RGM’s Pennsylvania Series 801 - “Baseball in Enamel” While touring the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania, USA three or four years ago, our founder Roland G. Murphy became intrigued by a display of watches with unique enamel dials. The collection included a rare 1892 American Waltham Watch Co. pocket watch that housed a baseball-themed enamel dial. Mr. Murphy was captivated by a watch that married American watchmaking history with America’s pastime. The idea was born to make a modern watch inspired by this classic American theme.
The finely crafted pocket watch is extremely rare; only a handful have been seen. Even less is known about what prompted Waltham to produce a baseball-themed piece. The late-1800’s was a heyday for America’s pastime; was it the popularity of the game that caused Waltham to create this extraordinary timepiece? No one knows for sure. Conjecture is that these watches were made for Waltham’s own baseball league, perhaps given to managers or players in recognition of various achievements.
The next obstacle was finding an artisan who could create a high-quality Grand Feu (French for “Great Fire”) enamel dial. There are only a handful of master enamellers worldwide. “If I couldn’t do it right, I wasn’t going to do it,” recalls our founder. The dial had to be made exactly the same way the original was made. An enamel dial will not fade; it will look the same in 100 years as it does today. A three-year search located an enamel artist willing to take on the project.
Creating an enamel watch dial is a high-risk art. Enameling is a technique in which colored powdered glass is applied to a metal plate. The surface is then heated to a temperature high enough to cause the powdered glass to melt and form a new surface. The Grand Feu technique ups the stakes. It involves meticulously coating a watch dial with successive layers of enamel. Once a layer is ready, the dial is heated at extremely high temperatures, ranging from 1472-1652°F (800-900°C). The repeated baking of each individual layer ensures a uniquely crisp aesthetic while permanently setting the enamel. Using high heat to create these beautiful dials also poses a risk. Each time it is re-fired, the danger of cracking, melting, or burning increases. The Roman numerals and baseball figures are also baked into the surface. With great risk comes great reward: the appearance of a real glass enamel dial is unmistakable.
The watch in the museum’s collection from which we drew our inspiration features a detailed color illustration of a baseball player positioned at each hour mark. Each individual representation depicts a player in a variety of poses, including batting, throwing, catching, sliding and fielding. A crossed baseball bat motif in the center displays a banner reading “Waltham.” The company name, “American Waltham Watch Co.” is also lettered directly above the sub-second dial. Wanting to pay homage to this work of art, our RGM dial is strikingly similar. Because each known example of the Waltham watch did not have the same hands, we chose our blued steel Keystone hands as a nice complement to the white enamel of the dial.
Under this extraordinary dial is our original in-house movement: Caliber 801. Also inspired by America’s great watchmaking history, the 801 has classic bridge shapes, polished or blued steel components and is entirely hand-finished and decorated. The movement can also be customized.
The watch is housed in a polished stainless steel “Pennsylvania series” case. Like many of the components of the Caliber 801, the case is also made right here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA. The keystone winding crown completes the Pennsylvania theme.
We are again bringing America’s great watchmaking past forward, this time immortalizing baseball America’s pastime in enamel. This truly unique piece will last for generations - like the watch that inspired it.
The watch was unveiled next to the original pocket watch on September 27, 2014, at the National Watch and Clock Associations’ museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania, USA. Many readers of this newsletter were present at the unveiling. For those who weren’t able to attend, please see our website and/or social media for photos from the day.
Limited to 10 pieces.