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REVIEW: The Ball Trainmaster Moonlight Special>>>>>

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Published on 09-17-2008 10:54 AM

Number of Views: 4593


By: John B. Holbrook, II

Copyright 2008 - all rights reserved

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It's been interesting to me to watch how Ball Watch has developed their brand identity in the last few years, building upon a history closely tied to the railway industry, and creating models which appeal to a broader audience. It's a fine line to walk - you risk alienating your base, while at the same time you risk failing to build broader appeal. Clearly Ball Watch has in recent years begun to try to appeal to fans of more complex and horologically complicated time pieces, and the Trainmaster Moonlight Special is the latest attempt for this revamped brand to establish their horological credentials.

The Moonlight Special is available in both white and black dials, and I was provided with the black dial version for review. The first thing you notice about the Moonlight Special dial is that there's a lot going on, so let's run down the different displays and functions of this time piece.

Beyond the standard hour and minute hand, the watch has chronograph functionality, with second, minute, and hour accumulation capability up to twelve hours. The watch also has "triple calendar displays, showing not only the day of the month, but the day of the week, and the day of the year. The dial also features a lovely moon phase display at in the six o'clock position. The dial is protected by an antireflective sapphire crystal. Surprisingly, the numerous complications do not detract from legibility, thanks to intelligent dial design and layout. The contrasting white on black sub-dials, as well as white hands and hour markers against the black dial really help legibility. Of course, when the lights are out, Ball Watch's trademark micro tube technology makes for superior low-light visibility - the dial employs 15 micro gas tubes.

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The multi-functional Moonlight Special is powered by an ETA 7751 - a close cousin of the venerable ETA/Valjoux 7750. The specifications of this unmodified movement are fairly pedestrian - the ETA 7751 is a self-winding mechanical movement with 28 jewels, a beat speed of 28,800 BPH (beats per hour) and a power reserve of approximately 42 hours. What's certainly uncommon about the ETA 7751 is the level of decoration which has been applied, which shows Ball Watch's appreciation for horological excellence. Beneath the sapphire crystal which has been set into the back of the 43mm diameter case (50m WR) you can see that the normally utilitarian and austere ETA 7751 has been transformed into a veritable work of art. Perlage has been applied not only to the rotor of the ETA 7751, but also throughout the bridgework of the movement. Heat blued screws are also used throughout, all of which is complimented by the yellow gold engraving work on the rotor. The end product is truly breathtaking, giving the Moonlight Special the kind of panache of a much more costly time piece.

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The quality and craftsmanship evident in the Moonlight Special does not end with the dial or the movement - a case matching stainless steel bracelet with brush finished applied, and a hidden, dress style clasp is used on the Moonlight Special. Solid end links and solid center link construction is used, as well as high-quality screws in the adjustable links. The bi-fold clasp opens to a solid, polished deployant. With the clasp closed, you see the "RR" for Official Railroad Standard logo displayed, which is a nice touch. It's an excellent bracelet overall, though I'll deduct a half-point for styling which perhaps too closely resembles a Rolex Oyster bracelet. I'd like to see a more distinctive bracelet style here, but that's of course my personal preference. From a quality construction standpoint, the bracelet on the Moonlight Special is as good as they come, and once again exceeds quality standards found on watches with a much higher price tag.

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The retail price of the Ball Watch Trainmaster Moonlight Special is $4399.00, placing it at the upper end of the Ball Watch catalog, but well below comparable offerings from Swatch or Richmont brands, particularly for a watch limited to only 999 pieces. One cannot help but be impressed, if not astounded that Ball can put a watch out of this caliber at such a price point, which only reinforces their reputation as a brand which is tremendous value to their loyal fan base. Even if this particular watch is not your cup o' tea, it should impress you enough to take a look at the Ball Watch catalog ( because Ball really does put out a fantastic product, and has something for everyone in their ever growing catalog.

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REVIEW: The Ball Trainmaster Moonlight Special>>>>>
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