American watchmaking was once a thriving industry. After the Civil War, the U.S. dominated the world market in inexpensive, accurate watches, a position maintained into the first half of the 20 th century. Starting in the 1950s watch production declined in the country due to a lack of investment and loss of market share to watches produced in Japan and Switzerland. American brands were bought by overseas groups and production relocated to Europe and Asia.
But the industry is experiencing a revival of sorts, led by a few highly talented individuals. However, the challenges they face are many: from learning the craft, to affording the necessary equipment, to finding suppliers and attracting customers.
The most successful American watchmaker is Roland George Murphy, who established the RGM Watch Co. in Mount Joy, Pa., in 1992. Murphy, 57, spent three years training and five years working in product development for Hamilton, an American watch brand now based in Switzerland.
We made 6 custom RGM Model 25 watches with very special multi piece dials. These were made for a company that builds and restores large commercial buildings including sky scrapers, in fact they have done restoration work on the US Capitol.
The dials are made of galvanic copper on Argentium Silver with a Guilloché (Engine-Turning) Breguet line, Lapis lazuli background sky, and Stainless Steel cityscape. The dials are made from 4 major parts.
We have made many custom watches over the years and it is still one of my favorite things to do, working with a client to achieve a beautiful unique watch for them is always a challenge we are up for.
This watch exceeded my high expectations, so I thought it would be interesting to show some of the working images and pictures from this project. We always work to making the best watch we can, and often make changes along the way to the final result. We were originally going to have Black Mother of Pearl as the sky but we decided Lapis looked much better for this watch. Lapis is a beautiful blue and has flecks in the stone that look like stars in the sky, perfect for this watch.
We were glad that they used several of our pictures and included us in the article, correcting a small error in the article, we are of course in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, but we are not in an old Hamilton building.
After a request from a customer we decided we really like the combination of the natural Mother of Pearl dial with the blue ceramic bezel insert, so just in time for summer we have added this beautiful watch to our diver lineup.
The model 300 diver was designed from the ground up as a professional dive watch. It features soft iron shielding over the movement to protect against magnetism and a 5mm thick sapphire crystal to withstand high pressure at depth. The single direction dive bezel is held on by screws in the side, which allows the bezel to be adjusted easily by the watchmaker. It’s used by professional divers around the world.
We have made a custom version of our RGM Model 455 Chronograph for the Riesentöter Region - Porsche Club of America. The watch has the Riesentöter Region logo, and the Porsche Club of America logo on the dial.
The first watch was made to be auctioned off at the club charity auction.
Additional watches will be made and can be ordered directly from RGM by calling or emailing.
The caliber 801 skeleton has been in development for more than a year, and the hard work resulted in a fresh take on the 801 movement that allows us to easily admire its architecture. When skeletonizing a movement it is easy to go too far and end up with a watch that is difficult to read, or is very fragile due to the amount of metal removed from the mainplate and bridges. In my opinion, RGM got it just right with the 801 skeleton. In a way, it is is the logical progression of the 801 series.
We will be giving away an Orbita Sparta watch winder a $295 value, with the purchase of any RGM Model 455 Classic Chronograph. Orbita is one of the best manufacturers of watch winders in the world. We only have 6 winders so you must be one of the first 6 orders to qualify for this limited opportunity.
We have a few versions of the Model 455 to choose from, and all are inspired by the great classic chronographs from the 1940's with their technical and functional dials with Tachymeter, and Telemeter scales.
I will be in Las Vegas to help launch the new AWCI mobile classroom and help teach one of the very first workshops, there are a few spots open, so if you want to be part of this experience click the link below for details.
Excerpt From Quill & Pad Article about American Watch brands.
RGM: the modern American watchmaker Luckily for those of us in the United States, Roland G. Murphy has put his watchmaking expertise and passion for American horological history into a company that indubitably builds the modern American watch.
Located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (home of the former Hamilton Watch Company) RGM Watch Company manufactures its timepieces using modern technology blended with antique watchmaking tools and methods such as engine turning – perhaps better known as guilloche – which is the process of engraving decorative patterns onto metal using a hand-driven rose engine.
RGM even bases its designs on iconic American pocket watches. The Pennsylvania Series 801 caliber draws inspiration from the unique winding click of the Illinois Watch Company’s “Illini” model – see the The Schmidt List: Top 5 Funky Clicks for a detailed explanation of this component’s function – and its crown and ratchet wheels are finished like those of the Illinois Bunn Special.
Further, the 801 caliber includes a bridge plate construction resembling the Edward Howard model of Keystone Howard watches, and the Pennsylvania Series 801 Classic Enamel uses high-fire double-sunk enamel dials like those on nineteenth-century American pocket watches.
See a complete breakdown of this model in RGM Pennsylvania Series 801 Classic Enamel Offers Traditional Timelessness Bridging Past, Present, And Future.
These inspirations represent the great American railroad watches, which were some of the highest-grade watches of their time. And RGM makes sure that the quality of its movements is nothing less than the watches it honors.