Ball-Hamilton 18S 17J lever set (LS) adj. 5p 999 Official RR Standard #486694 pocket watch, beautiful clean nickel full plate movement with gold jewel settings (GJS) and concentric circle damascene pattern, movement has a few small short scratches near screw heads, handsome porcelain enamel dial with fancy bold Arabic numbers and subsidiary seconds has some very short faint hairlines (not distracting) and a small flake at the edge near the lever under the bezel, bold blue steel hands, re-cased into a mint screw back & bezel (SB&B) chrome fully engraved case with crisp vertical basket-weave pattern engraving under the large floral designs and blank fancy monogram shield, engraved heavy pendant, fancy engraved bow and glass crystal, case showing hardly any wear, measures approx. 54mm in diameter x 17mm thick (crystal included). A high grade Ball railroad grade watch in excellent condition!
- Company: Ball-Hamilton
- Jewels: 17J
- Setting/Movement Type:
- Adjustments: 5 positions
- Model/Grade: 999 Official RR Standard
- Serial #: 486694
- Movement Finish: nickel
Movement Details Test:
gold jewel settings (GJS)
- Dial Material: porcelain enamel
- Case Style:
54mm (2.13 inches)
Case Length, bow included:
- Crystal Material: glass
- Year Made: 1904-1905
The Ball Watch Company, out of Cleveland, Ohio, was founded in 1879, but it was after a tragic train collision in 1891 (due to what is believed to have been a problem with one engineer's watch not keeping accurate time) that the company began the task of standardizing what we now term Railroad Grade Watches. This detailed article
about the collision discusses the event, and the lasting repercussions to our modern transit and timekeeping systems.
In 1893, Ball sold their first watches; however, it is an interesting note to this company that they never manufactured a watch, but rather had specific timing and design guidelines for watches that were then produced by the following other companies: Aurora, Elgin, Hamilton, Hampden, N.Y. Watch, E. Howard, Illinois, Seth Thomas,Vacheron & Constantin and Waltham. While many of these companies produced high grade and railroad grade quality watches for their own sales, the watches produced for the Ball company were standardized for both mechanical and cosmetic features, and were not representative of each of the individual company aesthetics.
The Ball company continued to sell Ball Model watches until 1969, and was also a driving factor in helping to standardize timing specifications across North America as technologies improved.
For additional reference, we've posted a Serial Number Production List
which includes information for Ball serial numbers and dates of manufacture.
The NAWCC also has a about the company.
You may browse all of our men's pocket watches from this manufacturer at our Vintage Men's Ball Pocket Watches
This watch is in good running condition, unless otherwise noted in the description. This means that on receipt, pending any item-specific running conditions noted in the description, you can expect the watch to be winding and setting properly and to run smoothly while keeping reasonable time. We consider "reasonable time" to meet these basic guidelines:
- Railroad Grade Watches will be keeping +/- 5 minutes per day
- Pocket and Wrist Watches with 15 or more jewels will be keeping +/- 10 minutes per day
- All key wind watches and watches with 14 or fewer jewels will be keeping +/- 15 minutes per day
The above guideline is the lowest standard in which we would ship out a watch, however in most cases, you will see much better timekeeping. Most of our watches have been in storage for many years, so if you plan on carrying/wearing them everyday, you should consider having them cleaned and oiled soon, and then once a year thereafter to keep them in top running condition. If the watches will be for occasional use or display, they should be cleaned and serviced every 3 to 5 years depending on use.
We do have a professional watchmaker that does all of our cleaning and repair work for us. To have your watch serviced before shipping, simply add this Cleaning/Service Agreement
to your shopping basket. The cleaning and timing service is $95, and depending on the time of the year, has a turnaround time of 1 to 3 weeks.
Please note that we provide this service in addition to the listed purchase price of our watches. If you do purchase this option and later decide to return the watch, this fee is non-refundable.
This watch comes complete with an appropriate, intact glass crystal; however, on request PM Time Service can replace the current crystal on this pocket watch for you. We offer a number of new and vintage crystal choices for pocket watches; you can select your desired choice from the dropdown menu below.
Please note that the average turnaround time for all pocket watch crystal replacements will be two days from the placement of the order.
for any further questions or for an estimate on any shipping delays.
Please note: if you add this watch with a crystal exchange option to your shopping cart
but later change your mind on the crystal selection type, you'll need to remove the watch from the cart in order to make a new crystal selection. Once that is done, you can return to this page and add that new combination to the cart. We apologize for the limitations to our system that prevent you making that change from the shopping cart directly.
This is considered a "railroad-grade" pocket watch. To be a railroad-grade watch, the following criteria must be met:
- be 16S or 18S
- have 17 or more jewels
- be lever set
- be in an open face case
- be adjusted to 5 or more positions.
- have easily-legible Arabic dial numerals
In order to ensure the accuracy of pocket watches used by railroad employees, with the ultimate goal of preventing train accidents, the General Railroad Timepiece Standards Commission published a set of guidelines for railroad companies and watch manufacturers in 1893. These guidelines, which specified the criteria for a railroad-grade watch, were prepared by Webb C. Ball, the general time inspector of North American railroads and founder of the Ball Watch Company.
For more information, visit this Wikipedia article
on railroad chronometers or this Smithsonian National Postal Museum article
on the influential train wreck tragedy that resulted in the establishment of railroad watch standards.
Our entire collection of such timepieces may also be viewed at our Railroad Grade Watches
Unlike modern quartz watches, most vintage watches need daily winding in order to keep the watch functioning for timekeeping. Additionally, there are a number of different ways to set the time other than simply pulling the crown away from the watch body. We are happy to provide an overview of each of the different setting types on our "How To Use" page
, where we also provide information on proper winding techniques for each style and some suggestions for the proper long term care and storage of your watch.