweyC

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Kent,

Sadly, with my business, active research interests, volunteer work, leisure reading and other aspects of life, there are some things I wonder about; but, which do not rise to being an itch that requires scratching.

The closer I get to the end, the more I wish I had time to explore. So many things to learn and so little time left on this ticket to ride. So it goes.

Thank you for the reference.

Time is a non-renewable resource. Use it how YOU see fit.
 

Greg Frauenhoff

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Perhaps instead of just wondering, you should use your considerable research skills to go and find out how Ball got his watches adjusted.

(*sigh*) I suppose that one had to know that this article existed and what it contained to go looking for it.
Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin and the Watch & Clock Bulletin are available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in.

"The Babcocks - Mary and Harrison - and Webb C. Ball," William E. Miether, NAWCC Bulletin No. 112, October 1964, pp. 439-446.

In the article, the author reports on page 440 that Mary Babcock "... did the final timing of all watches before they were shipped, but I am afraid that this description of her duties was distressingly simple. ... Every watch that bore Ball's name. had to pass through her hands." Of course there's more on the subject.

View attachment 588330
Kent,

Thanks for the post. I remember this article and figured it must be common knowledge among Ball collectors.

Greg
 

grtnev

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Kent,

Thanks for the post. I remember this article and figured it must be common knowledge among Ball collectors.

Greg
I too want to also thank Kent for posting the link to "The Babcocks - Mary and Harrison - and Webb C. Ball".

I have 5 Ball watches (don't know if that qualifies me to be a Ball collector) and I knew that Ball made the final adjustments to his watches, but I had never hear of the Harrison's, much less the fact that Mary was involved in the adjustment of every Ball watch! Definitely wasn't common knowledge to me and I've been dabbling at this hobby for 20 years or so. Corporate Learning is something, at least at times, not easily obtained by the masses.

I was made aware of some very interesting information today. Thank you.

Richard
 
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Bryan Eyring

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Ball brought awareness and standardization to the railroad infrastructure. And sure, he made a little money while he was at it too!

Not sure that I would categorize that as BS.

I was aware of Mary Babcock but had not read this article - thank you taking the time to do research and add value to this thread!
 
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Dr. Jon

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Pure speculation on my part but I suspect Ball probably did position adjustment only and to something like 20 seconds of difference.

Two engineering statistical rules of thumb apply.

1) The standard deviation is about 1/6 of the max range
2) The error grows with the square root of time.

These do not work over a very long term but on a week by week basis they are reliable.

Limiting the error to 24 seconds per day makes the deviation 4 seconds which is typically ten seconds per week variation. Probably, they started by timing them and found most met this requirement fresh off the factory floor. The 1922 film of the Illinois 23 jewel Bunn Special shows balance poising and spring selection. That woman was fast and she probably got most of them within 20 or so seconds of position.

Kleinlen, in his book claimed he could get that with under 30 minutes of work. I am sure Ball's people working on hundred of each model has a good idea of how to get to that accuracy with very little touch labor time.

This adjustment and an eyeball check to see a motion of 270 degrees or more and very few watches would fail.

I doubt they did temperature a testing except for a a very small sample. It was expensive and especially the cold test risked mainspring breakage. I heard watchmaker who had trained at Hamilton tell of a board of 992s coming out of cold and one by one mainsprings snapping. The Swiss also spent a lot of time and effort learning how to prevent cold tested watches from rusting. I suspect ball did not do this.
 

Kevin Neathery

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Just putting this out there as I don't see it mentioned. The one place it could be stated by Hamilton with no reason to inflate Ball's reputation is within their own records. As such Halligan states that for the 18s Ball general description... "These watches were assembled here but not dialed and we're not given the final adjustment tests. The Ball plant in Cleveland, to which these watches were shipped, took care of the final ratings and casing."

As to the 16s I remember back when I was digging around about a Ball prototype I came across some correspondence, in the Halligan papers, between Ball and Hamilton. This was about the new 23j 999B that was going to be produced. They discussed the time and cost of the number of adjustments to the watches. I would have to dig to see if I could find them. But this indicates that by a certain time Ball was no longer doing their own adjustment and timing of the watches.
 

Dr. Jon

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Adjusting to the level I suggested i my previous post woudl not take a lot of time done by an experienced and skilled adjuster. They were working with new watches in large quantities. They had good records of what worked when they needed to do some adjustment. What took a lot of this was measuring the rates before and after adjustment. Telegraph supplied time was sufficient to measure to the 24 second per day limit.

I note that the Ball intended watches were shipped without being dialed or tested. I suspect most met the required accuracy without and added work but Ball would have the data on the watches they were selling.
 

DeweyC

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John,

I have to disagree. Before electronic timing instruments (1930s) the watches had to be timed for 24 hours in each position after each touch. An experienced worker working on one caliber may get a proportion done in one touch. But that still is a week. And the difficult cases would take a number of trials.

Even with my MU 700, it takes me several hours to bring a watch into positional adjustment after everything else is taken care of. Each position takes two minutes by the time the rate stablilzes; times 10 positions (in my case; I test the 8 vertical positions to locate the heavy spot easily). so that is 20 minutes per touch.

This assumes Hamilton and Waltham delivered the watches with the locks set where Ball wanted them and that the springs and balance wheel were true and level. In reading Hamilton processes at the end of Sauer, these were sent back between for checking/correcting several times between stages for the non-Ball Hamilton watches.

And before the introduction of meantime screws (1910 or so for Hamilton) they did not have 1/4 timinng screws to make life simple. It was fitting new screws. To the point the regulator could be set within a few degrees of the center position.

This was quite a trick.
 
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Dr. Jon

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I had assumed that the watches were timed for 24 hours in each position.

It takes a long time for the watch but not a lot of touch labor and most of that can be done by low skill workers. The adjuster gets the watch and the log of what it did. The 15 minutes or so was quoted from Kleinlein, who as a reference, quoted something like 45 minutes to cut a balance staff so he was tad low in estimates.

The leveling of springs and poising of balances was done in the assembly line and it had to be very good. At least that is what the film on Illinois showed.

I watched that lady poise a balance, It ruined my morning. I still struggle with this and she got them right in the film in less than a minute each, They went on the blades and looked perfect. If they were out she did one adjustment and nailed it. She put the balance on a scale and based on is weight pick a balance spring. The film is from1922. They did not use timing screws at the factory because they did not need them to get the accuracy they needed. The assembly line was that good. Otherwise Ball would have gone bankrupt.

The makers simply could not afford to have a lot of watches individually adjusted. They came off the line in very good order and testing found the few that needed work.

A watch restorer has a lot more difficulty, different watches in different stages of wear with different previous attempts to repair and adjust. Modern timing machines are a help, a few steps up, but in a steep high hill of difficulty in restoring an old watch.
 

DeweyC

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Jon,

It is well established that adjusted watches (RRG) spent up to three months in the finishing department where they were adjusted. The NIST standards for testing a RR watch in 1947 also required a 3 week test period that did not allow for interim adjustments. (Milham, NAWCC Bulletin 1947)

It was not "assemble and test".

Readers might be interested in the last appendix of Sauers which describes in detail the process as used at Hamilton in the 1920s which informed my previous post about how balance assemblies were sent back for verification/correction a number of times.
 
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terry hall

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As to the 16s I remember back when I was digging around about a Ball prototype I came across some correspondence, in the Halligan papers, between Ball and Hamilton. This was about the new 23j 999B that was going to be produced. They discussed the time and cost of the number of adjustments to the watches. I would have to dig to see if I could find them. But this indicates that by a certain time Ball was no longer doing their own adjustment and timing of the watches.
as posted above...

i'll refer to the Halligan writings, starting at about slide 300 ..... correspondence to Ball from Hamilton regarding costs, etc of adjusting/finishing watches. there is a slide there with some data for the adjustments.
 
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Robert Sweet

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as posted above...

i'll refer to the Halligan writings, starting at about slide 300 ..... correspondence to Ball from Hamilton regarding costs, etc of adjusting/finishing watches. there is a slide there with some data for the adjustments.
Below are two documents that are related to the topic, but not the answer that is requested. I've entered some notes hopefully for clarity.

Robert

Halligan - Ball - Finishing by Hamilton - Highlighted.jpg Ball - Tests not performed by Hamilton - 12-27-28.jpg
 

Clint Geller

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In the September, 1893 ad below, Ball claimed to be the adjusters of the Howard-Ball B of LE Standard watches.

View attachment 588236
The Howard factory records indicate that all the Ball Howards were "Grade 9 Special," rather than Grade 10, even though they had 17 jewels and Breguet overcoil hairsprings. The reason was that they were adjusted only to temperature and isochronism at the Howard factory. The positional adjusting was outsourced to Ball.
 

johnbscott

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The charts posted by Robert Sweet are very interesting. The seemingly high costs shown in the first chart now appear (from the handwriting in the second chart) to be per 100 watches, which makes those costs actually quite low. Obviously, there was very careful process analysis and cost control throughout movement production.

Ball was getting his 992-equivalent movements at a low price with plenty of opportunity and incentive to keep a good proportion of the price difference.
 

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