Ball Watch Engineer II Moon Phase Chronometer: Lume on the Moon and Strong Enough to Survive a Train Wreck!

In the railroad industry, 21st-century technology like ATP (Automatic Train Protection) can control the speed of a train to prevent the ramifications of excess speed. Meanwhile, a PTC system (Positive Train Control) uses GPS signals to determine the location of an oncoming train.

It’s a proactive measure that prevents collisions by stopping or controlling a locomotive, thus saving lives. If only that kind of technology existed sooner. But then, would we still have the Ball Watch Company to be thankful for?

Ball Moon Phase Chronometer

The standardisation of US Railroad Timekeeping

I’d like to think Ball would still be around today had it not been for the Ohio train crash. The manufacturer is known, after all, for its innovative light tube technology and popular models like the Ball Engineer, Roadmaster, and Trainmaster.

Still, there is no denying the significant role that the company founder, Webb C. Ball played in standardizing timekeeping across so many jurisdictions of America’s railroads during the late 1800s.

Great Kipton Tran Wreck of 1891

The watchmaker found its calling back in 1891 after a fatal train collision occurred in Kipton, Ohio. I should mention that this was not an isolated incident. There were several, in fact, and all down to failed pocket watch accuracy.

Could incidents like this have been prevented? Possibly, if not for human error and, in the case of the Great Kipton Train Wreck, an unreliable watch. But the latter was not uncommon back then.

On that fateful day of April 19th, 1891, orders were given to the conductor and engineer of the Accommodation locomotive to let Fast Mail Train No 4 pass through at a small station in Oberlin before proceeding on its journey. But things didn’t go to plan…

Basically, the conductor didn’t check the time on his pocket watch to synchronize the event – he thought that the engineer would take care of that. The engineer did reference his pocket watch, but little did he know, the hands had paused for four minutes before starting up again. That four-minute blip became a crucial moment in history for two reasons.

The first was that it caused the untimely deaths of 8 people.

The second was that it gave Webb C. Ball the breakthrough he needed to prove his expertise in the field of timekeeping accuracy. Ball was elected as Chief Time Inspector after the incident and was entrusted to roll out a very important standardization process across US railroads, ensuring errors as catastrophic as this one would never be allowed to happen again.

Within two years of the incident, the entire Cleveland area had adopted Ball’s stringent tests and strict standards in chronometric precision. The Ball Time Service became the benchmark by which the accuracy of all clocks and pocket watches used by US railroad systems were measured.

Ever wondered where the term “Get on the ball” came from? It comes from the narrative that Ball watches always ran precisely on time. And they really did. The company’s timepieces were so accurate that they even inspired the establishment of chronometry standards across Switzerland, namely the COSC institute.

Ball Watch Company eventually moved from Ohio to La Chaux de Fonds, and with this transition came a shift in focus to dial legibility – Ball’s micro gas tube technology, which brings me to the topic of the new Ball Engineer II Moon Phase Chronometer.

A Caliber Above the Rest

The Engineer II watch collection scores big when it comes to combining utilitarian features (like its tritium gas-filled tubes) with elevated, wholly luxurious finishes, and the Moon Phase Chronometer watch is a perfect example of this.

Ball Moon Phase Chronometer Navy Blue

To say the watch is a caliber above what we normally expect to see in standard moon phase complications would be an accurate statement.

Moon phase indicator of the Ball Moon Phase Chronometer

In particular, the aperture at 6 o’clock is not your conventional moon phase indicator. Moreover, it’s a double moon phase complication that represents the exact positioning of the moon as seen in the sky each night from northern and southern hemisphere perspectives.

Ball Moon Phase Chronometer lume

This celestial display glows in a rich green Super-LumiNova emission at night, alongside the brand’s gas tube technology on the hands and hour markers.

You can see why the decision was made to combine both types of luminous material in this design.

For one, Ball’s light tubes would not manipulate so well inside the circular profile of the moon icons.

Secondly, the majestic moon phase display can be admired as an entity of its own this way. The phosphorus powder applied to the inside of the glass tubes on a Ball dial is constantly interacting with the electrons being released from the tritium.

Ball Moon Phase Chronometer lume

This means that while this technology conquers  darkness and is great for zero-light conditions, it is continually glowing day and night, even when we can’t see it.

These tritium-filled tubes are a great feature to take advantage of when wearing the watch in light-limiting conditions. To track the moon’s position, however, the Super-LumiNova kicks into action once night falls and becomes quite the spectacle.

Meanwhile, the tritium gas tubes found on the markers and hands are 100 times brighter than luminous paints and don’t need charging to retain or restore their glow, so the essential elements are always visible when you need them.

Ball Engineer II Moon Phase Chronometer

Ball Engineer II watches tend to straddle the line between sporty and classic with popular models that include the Skin Diver Heritage, Green Beret, Marvelight, Navigator World Time, and, of course, the Moon Phase.

Traditionally, Ball’s crisp moon phase indicator has always featured below the 12 o’clock location in a circular window, or at 6 o’clock, where it sat alongside the month, day, and date functions in the Engineer II Moon Phase Calendar.

Ball Moon Phase Chronometer Ice Blue

The new Ball Engineer II Moon Phase Chronometer is available in colors of black, blue, green, and ice blue and comes in two sizes – all of which are crafted from stainless steel.

Ball Moon Phase Chronometer Black

The larger 43mm diameter, will sit comfortably on larger wrists while the  more compact 41mm models are a manageable size for those with slenderer wrists. Both sizes are limited to 1000 pieces each.

Ball Moon Phase Chronometer caseband

Both models sit at a height of 13.5mm and have been topped with a sapphire crystal glass front. The glass preserves the dial while also ridding any undesirable glare from its surface.

Ball Moon Phase Chronometers

While the black and blue models are the more classic options of the four, the green dial is the sportier number. The ice blue iteration, on the other hand, boasts unusual nuances that interact nicely with the dial’s faceted, sword-shaped hands.

Of course, these features and the baton hour makers are decked with those 22 tritium gas tubes I mentioned earlier, as are the Arabic numerals at 12 and 9 o’clock. But what’s impressive about these light tubes is that they don’t overpower the dial or interfere with its layout.

The blue discs that eclipse the moons sit against a silvery star-studded backdrop, framed by an arched scale that depicts the 29.5-day celestial cycle.

All in all this is a nicely proportioned dial that benefits from a handy date feature at 3 o’clock. The new Ball Engineer II Moon Phase Chronometer, as its name suggests, is also powered by a chronometer-certified movement.

Caliber RR1804-C, COSC certified, automatic winding movement of the Ball Moon Phase Chronometer

Caliber RR1804 sits inside the company’s patented Amortiser anti-shock system, taking advantage of an internal environment free of any risk of damage caused by magnetic fields.

You’ve probably noticed that Ball Watch Company does the stainless steel bracelet very well. The H-shaped links of this bracelet manipulate smoothly under the wrist’s movement. It almost feels and looks integrated, but the brushed effect on the top of the lugs adds a nice dimension to the otherwise polished case and bezel.

The folding buckle is stamped with the Ball monogram while the protruding crown also pays tribute to the Official Railroad Standard.

Train engraved caseback of the Ball Moon Phase Chronometer

Lastly, flip the watch over to reveal a specially engraved depiction of a train, alongside the “Swiss Made” lettering and the company’s founding year.

The Engineer II Moon Phase Chronometer is an elemental tool in and of itself, with core strengths that lie in its legibility and reliability. Although the company’s reputation was leveraged by the aftermath of a terrible train disaster, Ball celebrates its successes as a brand that did more than make railroad timekeeping better (and safer) and is as respected for its accuracy today as it ever was.

Ball Moon Phase Chronometer Green

The Engineer II Moon Phase Chronometer is a design that perpetuates the need for precision and legibility in a watch, whether a century ago or in today’s world.

What’s comforting to know is that those values will never change.

For more information, please visit

Quick facts: Ball Watch Engineer II Moon Phase Chronometer
hours, minutes, seconds, date, double moon phase indication
22 micro gas tubes on hour, minute, seconds hands and dial

Case: stainless steel, patented Amortiser anti-shock system with 5,000 G shock resistance, screw-in crown
Water resistance: 100 meters
43mm x 13.55mm or
Automatic caliber BALL RR1804-C, COSC certified, non-magnetic to 4,800A/m
stainless steel bracelet with folding buckle
1000 pieces in each iteration and size
: $2,399

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