Pennsylvania Watchmaking: A Time-Honored Tradition Lancaster County, once known as the cradle of the American watchmaking industry, has a rich history in timekeeping. The Hamilton Watch Company in Lancaster produced its first watch here in 1893 and over the next century would make some of the finest timepieces in the world.
With such a rich history in watchmaking, it is no surprise that Pennsylvania is also the location of two relatively new watchmakers who have decided to make a name for themselves in the timekeeping industry: RGM Watch Company in Mount Joy.
RGM Watch Company
Roland G. Murphy caught the watchmaking bug while working at Hamilton Watch Company back in the 1980's.
"Hamilton Watch was owned by a Swiss company back at that time," Murphy says. "Eventually I decided I wanted to do my own thing and have been doing it ever since."
His company, which is located in Mount Joy, Lancaster County, has been filling a niche in the high-quality watchmaking world since 1992. The RGM Watch Company produces between 200 and 400 watches a year.
In 2008, he introduced the RGM 801, which Murphy says is the first high-grade mechanical watch movement made in America in decades. His small company, which employs 10 people, caters to enthusiasts and watch collectors but will work with anyone who is interested in purchasing a high-quality timepiece.
In crafting watches, Murphy marries the old with the new by using antique, hand-operated machinery along with more modern, automated machines. Murphy owns five guilloche machines that he uses to embellish his watches.
"I use the antique and hand-driven machines to cut decorative geometric engravings on the movement or the dial," he says, explaining that this method was also used on Faberge eggs for the czar of Russia. "The work is difficult, but the eye appeal is very beautiful."