Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ball Watch Website Brand Punch: More Steam, Mad Gleam.

You can read this post or avoid the words and go directly to for one of the most “atmospheric” websites I’ve run across recently. For brand vision and sheer evocative power, the presentation is hard to beat.

I’m fond of big machinery like locomotives. Especially the steam-powered muscle machines of yesterday. Ball Watch has successfully evoked this yesterday by combining the romance of steam and the love of highly accurate time pieces in a sound-and-sight-show that works superbly on the worldwide web.

Sure enough, Ball watches are expensive. I don’t remember the precise line, but looking at the Ball price list is like hearing a collector say, “Only the really costly ones are interesting.” Ball watches are not, however, the most expensive watches in the world. They do seem to have an intensely loyal following: very few used Ball watches seem to come up for sale on “fleaBay,” for example.

What caught me – catches me still – is the imagery and the scoring. Old black-and-white film footage with evocative music overcomes my sensibility about the amount of time Flash intros normally take. For a brand guy who’s heartily tired of sneering athletes and faux-shock appeals to youth, Ball Watch calls up strong images of a vigorous industrial America. A great branding job.

Unfortunately, that’s not directly apparent in much else the company does. The two-column-by-seven-inch ad that caught my eye in a recent Wall Street Journal is much like other expensive watch ads…except for the “Official RR Standard” line which reminded me I’d been meaning to check the company out for some time. The particular watch, a Fireman B and O “First Mile,” is the kind of historical detail I notice but a third of the ad is dealer listing.

I wish the company website delivered more business detail about the company itself. You need to burrow deep into the Internet to discover that, as of 2007 at least, Ball Watch USA “incorporated under the laws of New York and our major investor is an American citizen.” (This is from Jeff Hess, self-identified president of the firm. “Owners are an investment group. CEO is Francisco Harreraa formerly of Citibank. Two of the main investors are a Swiss guy and an American citizen. VPs are a guy from Kansas City and a guy from Canada.”

No precision there. Still, it’s not the first time that we have looked deeply into the eyes of the watch business and seen the mad gleam of great brand development driving the…train. (Remember the Flying Tourbillon and Watch Obama posts.)

Return to the main point: Ball watches appear to be quality goods. Trend-wise, they look fine. Plus its Explorers Club idea, which could be hackneyed, isn’t because this particular web segment is beautifully scored with a haunting version of “Amazing Grace.” Way more evocative than the sonically ugly Youtube version, by the way.

Though I do not own a Ball watch and am never likely to, I’m calling the website a great branding job. For this could-be consumer, more Americana please, mad gleam and all.

Main photo: and US Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division, npcc.32807 digital ID. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Brian Bearden said...

I visited the Ball Watch site. I watched the opening train video on the home page. I kept seeing the Please select language to enter site button which was a little distracting because it reminded me of Skip Intro button that I see a lot on opening FLASH presentations. I wonder how many people select their language before the video presentation ends. Now once you do select your language the rest of the site is awesome. The videos/presentations are extremely well done. The Explorer Club video with Amazing Grace playing in the background is very moving. The rest of the videos that bring in the railroad theme are again moving and they capture the visitors attention. I caught the fact that the watch ticking on the home page had the exact time it was when I was on the site. They programmed the page so it knew that I was in the Central Standard Time Zone and it was Saturday 18th. Nice feature. I actually liked the watch feature so much that I downloaded the watch screen saver.

Okay, you got me curious, I will have to check out what a current and classic Ball Watch sells for.

Ricard, put one on your bucket list!