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.