Just in time for the holiday shopping season (and to officially mark its 130th anniversary), the American company offers its new Ball Watch Trainmaster Standard Time (ref. NM3888D-PG-LCJ-WH) automatic watch that attempts to combine vintage style with contemporary technology in the same compact case.
The watch seems to sort of reincarnate the old 1998 Ball Trainmaster Heritage (ref. NM1052D-RG-LJ-WH) model that was first released 15 years ago as a limited edition timekeeper to celebrate the brand’s 115th year in business. At least, it is powered by the same ETA 2895-2 COSC-certified automatic chronometer (the same movement powers the last year’s Xetum Tyndall PVD Automatic), which is now called “Ball caliber RR1105-C” and features the same design of tis enameled white dial.
Compared to that model (I am not really sure whether it is legit to call the 1998 model an “original”), the new Ball Watch Trainmaster Standard Time automatic watch features a considerably less chunky rose gold body. Thanks to its ultra-thin bezel that holds a convex sapphire crystal and slightly (by about 1.5 mm in diameter) smaller body, the watch not only looks more elegant, but also has a larger dial opening.
Of course, like many good things, larger dial has its drawbacks, too. While there is clearly lots of breathing space, the subsidiary seconds indicator now looks a little too close to the visual center of the dial making it look a tad weird: a very common problem for dressy timekeepers that are powered by third-party movements.
As I have already hinted, this new Trainmaster Standard Time (unlike a great number of vintage-styled wristwatches that were recently unveiled by Swiss watchmakers, that is) comes in a very compact rose gold case that measures just over 39 millimeters in diameter. The choice of sizing makes this beautiful timekeeper one of the best choices for those seeking a true dress watch with vintage flavor. Although the device is powered by a mass-produced self-winding caliber that was never considered particularly thin, it measures only 10.5 millimeters top to bottom that, again, makes it very comfortable if you happen to work in a company with strict dress code and plan to wear it with formal attire that also includes a shirt with tight cuffs.
Its setting crown, which is very nicely decorated with the brand’s well-known logo, seems a bit too large, but that was done for the sake of usability: it is just massive enough to be easily operated even to those with relatively short, stubby fingers.
All things considered, the watch makes a very eclectic impression with its italicized, Breguet-styled Arabic numerals coming from 18th century, plume-shaped hands reminding of Art-deco watches from the 1930s, and tritium gas tubes (whole 14 of them) looking deliberately high-tech.
On a personal note (yes, I prefer to write my reviews with a personal touch, I am not a robot), I must admit that I have an issue or two with this time measuring tool that also happens to be a posh accessory.
I can’t quite put it, but there is something irritatingly false about the whole thing. It somehow looks like a 1930 Mercedes-Benz duplication with bi-xenon head lights and light-alloy forged rims wrapped in low-profile rubber. Put apart, the elements look right, but put them together and you have a sort of very costly Frankenstein of a car. The same is with this watch: it doesn’t look right.
Another thing that gets me is more or less rational: the Arabic numeral at three o’clock is cut in the most unpleasant way. I could have taken it for a sort of tongue in cheek design quirk, but I know that this is because somebody decided to cut a corner and didn’t adapt the dial to the mass-produced mechanism that animates it. Not good.
According to Ball Watches, the gadget will go on sale in December and will be available at a recommended street price of $7700: not very expensive for a watch in a rose gold body.
See also: Ball Trainmaster Eternity Automatic
Photos: Ball Watches
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 4.5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Ball Watch Trainmaster Standard Time Automatic (Ref. NM3888D-PG-LCJ-WH) specification
Price: $7700 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Ball caliber RR1105-C (base ETA 2895-2), Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 28
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 53 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case material: 18-carat rose gold
Case size: 39.50 mm
Case height: 10.50 mm
Dial: White enamel
Numerals: Arabic, painted
Hour markers: Luminous, tritium gas tubes
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Brown crocodile leather strap with 18-carat rose gold buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective, convex
Case back: Sapphire, convex