The Revival of American Watchmaking story by Michael Clerizo for Barrons

Full Article click here

By Michael Clerizo

July 3, 2019 2:01 pm ET

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. 

Custom Cityscape RGM with Lapis Dial

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.

SKYLINE_RGM_03.jpg

New Version of the RGM Model 300 Diver

Model 300 Professional Diver

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.


For more details click here

Riesentöter Region - Porsche Club of America Custom RGM Chronograph

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.

Price $3950.

ORDERS by Phone 717-653-9799, or Email Sales@rgmwatches.com

More information on the RGM Model 455 Chronograph click here.


The club has visited RGM twice, you can see previous blog post about the visits below.

First visit to RGM click here

Second visit to RGM click here

Hodinkee Writes About The RGM PS-801-Skeleton

NICHOLAS MANOUSOS

JUNE 13, 2019

Initial Thoughts

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.

RGM Spring & Summer limited opportunity

RGM Spring/Summer limited opportunity

 

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.

Model 455-T

 

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.

 

 Model 455 web-page click here

 

If you’re interested in securing one of the 6 that come with a winder email us at sales@rgmwatches.com , or call 717-653-9799.

Orbita Sparta Watch Winder

Model 455-BT

Quill & Pad Article about American Watch Brands and the Truth Behind the Dial.

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.

See complete article here:
https://quillandpad.com/…/modern-american-watches-the-tru…/…

NEW - PS-801-Skeleton .. See it at the LA WatchTime Show this week.

PS-801-Skeleton

 The Caliber 801 was introduced in 2007 as our first in-house movement. Now, after more than a year in development, we are proud to introduce a classic skeleton version of our most famous movement.

 A solid gold plaque at the bottom of the dial divides the minute into thirds. The three arm second hand enables a clear view of the movement and the escapement. The different lengths of the arms of the second hand allow for easy reading of the seconds as they pass.

 All of the components of the movement are hand finished using traditional techniques. The matte grain finish and polished bevels (anglage) on the bridges and main plate require many hours by a skilled craftsman.

Inspiration was taken from skeleton watches from the early 20th century which were less ornate with clean lines and a functional aesthetic.




WatchTime Los Angeles ... A Collectors and Enthusiasts Horological Experience!!!!

WatchTime is bringing its hugely successful WatchTime New York event concept to the West Coast next week May 3-4, 2019 at the Hudson Loft space in Downtown LA. You can expect a similar experience to WatchTime New York event. https://www.watchtimeevents.com/

Here at RGM we are looking forward to seeing some of our clients and followers from the West Coast, just like we enjoy so much seeing everyone at the New York event. Over the past four years, WatchTime New York has emerged as the largest and most important luxury watch event in the United States. In October 2018, the show welcomed over 1,400 collectors and 31 brands to Gotham Hall in Midtown Manhattan. Like WatchTime New York, WatchTime Los Angeles will offer the passionate collector and enthusiast a horological experience unlike any other.

We are looking forward to showing two new RGM models next week, we hope you can be there and be one of the first to see them in person.

Europa Star Writes About RGM in American Watch Report

From - Europe Star chapter 2, 2019

Full American Watch Report article click here

Portrait

 Roland G. Murphy: the last American master

Roland G. Murphy, founder of RGM Watch Company

In the place where the erstwhile giants of American watchmaking, including Hamilton Watch Company, were established, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, we met Roland G. Murphy. This master watch restorer founded the RGM Watch Company brand in 1992, the only American watchmaker still producing its own mechanical movements. He represents an isolated, independent mind on the other side of the Atlantic, far away from the Swiss ecosystem.

RGM Watch Company is housed in a former bank in the small town of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. It’s a solid brick-built structure with a vintage but still very reliable safe. On the ground floor, three watchmakers are busy at their workbenches. After the tour, the discussion begins with Roland G. Murphy, one of America’s only master clock and watchmakers.


Roland G. Murphy, founder of RGM Watch Company

“The United States has always been a country oriented towards mass watch production, before everything moved to Asia,” says Roland Murphy. “The large factories in our region operated very differently from our craft workshops. In a sense, I am an heir to this watchmaking tradition, but an heir with a very different face.” He feels closer in spirit to the likes of Kari Voutilainen, Svend Andersen, Peter Speake-Marin or the Grönefeld brothers.

However, it was at the Hamilton facilities in Lancaster that it all began for the native of Maryland. Before Hamilton he completed an apprenticeship as a carpenter. During that time he took a job with Danecker Clock Co. where he worked on the wooden cabinets for clocks. When the company went bankrupt, Roland Murphy bought the stock of clocks and began to analyse their movements. This was the beginning of a passion that still grips him today.

PS-801-CH “Chess in Enamel”: the first RGM timepiece with a double-sunk real glass fired enamel dial



A pioneer in the “new wave” of independents

He joined a technical school in Pennsylvania (which has since closed its doors) to take a watchmaking course, before flying to Switzerland in 1986, where he perfected his skills at Wostep in Neuchâtel. Back in the United States, he was hired by SMH to work on product development for the Hamilton brand in Lancaster. However, Roland Murphy did not really feel at home in a group, where individual initiative is necessarily limited by the many constraints, work meetings and hierarchical superiors. Besides, he missed working with his hands. He decided to leave the group. Hamilton, meanwhile, would relocate permanently to Biel in 2003.

He is operating under additional constraints, far from Switzerland’s watch supply chains.

At the beginning of the 1990s, there were just a handful of independent master watchmakers, a new generation led by François-Paul Journe, Franck MullerAntoine Preziuso and Vincent Calabrese – a far cry from the current Carré des Horlogers! When he founded RGM Watch Company in 1992, Roland Murphy was one of the early birds of this “new wave” in watchmaking.

And he was operating under additional constraints, because of his location, far from Switzerland’s watch supply chains. “My colleagues have access to local technologies and skilled labour, support from foundations and much more media attention,” says Roland Murphy. “I’ve been wanting to hire a Finnish watchmaker for several years now, a former intern, but working visas are very difficult to obtain.”

RGM Watch Company is housed in a former bank in the small town of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania

How to source critical components

Fortunately for him, the watchmaker initially acquired a large number of Nivarox assortments via third parties, which he still uses today. The first models were skeletonized column-wheel chronographs equipped with Valjoux movements. With the help of Jean-Daniel Dubois (now director of Vaucher Manufacture), then at Lemania, he was also able to launch several small series of tourbillon, minute repeater and perpetual calendar watches.

At the same time, he continues to work as a restorer of vintage timepieces, providing after-sales service in the United States for brands such as SinnEberhard & Co. and Titoni. This supports RGM’s activity as an independent brand, with a dozen employees today. In 2007 the RGM Watch Company launched its first in-house movement after seven years in development. Today, the company has four Made in America calibres, for an annual production of some 250 watches. The brand has specialized in the segment of custom-made models, a growing niche, as well as in the trade-in of second-hand timepieces against new RGM watches.

Today, the company has four Made in America calibres, for an annual production of some 250 watches.

A certain vision of Americana

Current collections include the Pennsylvania series, which ranges from models under $10,000, equipped with custom cases, with parts made by a local aerospace industry supplier (!), to a tourbillon model in steel priced at $95,000. For the company’s twentieth anniversary in 2012, the Calibre 20 was launched on a model with guilloché dial and precise moon-phase indication.

The most recent movement developed by Roland Murphy and his team is the Calibre 801 with a sweep second, inspired by Patek Philippe’s classic central second system. The watchmaker is currently working on a new higher-end calibre, similar to the Zenith 135 or the Peseux 260.RGM Watch Company also uses ETA movements to offer more accessible watches, such as the 151 model priced at $3,000. The company even offers its vision of Americana through the Baseball Watch model.

RGM 801-COE Corps of Engineers watch

Bad retail experiences

Most customers are American watch connoisseurs. Roland Murphy chose to switch to a 100% direct sales model more than a decade ago, after a series of bad experiences with retailers. "At first, I started by collaborating with retailers, but I realized that it was better to give it up for a small independent brand like mine,” explains the watchmaker. “The major brands give advantages to sellers to ensure their supremacy. One day, a customer went to a point of sale that represented me in California and asked for the price of one of my watches: he was immediately redirected to another brand. This happened three times in three months. Enough to understand that it was no accident.”

"I started by collaborating with retailers, but I realized that it was better to give it up for a small independent brand like mine.”

RGM Watch Company took the drastic step of withdrawing from the dozen or so points of sale that represented it in the United States. “By getting rid of this margin, it also allowed me to offer more affordable models,” continues Roland Murphy. “In the end, we reduced production and increased our margins. With the advent of the internet, we have really grown, especially thanks to the impact of social networks and the support of specialized blogs.” The watchmaker manages the Instagram account of his brand himself.

RGM’s in-house Caliber 801, inspired by America’s watchmaking history

A region forgetting its horological past

With his experience as a restorer, the watchmaker doesn’t want to hear about using silicon in his calibres: “When I think of a watch, I think of its repair in several decades’ time. Too few brands take this into account. This is also why independents are so popular with collectors. We’re dealing with humans, not technocrats.” Roland Murphy’s succession seems to be assured, since his son-in-law works for the company, and his son has just graduated with a specialization in CNC operations.

The citizens of his region are no longer exposed to the importance of the watchmaking industry, however. “Many people are unaware of the long industrial and watchmaking heritage of our territory, despite the presence of the National Museum of Watchmakers and Clockmakers.” So, with his good humor and sincere speech, Roland Murphy acts as a salutary reminder, which may lead to new vocations among those whose grandparents devoted their lives to watchmaking.
















Limited Edition RGM Model 500-GMT-RS "Richard Sachs" Version.. Pre-Orders Available

Model 500-GMT-RS

Both Richard Sachs and Roland Murphy have a passion for handcrafting and making very special products for their clients, often creating bespoke pieces of art. They can be described as traditionalists who believe in providing customer service and building the right product for each individual.

Years ago we made an RGM/Richard Sachs watch, and we have had many requests for a new model, so we’ve teamed up to create a truly special GMT watch.

Renderings are of the new RGM Model 500-GMT-RS which will be ready around Oct/Nov of this year 2019.

 Limited Edition of 50 Watches.

Anyone who pre-orders the watch now will get some extra goodies at no extra charge as outlined below.

  1. 3-year warranty in place of standard 2-year warranty.

  2. Extra RGM watch strap.

  3. Richard Sachs water bottle.

  4. Signed Richard Sachs cycling cap.

  5. Personalized engraving added to the case-back.

 

To order the watch, a 50% deposit is required, and the balance is due when the watch is ready later this year.  The price of the watch is $4750 on strap. An optional stainless-steel bracelet will be available later.

Email for more information

Call to place an order 717-653-9799

 

RGM Model 500-GMT-RS

Specs:

  1. 41mm 316-L stainless-steel case with unidirectional 24-hour bezel.

  2. Screw-Down crown.

  3. Richard Sachs GMT hand, and engraving on case-back.

  4. Automatic ETA 2893-2 GMT movement.

  5. Superluminova on dial and hands.

NEW - RGM Model 151 Stainless Steel Bracelet

Years ago we had a metal bracelet for the Model 151, we have been looking for a replacement for several years, and now have a new even nicer bracelet available. The new bracelet can be ordered on a new 151, or can be purchased separately for any RGM 151 we have made in the past.

The bracelet is available in 316L stainless steel, it has a push button release clasp with a safety lock. Sizing is easy because the bracelet has screws not pins for removing links, and the solid stainless end-pieces are custom made to fit the 151 case. The clasp is engraved with the RGM logo.

The bracelet is available in a brushed and polished combination finish, or we can brush the entire bracelet.

Link to RGM 151 page click here

Looking Back......The day I Met Watchmaker George Daniels

First Edition

I first heard of George Daniels back in the 1980’s when I first went to school for clockmaking and watchmaking, I quickly went on the hunt for his now famous book on watchmaking, back in the 80’s the first edition was available, and I bought a copy.  I spent many hours, months, even years reading and examining the illustrations in the book.   I dreamed of making his tourbillon watch which he outlines over several chapters, who knows maybe some day I will make that watch.  The book was also my first introduction to Engine-Turning which has a chapter devoted to it as Mr. Daniels would Engine-Turn his own cases, and dials.  I was instantly fascinated with this work also, and as many know I pursued it some years later hunting down machines and finding craftsman to help teach me this beautiful craft.  Today we make many beautiful watches with this handmade work.

 

Once I started RGM in the early 1990’s I would attend the Basel Fair each year meeting suppliers and other people in the watch industry.  Every year I would make this trip to Switzerland and would also take the time to visit other companies not at Basel. This was very important then when I was just starting out making and designing my own watches, I rarely attend the fair now. If you have ever been to the Basel Fair you know how large this event is, and back in the 1990’s it had even more companies there as it was also a big show for suppliers. Now the fair has changed a lot over the years, and it’s very different today compared to then.

 

One year in the mid 1990’s when I visited the Basel Fair, I made my way back to the stand of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI) and to my surprise George Daniels had a watch or two on display, I also heard he was there at the fair, but at the time I was in the stand he was not there.  I stopped back a few more times but I missed him each time, I thought I would not see him at all during the visit.   I was tired from the trip and thought I would go back to Neuchatel where I was staying early that day, so I made my way to the train station in the middle of the afternoon.  After making my way to the platform I could see the train was there waiting, once I boarded it looked like a ghost train, not many people were leaving Basel at that time.  I made my way into one of the cars and there was only one person in the car, to my amazement there he was the master himself, George Daniels sitting there by himself.  I couldn’t pass this opportunity up, so I went and sat across from him and introduced myself.

 

The train station in Basel is pretty big with several tracks, I was surprised when we left the station that know one else was in our train car.  I was going to Neuchatel which is a fairly long train ride from Basel, and Mr. Daniels was going to visit his good friend and watchmaker Derek Pratt who was another legend in watchmaking.    During this train ride of course we talked about watchmaking, the watch industry, and many other things.   He was wearing two wrist watches, one was a Rolex and the other was an Omega, both watches were fitted with his Daniels Co-Axial escapement which he had done years before.  He expressed to me his disappointment in the Swiss watch industries lack of interest in his escapement. He told me about some of his meetings and it seemed at that point he had given up hope of ever seeing it produced on a large scale.  Of course, we all know a few years later Omega decided to work with him, and the Co-Axial escapement is being used across the Omega lineup today.  I remember being at the Basel Fair the year it was introduced and seeing Mr. Daniels, and Mr. Hayek talking about it for the press and attendees in the Omega stand.

 

Co-Axial Escapement

We continued our conversation on the train, and I was talking about Tourbillon watches, he quickly let me know that he thought the tourbillon should be seen from the back of the watch, and not from the front. At that time Breguet and some other brands had the Tourbillon featured on the front of the watch which is what most customers of these watches wanted.  Mr. Daniels was old school and that’s what I would expect from the old master.  We continued the conversation and he handed me his Rolex and Omega to look at.  He said that the timing of the watches with his escapement was better then the rate he could achieve with the original escapements.  I am sure he spent many hours fitting and adjusting the escapement to these watches.  We talked for almost and hour and half on this amazing horological train ride, what a privilege I will never forget.

 

Once I found my way back to my hotel, I thought to myself, you could never arrange a private conversation with George Daniels for an hour and half.  Somehow I think I was meant to leave the Basel Fair early that day.

 

Thanks for listening

Roland Murphy

——————————————————

George Daniels 1926-2011

Derek Pratt 1938-2009

Limited Opportunity To Order an RGM Model 400

We announced a few weeks ago that the Model 400 Chronograph was effectively gone as we were out of enough parts to build more watches. We had many people contact us still trying to order one. We have gone thru the parts and have enough dials, hands, etc.. but we were out of cases. We are having 10 more cases made and can build these last watches in about two months.

So if you want a Model 400 Chronograph now is your chance, as of today there are 7 watches available out of the 10 new cases being made.

We have not changed the price, the old price is $3500 and we will honor that price. We have all dial variations available for the moment. If you would like to order one a 50% deposit is required and the balance is due when the watch is complete.

Web-page click here

Contact us at sales@rgmwatches.com


See RGM on Handcrafted American again on Amazon

RGM on Season 3 Episode 13

If you missed RGM on Handcrafted America with Jill Wagner a year and a half ago, you can now see it on Amazon. RGM is on Season 3 Episode 13.



Here is a little promo video they did back then.



A visit to the NAWCC Museum with Roland Murphy as the guide...

Written by RGM Friend Brad Jacobs

Waltham Regulator

Hello friends,
As noted some weeks ago, RGM Watch Company and the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors arranged for an event, free to the public, during which visitors to the NAWCC HQ could stroll through their extensive collection of clocks and pocket and wrist watches, with Roland Murphy of RGM pointing out and discussing some of his favorite pieces. About 45 people, in addition to Roland, two of his watchmakers (Alan and Benoît) and some members of the NAWCC staff, gathered for the tour. After a quick introduction by Roland, the group watched "Tick Tock Tale", a very clever vintage-style Disney short film (2010) featuring a cast of animated clocks, and then ventured into the galleries.

Roland chose several notable clocks and makers to discuss, including clocks by Simon Willard and his brothers, and Seth Thomas. Pocket watches he emphasized included a Patek Philippe Grand Complication, which Roland restored for the museum in the early 1990s, and some very rare and desirable watches from A.L. Breguet (Paris, France) and Wm. Dudley (Lancaster, PA). Examples of machines used for case decoration, similar to the rose engines used at RGM for guilloché, were explained, as were some details of the specifications for railroad-grade pocketwatches such as those from Elgin, Hamilton and Ball.

Roland was sure to explain some of the important history of Hamilton Watch Company, of which the NAWCC has an extensive collection (clocks, watches, memorability and documents, including the archives of the original company)--Roland worked for Hamilton in the 1980s and 1990s, but was able to provide history dating back to the company's predecessors such as Adams & Perry and the Lancaster Watch Company.

One particularly interesting section of the museum is devoted to watches and clocks made by members of the NAWCC, which sponsors a competition each year where members vie for top honors in 25 categories including watch making, clock making, clock case making, decorative endeavors and others. In this section are some fantastic creations including wooden clocks, tourbillon pocket watches and some of RGM's creations, including RGM watch #001. Originally sold ca. 1992, it was bought back by Roland and has been loaned to the museum. Roland has also provided a prototype Martin guitar, which he and his staff helped design when Martin & Co. were planning a custom piece to celebrate the production of their 2,000,000th guitar.

The photos below show some of the action. Those interested in a tour such as this, or a tour of the nearby RGM facilities, should visit RGMWatches.com and subscribe to their newsletter. The next event will be announced there and via RGM's facebook page..

I hope to catch up with you there!
Brad

Roland explains various types of early American clock styles and movements, and the importance of New England clock makers such as Seth Thomas:

Roland describes various significant dial-making techniques from the early 20th century:

Brad Jacobs and Roland Murphy in front of the Prototype of the CF Martin 2 millionth guitar that RGM collaborated on with martin.

Just down the road about 8 miles is the old Hamilton factory, now known as Clock Tower Apartments. I kinda want to live there...and work for RGM!

Tour the NAWCC Museum with RGM's Roland Murphy

RGM’s Roland Murphy will be hosting a free tour of the NAWCC Museum on February 23, 2019 at 10am. The NAWCC is the “National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors” . The address is 514 Poplar St. Columbia, PA 17512. No reservation is needed, just show up and mention you are there for Mr. Murphy’s tour.

Mr. Murphy has arranged for the normal museum fee to be waived so this is a totally free event. Of course we always encourage donations to the museum, which you can do in person if you so desire.

The tour will take about 2 hours or so, and Mr Murphy will feature items in the museum that he personally likes and feels are significant. There are many items of interest in the museum including clocks, watches, complicated watches, watchmaking tools, machinery, and much more.

Below is a video tour of the museum Mr. Murphy did several years ago, this will give you an idea of what is in the museum, and if you can’t come in person you can still have a video tour.

Also, after the tour if you have an old watch you would like to show Mr. Murphy he will be glad to look at and give you his comments about it. Mr. Murphy has many years experience restoring and collecting vintage and antique watches.