Roland Murphy, RGM, and Movie Watches

Back in 1988 I worked in Product Development for Hamilton Watch Co. in Lancaster , PA here in the USA.  Hamilton had a line of retro watches which were remakes of models they had made back in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.  I worked for the Vice President in charge of Product Development, he asked me to put together a watch for Robin Williams because they needed a period looking watch for his upcoming movie (Dead Poets Society).  We also had the watch engraved to commemorate the movie.  I had never seen the watch again since 1988 until a few days ago when a picture of it turned up in a newsletter about the auction of Mr. Williams collectibles, it was nice to know that he held on to the watch all those years.  The watch model was the Hamilton Cabot.

Dead Poets Society Movie Trailer


Seeing that picture reminded me of other movies I had put watches together for.


Older version of a Sugar Bowl watch but the logo was the same. Also, the Hamilton movie watch was yellow gold-filled.

Also, back in the 1980’s when working at Hamilton I put a watch together for Dennis Quaid, the movie was called (Everybody's All-American).  They needed a 1950’s looking watch with the Sugar Bowl logo on the dial.  Hamilton still had a gold-filled, top loading automatic watch in their line that looked like a 1950’s or 60’s watch.   My department was also in charge of the logo watches they made back then, and Kenny Derr who had worked there since the 50’s had a bunch of old dials.  I was able to find an original 1950’s dial from is junk box.    I fit the old dial to the new watch and it looked just like an original watch that would have been given to the players back in the 50’s.  I wonder where this watch is today? Maybe Mr. Quaid still has it.

 Everybody’s All-American Movie Trailer

In the late 1990’s Albert Brooks who I had met at a watch show contacted me, he asked if I would supply a few watches for him to wear in his up coming movie (The Muse).  Of course, these were RGM watches, he wore an RGM 101M, and a stainless steel RGM chronograph in the movie.  If you look at the movie credits RGM is mentioned.  I am told Mr. Brooks still has these watches today.

The Muse Movie Trailer



Thanks for listening to my little walk down watch, and movie memory lane.


Roland Murphy

A Visit with my Friend Philippe Dufour

Here is a picture of me in June of this year visiting my old friend Philippe Dufour during my last trip to Switzerland.

I first met Philippe just a few years after starting RGM, this was back around 1993/94.  This was long before he was well known as he is today.  During my many trips to Switzerland back when I was younger I would often stop and see him, and spend a little time talking about watchmaking.  I remember visiting him at his house back when his workshop was in the attic, he had a computer in front of him and he was working on the CAD design of a perpetual calendar for Daniel Roth.  I remember him telling me that Daniel Roth ask him to make nice curves, he wanted classic beautiful shapes in his watch. Philippe would do some work back then for other watchmakers, like he did back in the day building Grande Sonnerie pocket watches for Audemars Piguet.

Under his own name Phillip built the first Grande et Petite Sonnerie wristwatch, then built his Duality wristwatch with dual escapements and balances, and then came his Simplicity.   You can read more about these watches in this article from my friends at Quill & Pad.

I took my wife by to see Phillip and see what he was working on.  He let me take a few pictures of his current project a Grande Sonnerie pocket watch very much like the ones he made many years ago for AP.  He also pulled out of his vault two of his Simplicty watches, number #000 and #001, the very first ones!

Philippe is the only person I know who calls me by my last name, he’s being doing if for more then 20 years. It makes me smile when I see him somewhere and hear “Murphy”!


Bidding Open For NAWCC 75th Anniversary Custom RGM Watch


Last Fall, to help the NAWCC ( National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors) raise money to support the museum, we made and donated a special custom RGM watch to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the museum.   Here is the blog with more information click here.


Just a half a year or more later the NAWCC is celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the organization. We decided to make another custom watch to commemorate the 75th. This watch is one of our RGM Model 455 Chronographs with a few changes.  We have printed "NAWCC 75 Years" on the dial, and we have hd a beautiful hand engraving done on the case-back of "Tommy Ticker", the same image on the side of the NAWCC Museum.






I have had a long relationship with the NAWCC from the first time I visited the museum with my father back in 1979.  

In the 1980"s and 1990's I volunteered restoring clocks and watches for them, and from the early 2000's to present we have had several RGM events there, and worked closely with them to further the preservation of timepieces, and interest in all things Horology. 

We hope you will consider bidding on the NAWCC's 75th Anniversary Custom RGM watch.  All proceeds will benefit this fine organization that is dedicated to preserving the history of Horology.

Roland Murphy

Auction Details Click Here

Revolution Writes About the RGM William Penn Model 121-M

By Keith W. Strandberg   


William Penn founded the state of Pennsylvania in the USA, promising many fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion. As a result, many immigrants, fleeing religious persecution, came to and settled in Pennsylvania (including the Amish).

RGM, based in Mount Joy, PA, debuted the William Penn collection, consisting of three models (one with sub-second, one with date and one with a moon phase), about 18 years ago. Now, RGM is reissuing the William Penn in a moon phase version only, using new old stock.





“I have always loved the William Penn models but when we introduced them back around the year 2000, big watches were taking over, and the Penn models were considered too small, at 40mm, for many collectors,” RGM’s founder Roland Murphy explains. “Today, sizes are coming down a bit and the Penn is now not too small for many watch lovers. We had enough parts to make 10 watches with the moon phase, and we only needed dials. So, we got to work and made new engine-turned dials for the 10 watches. To date, we have sold six of the 10 we can build.”







The William Penn is available in 316L stainless steel or 18K rose gold.


RGM William Pann Model with 316L stainless steel case


RGM William Pann Model with 18k solid rose gold case


RGM/Jaquet 736 Movement

Technical Specifications


RGM/Jaquet 736, Swiss made manual wind, 19 jewels, 21,600 vph, Rhodium Plated, Côtes de Genève, Perlage


316L stainless steel or 18k solid rose gold, Rectangular case, Sapphire crystal front and back


Solid Argentium silver, Hand-cut guilloché, Arabic numerals, Moon phase, Power reserve, Blued steel hands


Black alligator


Stainless steel – US$7,900 or 18k solid rose gold – US$12,900

We were saddened today to hear of the passing of Anthony Bourdain

I was one of the 5 craft people featured during the 2015 Balvenie Rare Craft Collection Tour;  Mr. Bourdain picked the final 5 that were included.  We did the 3 day event in New York, Houston, and Chicago, from October to December 2015.  I had the opportunity to talk with Anthony on a number of occasions and enjoyed the atmosphere of these events. We have many fond memories. 

Just a few weeks ago we were contacted about doing an episode of Raw Craft with Anthony. We were looking forward to working with him again, and having him come visit us here in Pennsylvania. 


Everyone at RGM extends our sincere condolences to Anthony Bourdain's family and friends.


Roland Murphy

RGM William Penn Model 121-M, Ten Watches Available!

IW Magazine from the year 2000


Many of you might remember when we introduced the first William Penn model back in the year 2000, here is a picture of the IW magazine cover that featured the 120-S, the version with the sub-second. 





We found parts to make 10 of the model 121-M which is the moonphase version, we did not have any of the old dials so we manufactured and Engine-Turned brand new dials for this model.

The RGM Model 121-M is available in stainless steel, and 18K rose gold.


Why did RGM have two different jumping hour watches back in the mid 90’s?

Model 102-J

We worked on two case designs for our jumping hour watch back in the 90’s, we liked both of them very much, but we only needed one model.  We decided to make the 102-J with the rectangular case, we ordered dials, hands, and solid gold cases.  Unfortunately, the case-maker in Switzerland that we used back then made a mistake and made the wrong case style, we refer to this model as the 102-JC, the “C” stands for Cushion for the case shape, and the “J” is for Jumping Hour.

Model 102-JC

After almost having a heart attack we regrouped.  We had dials and hands for one model, and a case for the other, and we could not even offer a watch for sale.  So, the decision was made for us, there would be two different RGM Jumping Hour models.  Now we had to buy more gold cases, dials, and hands so we could build both models.  Of course, this came with a big financial strain, but we worked thru it.  Fortunately, both models were popular and sold well.  We made 100 of each model.

The 102-J had a 5N solid rose gold case with a full silver Engine-Turned dial.

The 102-JC had a 4N solid rose gold case with a silver dial with only a Breguet line around main chapter ring.  We did then make 5 pieces with the full Engine-Turned dial.

Gold color: 5N has a darker rose color compared to 4N.


We hope you like these old stories, we like to share them when one comes to mind.

Best Regards,


Filming at RGM for -Keeper of Time- Independent Movie

A couple of weeks ago Director Michael Culyba and Director of Photography Ben Wolf were here at RGM filming for a new independent film called Keeper of Time. Keeper of Time is a feature length documentary film currently in production that explores the history of horology, mechanical watchmaking, and the very concept of time itself.  


They will also be filming a few watchmakers in Europe, going to Greenwich and several other locations.  The movie will be out in about a year and half.

We were very pleased we were chosen to be part of this project.


Here is a link to the website - click here

Also, this link is the page showing RGM - click here

Riesentöter Region - Porsche Club of America Visits RGM Again

Saturday May 19th 24 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.



We let one of the younger visitors in the group try a little Engine-Turning, Roland showed her some of the basics and she was able to keep a nice souvenir that she helped make.

We want to thank all the visitors from the club who made the trip in the rain out to RGM and brought their beautiful cars with them!

New Article on RGM Watches From- The Watch Index

American Watch Brand: RGM

By: B.A Morley, Editor,

 Updated March 14, 2018

Welcome back to our third installment of our American Watch Brand series. For this article, we’re heading all the way to Mount Joy, Pennsylvania to learn about a rather incredible American watch brand, RGM.


But first… here’s a bit of information about the American watch industry today. The United States does not have a large watchmaking industry, so many brands source their movements and materials from countries such as Switzerland, China, Taiwan, and Japan. Although there are many brands that design and assemble their watches here in the states, very few brands produce true made-in-America watches.

That’s one way in which RGM is different. RGM pushes the boundaries of US watchmaking by manufacturing their own watch parts, cases, and movements here in the US. Ninety percent of their materials are made in America, and the remaining ten percent are sourced from Switzerland.



Roland G. Murphy, founder of RGM, has always had a “desire to make [his] own movements here in the USA, not in a large industrial way but in a small series of hand crafted timepieces.  [He] pursued this for many years and [they] sold the first watch with one of [their] in-house movements in 2007.” The brand’s first in-house movement was the Caliber 801, and they’re still producing this movement today.  Since 2007, RGM has added an additional three in-house movements to their lineup: the Tourbillon, the Caliber 20, and the Caliber 801-SW.



As for their watchmaking process, RGM uses both traditional watchmaking tools, as well as some modern machines like their CNC milling machines. If you’re interested in the process of making a watch, RGM has quite a few watchmaking videos, such as the workshop sneak peek video below. You can see all of their videos here.



RGM’s Most Popular Watches

Some of their most popular models include the 801-COE and PS-801-EE, and both of these models feature RGM’s American-made, 801 movement. The 801-COE was “inspired by the US Corps of Engineers watches from WWI, with a real glass-fired enamel dial and blue steel hands,” and the 801-EE model blends “two old world arts, a Grand Feu real glass enamel skeleton dial and a hand-cut engine-turned (guilloche) main-plate."

Although RGM manufactures their own in-house movements, they also offer a few watches with Swiss-made movements, including the 151 models. The 151 models feature a stainless steel or titanium American-made case, and there are quite a few variations to choose from, so it’s easy to find a watch that fits your style. These watches are powered by the RGM-ETA 2892-A2 automatic movement, and prices range from $2,950 to $4,350. 



We've selected some of the best American watch brands. Take a look and let us know what you think about these US watches!  The Top 10 American Watch Brands


RGM Trade-in Program

RGM also offers a trade-in program, which is a unique program that not many watch brands provide their customers. According to Murphy, their trade-in program began when one of their customers could not buy a watch until they sold a watch that they already owned. Murphy decided that offering a trade-in option would be a good way to sell more watches and help customers trade a watch that they do not wear for a watch that they’re interested in. This is a great alternative for customers nervous about selling a watch online.

To trade-in a watch, customers should email pictures of the watch to RGM, and RGM will determine what they can offer in trade. Customers can trade-in many different types and brands of watches. If you’re interested in this program, you can learn more here!



RGM Custom Watches

Because RGM manufactures their own watches, that gives them more freedom to customize watches. For instance, the 801-COE model offers optional add-ons, such as a “hacking second” feature, wolfs tooth winding wheels, a custom engraved balance bridge, and a motor barrel system. This allows buyers to choose features that mean the most to them and to make their RGM watch unique.

Another option that RGM offers is custom-made watches (also known as bespoke watches). Murphy says that they make quite a few “custom watches for individuals or small series for companies,” and custom watches can include “modifying a model [they] have with a new dial and hands, adding a special engraving, or making something entirely new.” Here are examples of some of their custom-made watches.



All-in-all, RGM is creating some rather incredible watches, and they’re helping to bring back traditional watchmaking to the United States. When asked where RGM is heading next, Murphy was excited to say that they’re working on a smaller in-house movement, as well as a new sport model. Stayed tuned for details! 

New RGM Case Knife Available Now

Over the years we have had several RGM case knives made; it's a bit of a tradition in the watch industry for watch companies to have these knives.   I collect case knives with all different watch brands on them.

Our newest RGM case knife is now available on the RGM accessory page.  The new knife is the first one we have had that does not close. It's a rigid knife, which is better for working with as a watchmaker.

The first two in the new series are red or black, both knives have the same printing on them and the RGM logo.

Below is the original artwork for this project.


Auctioned RGM Donated Back To NAWCC Museum By High Bidder

This is from the Lancaster Newspaper

Watch made to honor Columbia museum’s 40th anniversary sells for $7,200

A watch made to commemorate the National Watch & Clock Museum’s 40th anniversary last year has been sold at auction, raising $7,200 for the Columbia museum.

The unique watch, made by RGM Watch Co. of Mount Joy, was sold last month to Ken Hogwood. Hogwood donated the watch back to the museum.

This one-of-a-kind watch, made by RGM Watch Co. to commemorate the National Watch & Clock Museum’s 40th anniversary last year, has sold at auction for $7,200.

The watch features the museum’s 40th anniversary logo and the logo of the museum’s owner, the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors.

Hogwood, who lives in Tennessee and Florida, is a NAWCC Fellow, a title that signifies outstanding service to the organization. He was one of six bidders for the watch.

Model 350-TZBD, The First New RGM Watch Of 2018

We have needed a new model for people who frequently travel and need to know the time in another timezone.  The Model 350-TZBD, which has Super-Luminova hands and dial markers for low light visibility, fills that need. The small second timezone dial is convenient to use and easy to set. See the video at the bottom of this post for setting instructions.

We also wanted the date to be a prominent feature on this model, so the center location is perfect for readability and balances the look of the dial nicely. 

RGM 350-TZBD: The "TZ" in the name stands for "Timezone", and the "BD" stands for "Big-Date" 

A new watch with a Timezone feature is a perfect addition to our lineup of fine mechanical watches. We are sure business men and travelers will enjoy this easy to use and practical wristwatch.

Link to Model 350-TZBD webpage, click here.

RGM & Richard Sachs Again in 2018


We are very happy to announce we are working with Richard Sachs again in 2018 going forward, and will be one of the sponsors of his RS Cyclocross team.  

Many of you will remember we sponsored the RS Cyclocross team for eight years up thru 2014.  We also made a special limited edition North Pointer RS version wristwatch that was very successful and sold out many years ago.

We are also happy to announce we are working on a new RGM/RS wristwatch that will be available later this year.  And, as with anything made by RGM or Ricahrd Sachs, quality comes first.

There's nothing like a partnership of craftsman!

Link to older blog post about RGM/RS, click here.


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

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,; Classico Small Second Manufacture Watch, $8,800, Ulysse Nardin, 212-257-4920; Defy El Primero 21 Watch, $10,600, 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