American-Made watches… Certainly a dream for many of our readers on the West side of the Atlantic. Watches that are really made (meaning with parts manufactured and assembled in the US) are rare, too rare honestly – and things like Shinola-gate are not helping the issue. However, such a dream is possible, with a brand named RGM Watch Co. – for Roland G. Murphy. The manufacture, which will turn 25 this year, is celebrating its jubilee with a watch inspired by a classic American-Made pocket watch, the RGM “Chess in Enamel”.
RGM Watch Company was founded in 1992 by American watchmaker Roland G. Murphy. In the early 1980’s Roland enrolled in the Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, PA. In 1986, he went to Switzerland to further his training, after being accepted by WOSTEP, The Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program. After WOSTEP he was hired by SMH to work in product development for the Hamilton Watch Co. in Lancaster, PA. After a few years he was promoted to Technical Manager; he remained there until he started RGM in 1992. Ever since, Roland has been one of the few promoters of “American-Made” watches, a practice that has fallen largely by the wayside since major players like Hamilton, Timex and Waltham stopped manufacturing in the US). Roland creates the movements, cases, dials and most of the parts in his workshops in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. 25 years after the inception of his brand, he still produces bespoke timepieces, such as tourbillons or vintage and American-inspired watches.
1992-2017 – To celebrate 25 years of activity in the US, RGM is opening the festivities with a first watch named the “Chess in Enamel”, a watch with historical background. In May 1859, American Chess Master Paul Morphy was presented with a pocket watch from the Testimonial Committee of the New York Chess Club as a tribute to his genius and worth. Morphy had recently returned from Europe where his dominant play gave rise to a hero’s welcome back home in America. The watch, made by American Watch Company, was an elegant specimen of art and ingenuity. Unfortunately, it vanished sometime after 1921. Not much is known about what happened to the pocket watch given to Morphy and only the original dial survived – it’s now on display at the NAWCC Watch and Clock museum in Columbia, PA, USA. It was here that RGM’s Roland Murphy first saw this unique enamel dial that he knew would one day be the inspiration for the RGM “Chess in Enamel”.
Just like the antique version, the new RGM “Chess in Enamel” is based on a white enamel dial, where all indexes or numerals have been replaced by various chess pieces in red or black representing the hours. Just as with the original pocket watch, the dial has 3 steps – one for the hour markers, one for the central part and one for the small second sub-dial. This is the first time RGM has released a double-sunk Grand Feu enamel dial in one of its models. As always with enamel dials, the result oozes hand-made – imperfections of the enameling process make the beauty of such dials – and it will last for decades.
The RGM “Chess in Enamel” features the typical case of the brand, with the ribbed sides done here in stainless steel, and measures 43.3mm in diameter and 12.3mm in height. The crown bears the “keystone insignia”, which can also be seen on the blued steel hands. The case is American-Made, and so is the movement. The Calibre 801 (which is also celebrating its 10th anniversary this year) is a tribute to antique movements made by US-based manufacture, Keystone Howard Watch Company. Don’t be surprised therefore, if this movement looks like it comes from another era. Still, it shows nicely designed bridges and very pleasant decoration, done by hand in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (many of the components of the Caliber 801 are made in America). The movement, like the rest of the watch, can be customized.
The RGM “Chess in Enamel” will be a limited edition of 25 pieces, offered in steel (but also in gold and platinum by request). Price, for the steel version, will be USD 13,900. More details on www.rgmwatches.com.
Technical Specifications of the RGM “Chess in Enamel”
- Case: 43.3mm diameter x 12.3mm height – 22mm lug width – American-made polished stainless steel (gold or platinum by request) – sapphire crystal on both sides
- Movement: Calibre 801, in-house, American-made – manual wind – 2.5Hz frequency – 40h to 44h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds
- Dial: double-sunk Grand Feu enamel dial
- Strap: black alligator
- Price: USD 13,900 (limited to 25 pieces)