Before the development of railroads across the United States, there was no need for a standardization of time or any real accuracy in timekeeping. Each town kept its own local time, based on the position of the sun. When trains began to connect really distant cities, it became problematic and difficult to avoid collisions. Moreover, there were no policies or standards for the watches used by the railroad employees.
On April 19, 1891, a head-on collision between two trains in Kipton, Ohio resulted in several human deaths. At the time, trains were using the same lines in opposite directions and had to cross each other at defined crossing points. That day, one of the conductors’ watches stopped for four minutes, leading to the fatal collision.
In order to make train rides safer for travelers and employees of the railroads, Webb C. Ball was designated “Chief Time Inspector” and set up tests and standards for all watches used on the trains. Ball’s criteria for accuracy and reliability were so strict that they later inspired others like the Swiss Official Testing Institute (COSC).