Brief History: Ball Watch Company

Including Serial Numbers and Production Dates

Cleveland, Ohio

1879 - 1969

Webb C. Ball - Railroad General Time Inspector

Webb C. Ball

Ball Watches - Accuracy Under Adverse Conditions Since 1891

Webb C. Ball was born in Fredericktown, Ohio on October 6, 1847 and became a jeweler and watchmaker. When Standard Time was first adopted in 1883, he was the first jeweler to use time signals, bringing accurate time to Cleveland, Ohio.

After the infamous collision between Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railways at Kipton, Ohio, which allegedly occurred because an engineer's watch had stopped unnoticed for about 5 minutes, the railroad officials commissioned Webb C. Ball as their General Time Inspector in order to establish precision standards and a reliable timepiece inspection system for Railroad Watches.

The Ball Watch Company did not manufacture watches directly, but the company helped develop the specifications for watches used in railroad service. Webb Ball established strict guidelines for the manufacturing of sturdy, reliable precision timepieces, including resistance to magnetism, reliability of time keeping in 5 positions, isochronism, power reserve, accompanied with record keeping of the reliability of the watch on each regular inspection.

The Waltham Watch Company complied immediately with the requirements of Ball's guidelines, later followed by Elgin Watch Company and most of the other American manufacturers, later on joined by some Swiss Watch Manufacturers. The Ball Watch Company branded and distributed watches made by Hamilton, Waltham, Illinois, Elgin, E. Howard, and Hampden. Watches marked "BALL & Co." are much more difficult to find than those marked "BALL WATCH Co." Ball watches are today some of the most collectible of the American railroad pocket watches.

Today's criteria for the certification of each COSC Officially Certified Chronometer are still based in part upon Webb C. Ball's standards.

At the end of his career, Webb C. Ball was overseeing over 125,000 miles of rail tracks in U.S.A., Mexico & Canada, having greatly contributed to the security of all railroad systems.

The colloquial phrase "on the ball" purportedly derives from Webb C. Ball's watch standards and their reputation for accuracy.


Ball Watch Company

Ball Serial Numbers and Production Dates

Total Production: Approx. 200,000 Watches

Year S/N Year S/N Year S/N
Ball - Hamilton (Exc 999B) Ball - Waltham Ball - Illinois
189513,0001900 B 060,7001929800,000
189720,5001905 B 202,0001930801,000
190042,0001910 B 216,0001931803,000
1902170,0001915 B 250,0001932804,000
1905462,0001920 B 260,000--
1910600,0001925 B 270,000 Ball - E. Howard
1915 B 603,000--1893226,000
1920 B 610,000 Ball - Elgin 1895 308,000
1925 B 620,000 1904 11,853,000--
1930 B 637,000 1905 12,067,000--
1935 B 641,000 1906 12,282,000 Ball - Hampden
1938 B 647,000--1890626,750
1939 B 650,000-- 1891657,960
1940 B 651,000-- 1892759,720
1941 B 652,000----
1942 B 654,000----

The table below is specific to the Ball-Hamilton grade 999B, which used its own sequence of serial numbers. Almost all of the Ball-Hamilton 999B watches used a circular damaskeening pattern, but a small number of watches were produced in late 1954 featuring a straight line damaskeening pattern.

Ball - Hamilton 999B
Year S/N Dmk Style
19432B001 - 2B700Circular
19441B701 - 1B800Circular
19451B801 - 1B1400Circular
19461B1401 - 1B4800Circular
19471B1801 - 1B8500Circular
19481B8501 - 1B13500Circular
19491B8501 - 1B13500Circular
19501B16201 - 1B18501Circular
19511B18502 - 1B23000Circular
19521B23001 - 1B25300Circular
19541B25301 - 1B26899Circular
19541B26900 - 1B27600Straight-line

Be sure to use the serial number on the movement (the works) of the watch. Do not use the serial number from the watch case.

Can’t find your serial number in the table? Click here for an explanation and example of how to use our serial number tables.

Need help finding the serial number on your watch? Click here for instructions on how to identify and open most common case types.

At Renaissance Watch Repair, we are experts in the repair and restoration of Ball watches, and they are one of our personal favorites to work on! We are also always looking for Ball Watches to purchase. Please contact us if you have any questions about the repair of your vintage Ball watch.