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TRAVEL REPORT: Ballfest 2011>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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Published on 10-25-2011 11:01 AM

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Ballfest 2011 in St. Petersburg, FL
By: John B. Holbrook, II

On October 13th and 14th, Ball Watch USA held their annual "Ballfest" event - Ball dealers from around the country are invited to Ball Watch USA in St. Petersburg Florida for some hospitality and informative discussions about Ball watches. Ball Watch USA invited me to attend the event and I whole-heartedly accepted. WATCH TALK FORUMS is home to the Original Ball Watch Forum and our community has a strong interest in all things Ball. As a native born Floridian, having done my graduate work at the University of South Florida (go Bulls!), I welcome any opportunity to get back to the Tampa-St. Pete area.

I arrived Wednesday evening to the Hilton at Carillon Park in St. Petersburg. My room had a nice balcony with a lovely view of Carillon Park:


The next morning we met bright and early in the hotel conference room which Ball had reserved for the event:


Most of the discussions and presentations were lead by long time Ball Watch USA Vice President Jerry Sirois:


We were also introduced to the new CEO of Ball Watch SA, André Meier:


Ball hired Mr. Meier away from Blancpain where he served as Vice-President for International Sales. You read that correctly - Ball Watch hired a key executive from one of Swatch Groups key prestige brands. Anyone remember when Ball was considered a plucky, upstart of a brand? Like I don't know....two years ago?!? Now their a top 10 producer of COSC certified watches that's hiring away Swatch Group executives....

As as side note, I'm often asked by Ball fans "Is Ball going to produce their own in-house movements?" Let me ask you to consider this: Ball hired a key executive away from Swatch Group - something that will undoubtedly be interpreted as a hostile act by Swatch. Do these seem like the actions of a company which is completely dependent upon Swatch Group for their movements? Hmmm......

Here's another tidbit of information which was heavily rumored during the weekend. Ball Watch is rumored to have reached an agreement with the automotive manufacturer BMW to produce a link of BMW watches...perhaps as many as 15 different models initially. IF this were true (I can neither confirm nor deny) I'd be EXTREMELY excited as a long-time BMW owner and fan of the brand. Watch and automotive company partnerships to create automotive brand themed watches have been hit or miss (Panerai and Ferrari, Breitling and Bentley, etc.) but I have feeling that Ball will do a FANTASTIC job of creating BMW inspired watches at a not-too-much higher than usual retail price point. That is of course if the rumor is true....

Ball also rolled out several new models during Ballfest:

Engineer Hydrocarbon Ceramic XV


Engineer Hydrocarbon DeepQUEST


Engineer Hydrocarbon Magnate Chronograph


Engineer Master II Diver FreeFall


Fireman Storm Chaser DLC Glow


Trainmaster One Hundred Twenty


Trainmaster Flying Scotsman


Trainmaster Celsius


Trainmaster Fahrenheit


Look for full press releases on these new models coming soon. Here's some photos I took of the examples of the new release models which were made available during the event:









Of course, Ballfest isn't all just "business" - we definitely made it out of the hotel conference room for some memorable activities. On Friday night we were transported out to the famous St. Petersburg pier - one of my favorite area attractions:




On the third floor of the St. Petersburg pier is the Columbia Restaurant - it offers breathtaking waterfront views of Tampa Bay and fantastic Spanish-Cuban cuisine. Here's some photos inside the restaurant:


After a day of hearing all the new and exciting news coming from Ball, we were all ready for a great meal. The Columbia restaurant did not disappoint.




The top floor of the St. Petersburg Pier has a casual dining restaurant called Cha-Cha Coconuts, and is largely open so that visitors can enjoy the sun and breeze coming in off the bay.


The view from the top of the Pier is fantastic - here's a sunset shot of St.Petersburg I took from the top of the pier:


Here's two more I took after the sun had gone down:



Here's a photo of the Pier at night:


I've been coming to the St. Petersburg Pier for years whenever I'm in the area, but I hear rumors that the city is strongly considering tearing down the Pier. I certainly hope that contingency doesn't come about as I can't imagine visiting the Tampa-St. Pete area and not visiting the Pier.

Friday was a short day of presentations followed by the capstone activity for Ballfest - an afternoon sailing trip on Tampa Bay. We were transported back out to the St. Petersburg Marina and to the sailboat which Ball USA had chartered for Ballfest:


The weather was absolutely perfect - just warm enough to be out on the water without it being too hot to enjoy. Here we are boarding the sail boat:


We left the dock are in the Marina and started getting underway:


We were treated to another nice view of the Pier as we headed out into the Bay:


We navigated out of the Marina and into Tampa Bay:


Once we were out in the Bay, the crew raised the sails and our cruise began. They let yours truly drive for a while:


Here's WATCH TALK FORUM sponsor Steve Hammalian of Little Treasury Jewelers taking a turn at the wheel:


Of course, none of this would be possible without our master of ceremonies for the event, President of Ball Watch USA, "Captain" Jeff Hess:


Everyone had a wonderful time on the cruise:


After the cruise, we dashed back to the hotel to change for dinner, then went to another of my favorite destinations in the St. Petersburg area - the historic Vinoy Hotel:


Here's a closer look at the front of the hotel - I got lucky and caught some birds coming out of the tower just as I snapped the shot:


We had dinner at Fred's Steakhouse inside the Vinoy:


Ballfest 2011 was another fabulous success for Ballwatch USA - my hats off to the entire Ball Watch USA staff for making it such a memorable event, and many thanks to Jeff Hess for the invite! It was a very enlightening event for me to attend, and I must say It's refreshing to see the way Ball Watch supports theirs dealers with events like this.

**Photos & Text Copyright 2011 WATCH TALK FORUMS. No part of this report can be reproduced outside of WATCH TALK FORUMS without the expressed permission of John B. Holbrook, II.

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