The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.

The Ball Trainmaster Cleveland Night Express

Tha Ball Trainmaster Cleveland Night Express. NM3038D-LL2J-WH

Today, Ball is a brand of many faces and influences. There are modern shock-resistant tool watches, themed pilot and dive watches, and pieces where the luminescence is the central design theme. The Trainmasters have traditionally been the most formal Ball watches. Design hallmarks of Trainmasters always include display backs, minimalistic tritium tubes, and formal finish on the dials. At the heart of the Trainmaster collection are a series of models including the Cleveland Express, Trainmaster 60 Seconds II, and Trainmaster Power Reserve, all of which take design cues from the American era of Ball pocket watches. The Cleveland Night Express is one such model.

Like the Cleveland Express which was introduced to the collection eight years ago, the Cleveland Night Express is named for the line service that ran from Cleveland to New York and was operated by the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) railroad. Specifically, this watch is named for the express night train that operated from the early 1910s until the 1960s. According to Ball Watch USA's Jeff Hess, the Cleveland Express is particularly meaningful both for the train's speed and the level of energy in its passenger compartments.

The Cleveland Express, and Cleveland Night Express harken back to a time of major manufacturing and industry in Cleveland when there was a great deal of rail travel between Cleveland and New York, via Baltimore. On the train, there would be an exciting of mix of industrialists, tourists, and businessmen all making their way across the country. "We feel the look of the watch typifies the modern design that led into the Art Deco period with more linear lines as opposed to the swirly nouveau dials that had preceded it," Jeff says. "The watch it is based on is from the mid 1920s. The actual workers on the train, engineer, conductor, fireman, and brakeman would have worn larger (size 16) more utilitarian pieces that were stark in design. The Cleveland Night Express is based on a 12 size design that would typically have been worn by the riding gentlemen or bankers." According to Jeff, though the size 12 was smaller than the size 16, it was just as accurate.

The watch shown here in Ball's press material is the inspiration for the Cleveland Night Express. It is the type of size 12 design worn by a bankers or other business professionals of the time.

This Ball Calibre is based on a Unitas movement. The circular damaskeening (decorative patterning used in early American watchmaking--not geneva stripes) was a Ball Watch Company hallmark. With few exceptions, all Ball watches prior to 1960 had this type of decoration. The first time this pattern appeared in modern Ball watch (Swiss era) was in the heralded 18kt gold Heritage model in 2004, and has been used occasionally in select watches. Below is an original example from the 1930s. The Unitas movement has been used many other high end brands due to its large size and accuracy.

The circular damaskeening (not geneva stripes) of a vintage Ball pocket watch. This one is from the 1930s.

With a 44mm diameter and a relatively thin 11.55mm case, the watch has much more wrist presence than the 41mm models such as the Cleveland Express and Sixty Seconds II. Still the watch is as comfortable as the most formal Trainmaster models. Unlike the pocket watch it is based on, the Arabic hour markers are bare steel color instead of black. Though there isn't much color contrast between the hands, dial, and markers, the watch is an easy read due to the contrast between the flat surfaces of the markers and the sunburst pattern of the dial. The tritium tubes are small and placed lengthwise. This makes for better night viewing than models such as the Cleveland Express with pip style (or small circular) lume elements. The manual wind movement resembles the look of the Ball Watch Company's wind-up pocket watches.

Below are additional photos of the Cleveland Night Express which retails for $2,695.

The heritage logo of the Trainmaster Cleveland Night Express.

The tritium hour markers are small and placed lengthwise at each hour. The watch features 14 gas tubes (hour indices plus hour and minute hands).

The "onion" crown is styled like the winding crowns of vintage Ball pocket watches. The dial's subtle sunburst effect is also visible in this photo.

The seconds font and track mark are both faithful design cues from BALL pocket watches of the 1920s.

The side profile of the 11.55mm case.

The circular pattern on the base plates evoke Ball watches of the past.

The regulating portion of the movement.

The lume signature of the Trainmaster Cleveland Night Express.

The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.