Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?
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  1. #1
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    Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?

    So I recently came across the Ball 21st century in my pursuit for a hand wound watch. Being a Ball fan I was immediately drawn to this specific watch.

    It also features a neat opening cover similar to old pocket watches on the caseback. But unfortunately it seems to be quite rare and not being able to handle one in person makes the decision to pull the trigger slightly more difficult. It comes in a black and white dial version (my preference is the black dial) and some of them are part of limited edition range; however I cant see any difference between the limited edition and the normal versions.

    If there are some of you who has first hand experience of this watch or own it I'd love to hear your opinion.

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  2. #2
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    Re: Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?

    Did you find any information/owners of this watch?

    I've been looking at the white dial version and can't find much info on them. I sent a user on here that sold one a private message asking his impressions. I'll post up any add'l information I find.

  3. #3
    Member timefleas's Avatar
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    Re: Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?

    Sorry I missed this when it was first posted. I have owned both, and love the watch--here is a reply I sent to a PM from one of the above, and some more pictures.

    I love this watch--it is one of the best that Ball has ever produced, I think, and the movement is the best I have ever had for a handwound from any brand--smooth, silky, tight and accurate. The hands are blued steel on the white dial and are very easy to pick out, and the sub dials and detailing on the dial are truly equal to the best in the business. The tritium is not as in your face as, for example, the hydrocarbons, and so if you are expecting a magnificent night lume display, this will be underwhelming. However, they are sharp, clear and precise, and are very legible. One thing for folks who haven't had tritium before--at first it seems somewhat weak, but after ten minutes or so, very clear and sharp, and it will stay at that same intensity as long as it is in the dark. The 18mm strap width fit the dial and case size fine, no problems there--I always buy aftermarket straps, so would simply get a non-tapering (18mm, straight, end to end) to give the strap a bit more presence. My only issue with the watch is the "hunter's" back--an unnecessary throwback to the pocket watch heritage, which, while it looks fine, and does reveal a nice view of the movement when opened, adds a couple of mm to the case height, making it a bit taller than it should be, relative to the case diameter. This is the only negative in an otherwise perfect handwinder--I would have kept them both (I've owned both the black and white dial versions) but my Flying Scotsman actually has a very similar look to the white dial, and I favor a small collection, so I chose to stick with the Scotsman.

    I actually wrote up a review but never published it--here it is, in rough draft form--long, but, you wanted more info!

    Ball Trainmaster 21st Century Limited Edition
    Rob Caplan’s Introduction (first posted on October 26, 2011):
    “The Trainmaster 21st Century has an MSRP of $3,399 … a 39mm case…the piece takes on … a heritage tone because it's stepped case leads to a 31mm crystal. In contrast, the 39.5mm Trainmaster Eternity and Trainmaster 120 watches feature 36mm crystals. Another contrast between the 21st Century and those watches is that the lume is the traditional "pip" style lume that is most often associated with the Trainmaster and ideal to pair with railroad style Arabic numbers.

    This watch joins the Engineer Master II Officer as the only manual wind and hunter back piece in the current Ball collection. Like the aptly named Trainmaster Power Reserve, this watch also features a power reserve meter, but places it under the 12 instead of above the 7. The piece is labeled as a 250 piece limited edition....”



    Forum Members Reply
    In general the Ball Forum response at its release more than four [edit: now eight--how time flies!] years ago was favorable, notably for its vintage look, particularly in the hand style and font choice, and functionality (hand wind, hunter’s pocket watch case back). There were some concerns, however, summarized below.

    Summary of Concerns (taken from various members' original responses--not necessarily in agreement with my own views)
    1. Don't like the hunter back--particularly out of place on such a small (39mm) case
    2. Would have preferred a 41mm case for this, or even a 43mm case
    3. Over-sized acorn crown seems a bit out of place
    4. White dial would work best on this particular model (the preview version was black)
    5. DN and UP markings on the power reserve indicator seem counter-intuitive (where DN means fully wound)
    6. Prefer if the red was lost and everything red was white (making a black & white two color dial)

    Fast Forward to the Present
    By chance I ran across one of these, brand new in box, for a great price. I had always wanted a manual wind watch, and have had many in the past, including the Ball Engineer Master II Officer, but had never found one that was good enough from all perspectives to keep. SO, I decided to give this one a chance. My first experience was not perfect however, since, though brand new, it ran fine for only a couple of hours before it slowed down drastically. I took it to the local Ball dealer, they couldn’t find anything structurally wrong, so I had them give a complete service rebuild. They promised it back in 30 days, and it was done in just about that amount of time. It now keeps nearly perfect time, and haven’t taken it off since getting it back from the shop several days ago. So, here is what I think about the watch, relative to the original concerns expressed above.

    My Responses to the Concerns
    1. Indeed the hunter back on a 39mm case (with narrow 18mm lug width) makes no sense—makes it a thicker watch than necessary—an exhibition back alone would have been fine
    2. A larger case (the “usual” Trainmaster 41mm?), or at least a larger crystal (36mm as opposed to 31mm) would have been better for what is ostensibly a railroad pocket watch homage, which had relatively LARGE dials
    3. The over-sized acorn crown does seem a bit out of place on such a small case—a smaller and/or more “Trainmaster-like” crown possibly would have been OK—BUT, this is a MANUAL WIND watch, which means you need to wind it every other day or so (in other words, frequently), so it must be a crown that will hold up to this kind of constant usage—for that reason, the size actually seems appropriate, despite first impressions.
    4. While I do think a white dial version would be OK, there is already the white dial versions of the 60 seconds (I & II), and the Power Reserve, so maybe not necessary—I prefer a black dial myself (for ANY watch)—with that said, however, there was a small number of white dial versions of this produced—after I did this review I was lucky enough to find one, and it is every bit as stunning as the black dial, if not more so.
    5. DN and UP markings on the power reserve ARE counter-intuitive, intrusive and ultimately unnecessary—simple +/- marks and/or the familiar “swoosh” mark would have better, but this only matters for the first day or two, once you get used to winding it, and watching the lever swing up, the indicator symbols could be anything (or nothing at all)—you really don’t pay attention to them.
    6. I am glad that the subtle red accents were included and that everything red was NOT white—if the dial were just black and white, it would have seemed too ordinary--no red accents would have been a deal breaker for me—they are only slightly noticeable when viewed at real size, but add a nice pizzazz to the dial—in fact, the red is one of the elements that makes this watch unique--its “signature”.

    My Conclusion
    This watch fits with my current trend back in time towards smaller more vintage style Ball watches—I now consider even a 43mm case unnecessarily big. The 21st Century (which I have to say is an odd name for a vintage/retro styled watch) is also a real throwback to Ball’s traditional Railroad designs—something I particularly like—it has several uses of the familiar railroad tracks motif, in white, on the dial (for both sub-dials, and the main dial). Further, I generally prefer black dials, and don’t mind a bit of red to set the watch off from the usual run of the mill black dial with white accent watches.

    If I were Ball, I would have changed three things before releasing the watch: First, I would have gotten rid of the hunter back case, thereby making the case much thinner; second, I would have made the crown more proportionate to the actual size of the small case (made the crown slightly smaller); and, third, I would have replaced the power reserve graphics with a swoosh pattern, gotten rid of the UP/DN designations, and made it retreat somewhat into the background—it stands out a little too much as it is.

    Even without those changes, though, I like the 21st Century enough to keep, which is no small statement, since, as a (primarily) Ball watch collector, I have let close to 60 Ball watches pass through my hands, while keeping only a handful—the 21st Century is extremely rare (one of 250 ever made, and of those, not all appear to have made it into circulation), looks great, and rounds out my small collection of “vintage” Ball watches.
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    Last edited by timefleas; March 14th, 2019 at 04:04.
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  5. #4
    Member Nokie's Avatar
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    Re: Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?

    Very nice. Great write up on the watch. Looks beautiful.
    "Either he's dead or my watch has stopped"
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    "The only reason for time is so that everything does not happen at once..."
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    Re: Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?

    Thanks for the feedback..! I've almost forgotten about this post of mine.

    I still have an itch for a proper handwinder and this specific watch... Now to find one for a decent price.

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    Re: Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?

    Thanks for the feedback..! I've almost forgotten about this post of mine.

    I still have an itch for a proper handwinder and this specific watch... Unfortunately not an easy watch to find for a good price

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    Re: Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?

    Quote Originally Posted by timefleas View Post
    Sorry I missed this when it was first posted. I have owned both, and love the watch--here is a reply I sent to a PM from one of the above, and some more pictures.

    Thanks again for the info via PM and all the pics and review posted here.

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    Re: Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?

    Quote Originally Posted by Conrady View Post
    I still have an itch for a proper handwinder and this specific watch... Unfortunately not an easy watch to find for a good price

    I am looking to add a handwind with a power reserve complication, there aren't many out there. Even fewer that are modestly priced (sub $2k USD new or used). I've been looking at this white dial Ball 21st Century for the last year, I'm only hesitating because of the thickness and lug width.

  10. #9
    Member timefleas's Avatar
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    Re: Ball Trainmaster 21st century. Anyone own or one?

    Keeping in mind there were only a couple hundred produced, eight years ago, these are indeed hard to find--my understanding is that Jomas bought most or all the remaining stock, and there are still a few there. They just about never show up in the used market--those that own them generally don't want to sell. The lug width is a non-issue, I think, as it looks and wears great. The thickness is an issue for some, not for others--as I say, if I didn't already have my Flying Scotsman, I probably would have kept the pair--the best manual winds I have ever seen. Good luck.

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    Thanks so much for th detailed write up.... Ball should contribute to your lunch fund for such a good piece !!... Thanks again for taking the time to share your knowledge here with us

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