Quill & Pad Writes about the RGM Hollywood 1923 watch

The Intriguing Tale Of Hollywood’s Iconic Sign, Hugh Hefner, eBay, And RGM

by Joshua Munchow

The United States of America has always been a melting pot of cultures, ideas, and dreams.

And even though many things we experience around the country might have originated from other cultures, there are some things that are truly American: baseball, apple pie, Spam (the junk mail and the canned meat), mega churches, and nonsensical systems of measurement . . . there is something for everyone.

One distinctly American thing that is famous all over the world is Hollywood: a manifestation of American dreams in every shape and form for over a century.

Here follows a story of neglect, replacement, and resurrection in Hollywood that spans nearly a century and involves Hugh Hefner, eBay, and the last American watch manufacture, RGM. It’s an fascinating journey leading to where we are now, and it is chock full of truly American entities.

Hollywood 1923 watch by RGM

Hollywood’s cultural beginnings

Despite Hollywood’s modest beginning as an unincorporated town west of Los Angeles, it has uniquely shaped an American cultural obsession with fame, glamour, and imagination that has spread throughout the world and inspired millions of people in countless ways.

Officially founded in 1887, Hollywood merged with Los Angeles in 1910 to become a neighborhood of the growing city. That same year the first movie shot in Hollywood was made, and the film industry quickly grew. Over the next decade numerous film studios arose, leading to competition and then mergers to create larger studios, turning Hollywood film into America’s fifth largest industry by the 1920s.

Hollywood grew fast, spurred on by real estate and film production, becoming known as Tinseltown across the nation. But Hollywood wasn’t yet the Hollywood that you and I know, an icon that would be permanently cemented thanks to the Hollywood sign, a monstrous 12o-meter-long sign stretching across Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills.

The modern Hollywood sign (photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Originally built in 1923 as advertising for a new real estate community the sign read “Hollywoodland,” and each letter was surrounded by more than 300 light bulbs for a total of 4,000 lights illuminating the giant 17-meter-tall sign. It was only intended to stand for about a year and a half, but due to Hollywood’s increasing popularity and the growing fame of the magnificent sign (this was pre-Las Vegas, so a giant illuminated sign was an extremely rare sight), the land developers left the sign.

It remained standing for more than 50 years.

Thanks to the years past its intended use, the sign began to disintegrate. It was repaired in 1949 when the letter H, which had been destroyed by a car crash, was replaced. At that time the “LAND” portion was also removed so it matched the region’s actual name.

This was also when it finally lost the lights to become the Hollywood sign we now know and love.

By 1978, the sign was in such disrepair and covered in graffiti that a movement to replace it was taken up by none other than the uniquely American founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner. Gaining support from other celebrities and public figures, enough money was raised to take down the old sign and replace it with a brand-new one designed to stand the test of time.

Now the sign standing 14 meters tall and 107 meters long is protected and professionally managed to preserve a landmark known the world over.

After nearly losing the Hollywood sign to vandalism, decay, and nature’s attempts to retake the hillside, the sign has still stood for 94 years in one form or another and has become so iconic that it is one of the top landmarks of the United States of America.

Hollywood sign (photo courtesy Pimlico27/Wikipedia)

30 years later: nearly missing history

Jump forward 30 years: the original sign was thought to be gone forever; why would anyone keep pieces of a nearly destroyed sign covered in graffiti?

Then in 2005 the original sign reappeared – where else but on eBay? I guess you really can find anything there.

The sign was sold first to artist Bill Mack, who used it for various projects over the next decade, including a single recreation of the original letter H. In 2017 a group of enthusiasts acquired all the remaining metal from the sign with the desire to return it to where it belongs: with “the people.”

These passionate people founded Hollywood 1923, a company whose goal is to preserve the history of the sign and allow Hollywood aficionados the chance to own a piece of it.

And one of the first orders of business was to make a splash by offering something unique to serious collectors and, as you may have guessed, it took the form of a limited edition timepiece. Not being watchmakers or even connected to the industry in any way, the company sought out the best choice for this type of project: the only American watch manufacture, RGM Watch Co.

The idea was to incorporate the metal from the sign by turning it into a dial for a limited run of watches. Once representatives from Hollywood 1923 met with RGM’s Roland Murphy, it became clear that the metal from the old sign was in pretty rough shape, meaning that a full dial wasn’t going to be possible. Not to the standards of RGM, anyway.

Metal from the old Hollywood sign at the RGM factory

Ideas were tossed around, and the winning concept called for the metal to be used to make custom plaques affixed to the dial.

The watch by Hollywood 1923 and RGM

The plaque design mirrors the look of the sign on Mount Lee, which, due to inconsistencies in the terrain, makes the sign look like it is rolling over bulges in the hill.

Hollywood 1923 watch by RGM: the ‘Hollywood’ plaque is made from metal from the original Hollywood sign

When viewed straight on, the sign is nearly perfectly level and spaced pretty evenly. But only a helicopter will ever see it from that view, so what we are all familiar with is the charmingly uneven layout of the letters. The shape of the plaque follows that wave, the letters placed as if the sign was viewed from a bit below and to the right. That is the most familiar general view from photos.

Once the direction for the plaque was decided, the watch still needed an overall design direction. Keeping with the Hollywood theme, the dial was given the look of a film reel with a railroad chapter ring around the perimeter and Super-LumiNova dots at the hours.

The dial has a sunburst brush finish, while the film reel is pad printed over it in a tone-on-tone grey. The Hollywood plaque was also pad printed, but in-house at RGM. The pad-printed numerals are Art Deco inspired, harking back to the 1920s when the sign was first erected.

Hollywood 1923 watch by RGM resting on metal from the original Hollywood sign

Underneath the Hollywood plaque the year 1923 is printed on the dial, completing the name by referencing the year the sign was first built. On the top of the dial we find the RGM Watch Co. type logo, very small, as is the style with RGM. It doesn’t overwhelm, preferring to let the Hollywood sign take the spotlight.

The RGM Model 25 case is made from 316L stainless steel right here in the good ole U.S.of A. Inside ticks the reliable ETA 2892-A2 caliber, which is embellished with the RGM logo on the rotor. The choice to use this movement rather than an in-house RGM caliber is most definitely to keep the price from skyrocketing, since the limited edition watch is already pricey on its own.

The watch is sold exclusively by Hollywood 1923, and as it is a limited edition of 12 only a few are left. For any fan of Hollywood history, this is a rather unique  ̶  and definitely American  ̶  piece of history. The story of the sign and the rise of Hollywood are praiseworthy added-value elements to the piece.

Of course you get a solid watch from RGM, but having that bit of iconic metal incorporated is something else entirely: including a piece of history is pretty cool.

But unlike most of Romain Jerome’s historically inclined pieces, this is uniquely American. And in the modern world of watches, that is something hard to find.

Reliable ETA movement visible through the display back of the Hollywood 1923 watch

If it had a fully in-house RGM movement, then it would be as American as possible. But keeping the price reasonable is always a good idea for a unique project such as this.

It also is a much more wearable piece than many special editions you see these days; it can easily be an everyday watch, especially for someone with a touch of Hollywood fever.

Hollywood 1923 watch by RGM

With my own interest in film and movie props and such, I can see the appeal. And according to Hollywood 1923, this is the first step toward creating an affordable and accessible watch that will come later, also incorporating some piece of the sign. It remains to be seen what that will be, but if the partnership with RGM continues I believe that it will help keep American watchmaking alive and celebrate a truly American contribution to worldwide culture. If you are a cinephile or a Hollywood aficionado, this might be for you.


For more information, please visit www.hollywood1923.com/pages/the-hollywood-watch.

Quick Facts Hollywood 1923 watch by RGM
Case: 40 x 10.4 mm, 316L stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber ETA 2892-A2
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 12 pieces (3, 4, 5, 10, 11 remain as of this writing)
Price: $9,500

Critic’s Choice: The 8 Best Watches of 2017 - Wall Street Journal

We were very happy to hear that an RGM made the Wall Street Journal's top 8 watches for 2017.  In fact we made the TOP 3 of the 8.  The RGM D-200 watch was picked out of 1000's of watches, it's the watch that goes with each C.F. Martin D-200 guitar, and is a limited edition of 50 pieces.  You can read more about the RGM / Martin Collaboration here.


Michael Clerizo's article is liked below, you might need to subscribe to see all of it.

Click here.


Critic’s Choice: The 8 Best Watches of 2017

From the thousands of timepieces released this year, WSJ’s horological expert Michael Clerizo picks the best investments—including a surprising collaboration that (spoiler alert) involves a C.F. Martin guitar



STAR POWERED From left: RGM Watch Co. and C.F. Martin & Co D200 Watch (sold with a guitar shown below), $149,999, martinguitar.com; Classico Small Second Manufacture Watch, $8,800, Ulysse Nardin, 212-257-4920; Defy El Primero 21 Watch, $10,600, zenith-watches.com PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL



Michael Clerizo

Dec. 18, 2017 12:59 p.m. ET

Q: I’m sure you looked at a crazy number of new watches over the past year. Which ones impressed you the most?

A: To be honest, this question always rather flummoxes me. Every year, thousands of new quartz, smart and mechanical timepieces are released. Even if I limit my candidates for top honors to mechanical watches—and I do—that still leaves hundreds. And it’s still apples and oranges: How do you decide, for example, whether a rose-gold dress watch with a handsome leather strap beats a stainless steel chronograph?

To be even more honest, I rely on something that is never in short supply: pure subjectivity. The watches that make my first cut are those that, on first glance, prompt an involuntary “Wow.”

I always find good design exciting, especially when it’s backed up with traditional watchmaking excellence. That’s why one of my final choices is Ulysse Nardin’s Classico Manufacture “Grand Feu” (center), a Swiss dress watch with just the right amount of flair. While the pristine 40mm stainless steel case holds precision machinery, the watch’s exemplary features also include a visually balanced, easily readable dial.

The watches that make my first cut are those that, on first glance, prompt an involuntary ‘Wow.’ 

The dial’s intense sea-blue finish is created via an enameling technique called “Grand Feu” (Great Fire). The handcrafted enamel is baked at about 800-900°C to produce a wavy pattern, one that gleams like water touched by sunlight. I’m in love.

I’m also a sucker for a bit of flamboyance—which brings me to the Zenith Defy El Primero 21. I like when a brand sticks to what it does well, and many years ago, Zenith perfected skeletonized chronographs. “Skeletonized” describes a watch that dispenses with a dial face, exposing the many moving parts.

This high-drama move creates a conundrum for a watchmaker: A chronograph, like a stopwatch, measures elapsed time—the seconds and minutes of a specific event; so how do you legibly display the time, as well as the chronograph readings, minus a dial?

With the Defy El Primero 21, Zenith solves that puzzle remarkably well, cleverly employing color and giving the watch big, meaty proportions. In black or white, the hour and minute hands stand out against the exposed movement. A third hand, measuring seconds, boasts a brake-light-red tip. And at 44mm, the watch is massive, an irresistible eye magnet.

More color tricks: The deep blue ring at the 3 o’clock position displays elapsed minutes, while another blue ring below it tracks 60-second intervals. The hands within the rings are also tipped in red. This watch’s ability to record elapsed time, even without a dial, might inspire another Marcel Proust.

I realize that makes two Swiss watches. What’s next on my list? An American timepiece with a musical connection.

I admire watches that are grounded in a wider cultural context. In 2017, two family-owned brands from Pennsylvania came up with a way to celebrate each other’s craftsmanship. Roland Murphy, currently America’s most significant master watchmaker, started the RGM Watch Co. workshop in Mount Joy, Pa., in 1992. Meanwhile, C.F. Martin & Co., a guitar maker founded in the 19th century, has been based in Nazareth, Pa., since 1838. Many renowned guitar gods favor C.F. Martin’s instruments—and at least two, Eric Clapton and John Mayer, coincidentally also collect fine watches.

An acoustic guitar with exotic-wood inlays in the shape of watch components that comes with a RGM watch.

The two companies came together on a guitar and watch collaboration. The result? An acoustic guitar with exotic-wood inlays in the shape of watch components that comes with a RGM watch featuring Mr. Murphy’s own in-house movement.

If I had a spare $150,000 to indulge in this estimable pair, I’d be strumming “Auld Lang Syne” right now. Instead, I’ll simply wish you a happy and accurately timed new year.











Breguet Classique 7147


A simple but elegant watch from a maker that outfitted both Louis XVI and Napoleon. $21,500, Breguet.












IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph


Last revamped in 2007, this watch was renewed in a yellow-gold case. $40,200.














Omega Seamaster Railmaster

One of the best of the neo-retro watches that were wildly popular this year. $5,000, 












Seiko Presage Enamel


An exceptional chronograph with a superbly designed enamel dial—all for a can’t-beat price. $2,400, Seiko.













Vacheron Constantin Copernicus


A reminder that timekeeping and astronomy have a kinship. $95,500, Vacheron Constantin, 



Joe Thompson Writes about the watch Industry for Hodinkee


In this in depth article entitled - Four Revolutions: A Concise History Of The Mechanical Watch Revolution, Joe Thompson has dug deep to give incredible detail of this time period in watchmaking history.

RGM, and Roland Murphy are mentioned a few times: a picture of our Caliber 801 was included in Part 3 (1976-1989), and Roland Murphy was also mentioned in Part 3 (1990-2000).

Click on the links below for the story.

Four Revolutions Part 1

Four Revolutions Part 2

Four Revolutions Part 3 (1976-1989)

Four Revolutions Part 3 (1990-2000)

RGM Makes Watch for the NAWCC Museum's 40th Anniversary

This week the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC) had an event for it's museums 40th anniversary, the event was held at the museum in Columbia PA, USA. 

Pierre Halimi (F.P. Journe) 

Roland Murphy (RGM)

F.P. Journe and RGM were the two watchmaking sponsors of the event. 

There were many former and current museum staff there, as well as many watch enthusiast and NAWCC members. The museum gallery and library were open, and refreshments and great conversations were available all evening.

The Museum has always been very helpful and generous with RGM, we have had many great events of our own there over the years. We wanted to help raise money to benefit the museum and the conservation of timepieces, so we made and donated a watch that will be auctioned off for the benefit of the museum in January 2018.   The watch is a custom version of our 151-B, it has the NAWCC logo on the dial, and the museum's 40th logo etched in the case-back crystal.

The museum has also served as inspiration for watches we have made.  Our PS-801-BB "Baseball in Enamel", and our PS-801-CH "Chess in Enamel" were both inspired by pieces in the museum collection.  To acknowledge this we had photo prints made of the RGM PS-801-CH next to the dial that inspired it.  The signed prints were given away to anyone making a donation to the museum.

We want to congratulate the NAWCC for having such a wonderful world class museum dedicated to the preservation of everything timekeeping.

Best Regards,  Roland Murphy

Riesentöter Region - Porsche Club of America Visits RGM Watch

Last week 28 members of the Riesentöter Region - Porsche Club of America visited us for a tour and demonstrations of how we make our watches.  RGM's founder Roland Murphy demonstrated one of our Rose Engines showing how we create the beautiful hand made patterns on our dials.






Down stairs they were shown how we make parts and finish them by hand using several of our machines and setups for making high grade watch parts.

I am sure RGM's neighbors were wondering why all those beautiful Porsches were in town surrounding RGM's old bank building.

We look forward to more of their members visiting in the near future.


Richard Sachs and Roland Murphy talking watches and bicycles

RGM / Richard Sachs Model 254 Sold Out Limited Edition


Many of you might remember we sponsored the Richard Sachs Cyclocross team for many many years, in fact we made an RGM Model 254 Limited Edition RS version that sold out some years ago.




I visited Richard at the Philly Bike Expo this past weekend because we have been talking about doing another watch project together for next year (2018), and maybe support his team again.  Richard Sachs and RGM have a very good synergy, and we look forward to working with the legendary bike builder again. 



We are both devoted to quality, craftsmanship, and building our pieces of art to last for generations. 

Roland Murphy



Win and RGM Eye Loupe

Follow us on Instagram for a chance to win an RGM Eye loupe of your choice.

Click here for the RGM Instagram link.

We have added two new colors yellow, and orange, you can also purchase them here on our website, Click here.

We make the eye loupes here at RGM, they are 3D printed out of PLA and Carbon-Fiber. We purchase the lens from an optical company. They have become very popular as we have sold many over the past several months.   

We have a 3D printer to make some jigs and holders here at RGM, and we thought, why not make loupes.

TheWatches.TV of Switzerland Discovers RGM at WatchTime NY

When we were at the WatchTime NY show a few weeks ago I met Marc from TheWatches.TV, he asked to do an interview and I was happy to do that. I had seen some of his intersting videos before.

He had never heard of RGM and was excited to find a brand like ours here in the USA.

Here is the video he made about the event and discovering RGM, 

Lancaster Newspaper does article on RGM

Here's a link to a nice article that LNP (Lancaster Newspaper) did, it has a few mistakes but all and all well done. They visited us this week because we are appearing on INSP's Handcrafted America tonight at 8:30 Eastern time.

Click here for the link

RGM Wristwatch to Commemorate NAWCC Museum of Time’s 40th Anniversary

The NAWCC posted the following this week.

-by Keith Lehman (PA) 10/31/17

On November 29, 2017, the National Watch & Clock Museum officially celebrates 40 years since its opening to the public. The Museum is the Western Hemisphere’s top, public timepiece museum with a collection of over 13,000 clocks, watches, and timepiece-related items. It has held countless exhibit openings, parties, and educational programs and has delighted visitors from all corners of the world.


Contributing to the Museum’s success are the hard work and creativity of a talented and devoted board of directors, workforce, and volunteer staff. Collaborating with other horological organizations and business is another key element. RGM Watch Co., longtime friend of the Museum, who recently celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Museum, has generously offered to make a one-of-a-kind watch to mark the milestone. The watch will have the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors logo on the dial and the Museum’s 40th anniversary logo etched on the exhibition case on the back of the watch.


I asked Roland Murphy, CEO of RGM Watch Co., what making this watch means to him. “I have been a member of the NAWCC for a long time. This watch is a way I can say thanks to the organization that preserves so many wonderful things from horological history.” Murphy adds, “My father died last year and he was also a longtime member. He also enjoyed the museum and NAWCC events. So, from both of us, I am happy to support all things timekeeping.”



Museum Director Noel Poirier said what this watch means to the legacy of the Museum. “The willingness of RGM Watch Co. to produce a one-of-a-kind watch commemorating the National Watch & Clock Museum’s 40th Anniversary is incredibly generous. The Museum and RGM have partnered on several occasions in the past and we are very excited to have our 40th Anniversary logo etched on a watch produced by our very good friends and supporters at RGM.” Poirier continues, “The funds that will be raised from the auction of this one-off timepiece will help the Museum continue to fulfill its mission of preserving our shared art, science, history, and technology of time and timekeeping. Ultimately, we hope that the purchaser of the watch appreciates it as much as we do.”


Forty years of existence is an important milestone. I should know because I will turn 40 next year. When I was growing up, my family owned a craft business called The Frosted Lanterns. We made wooden lanterns with custom-etched glass designs on the front with a votive candle inside. We lived in Lancaster, PA, so the designs were mostly of Dutch hearts, flowers, and distelfinks. The Frosted Lanterns were the first designed pieces I made by hand and sold for money. The significance that a logo I designed for my employer’s 40th anniversary is to be etched in glass on the back of a watch is noteworthy to me.


This watch will excite any wristwatch enthusiast but especially devotees of the NAWCC, the Museum, and RGM Watch Co. The watch is expected to be completed near the end of November 2017 and will be put up for auction shortly thereafter.

RGM Watch and Martin Guitar at WatchTime NY 2017

The WatchTime NY show this weekend was the best yet, with many brands, visitors, and other activities.

We had the pleasure of sharing our booth with Martin Guitar this year so they could show the wonderful watch-themed guitars we collaborated on with them: the 2 Millionth Martin Museum Guitar and the D-200 Limited Edition of 50 that comes with an RGM watch.

Also, this year is our 25th Anniversary so we had many new watches to show, like our PS-801-CH "Chess in Enamel", Model 25 watches, and the Model 222-RR "Railroad".

It was a great opportunity for us to see our watch friends and and talk about watches - what could be more fun than that!

I was also on a panel discussion with 3 other independent watchmakers, including my good friend Kari Voutilainen.

We wanted to share a video we made for those who could not attend.

Best Regards, Roland

RGM Watch Made From The Hollywood Sign Metal

We made 12 custom watches for our customer "Hollywood 1923", they had bought up the metal that was salvaged from the last restoration of the Hollywood sign.

They wanted to make a watch using this metal as the dial, after they visited us we could see the the metal was not in good enough condition to makes dials out of.  So I had the idea to make little signs or plaques out of this metal and attach them to the dial.   I also thought it would be a good idea to give it the shape the real sign has on the hillside.  They loved the idea and the final look was better then I imagined.

In our talks with the customer they wanted to also have an old Hollywood theme on the dial, we had the idea to put an old film reel design in the background, and use Art-Deco numerals. 

The case design is our new Model 25 case made here in the USA, we also make the plaques here in the USA and print the Hollywood name on them here at RGM.

Its always a challenge to make a theme watch that has a high grade classy look, I think we pulled it off with this beautiful watch.

The watches are available from "Hollywood 1923" not directly from RGM.

Forbes Article click here.

RGM's 25th Anniversary Event and New Releases

On September 15th and 16th 2017 RGM celebrated its 25th year of making watches with an open house at our workshop in Mount Joy, PA USA, and we unveiled 3 new models and a new movement caliber at the NAWCC Watch & Clock Museum in Columbia, PA USA.

The open house gave a glimpse of how we makes our watches, another highlight was seeing the hand operated Engine-Turning (Guilloché) machines in actions that decorate many of the RGM models.

At the NAWCC Museum our founder Roland Murphy gave a tour of the museum highlighting some of his favorite clocks and watches in the collection.  Several display cases stood covered in the lobby. One by one, they were unveiled, introducing the new models for everyone to see.

The new movement is caliber 801SW, a sweep second (center second) version of the original 801 movement.  This is the fourth in-house movement from RGM. The 801SW has a very classic build. Though similar to the original 801 movement, the sweep second version has many new and unique parts, including a new main-plate to achieve the center second function.  Most center second movements have a wheel that is friction fit onto a pivot from the third wheel coming thru the bridge. To service the watch this wheel must be pulled off and pressed back on.  The 801SW movement has the third wheel and the sweep drive wheel on the third wheel arbor. This double wheel sits under the bridge, eliminating the friction wheel system. This system requires more parts but is a more reliable construction.

The first model to use the new 801SW caliber is in the Corps of Engineers family. The 801SW-COE looks very much like the popular 801-COE, except for the large blued steel center second hand stepping around the Grand Feu enamel dial.  Both watches are very similar but have a very different feel.

The second watch introduced is Model 222-RR (Railroad). Like other models in the 222 line, the Railroad model features restored Hamilton 921 or 923 movements. This model employs a case with the crown at the 1:30 position and a real Grand Feu enamel dial.  The dial has a railroad theme, and is modeled after American railroad watches from the past with its Box car style dial. The blued steel hands are true to the classic form. The placement of the crown at 1:30 is reminiscent of watches from the early part of the 20th century. It’s also very natural to read the time when worn on the left wrist.

Model 25 is the third watch that was unveiled. This beautifully classic model is very similar to the Pennsylvania Series watches RGM already makes with its coin edge case and hand cut Engine-Turned dials. The 40mm cases are made in the USA and the movements are the reliable Swiss ETA 2892-A2, top quality version.  The American-made dials are available in different Guilloché patterns and galvanic colors. 

The previously introduced Chess Watch was also on display at the Watch and Clock Museum. It was the first model RGM introduced for their 25th anniversary. 2017 marks the most models ever introduced in one year by RGM, a fitting way celebrate a quarter century of watchmaking in America.

Some Famous Visitors Passed RGM Last Week Here in Mount Joy, PA

Last Thursday the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales came to Mount Joy to parade down Main Street.  The route took them directly in front of our RGM Watch Company home here at 801 West Main St.

The eight 2000 pound horses are some of the most impressive animals we have ever seen. We also liked the beautiful Dalmatian. So we thought we would share a few pictures with our RGM followers.