RGM, the initials of Roland G. Murphy, is an atypical brand, being the only vertically integrated manufacture in the United States – and by that we mean a company that produces components and movements, not just assembling watches from Swiss or Asian parts. Known for its use of large hand-wound calibres and guilloché or enamel dials, Roland G. Murphy also has a certain taste for old-school American watchmaking, something that led to the creation of the Model 222-RR, a watch inspired by early-20th-century railroad instruments. This year, the brand adds a new dial to this model inspired by the Type II Montgomery Marginal Minute Dial and powers the engine with vintage Hamilton calibres.
The dial of this new version is based on a historical design used by railroad employees in the early 1900s. The first iteration of the Model 222-RR was inspired by Boxcar-style American railroad watches, a design that Ball introduced in 1925 as a new official RR standard dial, with plain, sans-serif, heavy hour figures. This new model, on the other hand, is modelled after another official design that’s even older. Henry S. Montgomery was the General Watch & Clock Inspector of the AT&SF Railroad from 1896 to 1923. Mr Montgomery patented his first marginal minute safety dial design Type-I around 1906. RGM’s dial is inspired by the rare Type-II dial variation that was patented in 1920 – and that can be seen above.
A Montgomery dial displays minutes 1-60 along the outer edge, with every fifth number in red. Some collectors say that a “true” Montgomery dial must have an hour number 6 visible inside the seconds register. Dials approved for use on the railroads needed to be functional and readable, even under adverse conditions. Most American watch companies used Montgomery dials on many of their railroad-grade watches.
All of these features are now back in the Model 222-RR, with a slightly modernized and re-proportioned layout to fit the size of a wristwatch. As most watches produced by RGM, the dial is made with traditional techniques. Here, as a tribute to antique railroad watches, the dial is made in white Grand Feu enamel with black Arabic hour markers in the centre, and the typical minutes track on the periphery in black and red. It features a small seconds counter at 6 o’clock (with the hour marker inside) and the dial is tilted with the 12 o’clock marker positioned at 1h30, making it easy to read on the wrist. Time is displayed by typical railroad hands executed in blued steel.
The case of this vintage-inspired model is simpler than most of RGM’s classic watches, such as the 801 models with their column-like caseband. Here, the Model 222-RR Type II Montgomery has a 41mm x 12mm stainless steel case with flat sides and straight, elongated lugs that recall those of converted pocket watches. The onion crown follows the same position as the dial and is placed at 1h30. There are sapphire crystals cover the front and caseback and the watch offers 50m water-resistance. It is worn on a thick leather strap with bold stitchings, complementing the old-school look of this piece.
One of the most interesting elements of this railroad watch is its movement. While RGM has multiple in-house calibres in stock, this model was meant to be historically relevant, even for its mechanics. Just like antique railroad watches, the Model 222-RR is powered by a vintage hand-wound movement manufactured by Hamilton – back when the brand was still operating in the USA. This 10-sized pocket watch movement fits perfectly inside the case and makes complete sense in this railroad context. These movements are rebuilt using parts that are in optimum condition, including a new mainspring. They are also entirely decorated with flat polished steel parts, anglage on the bridges and circular stripes. The entire process of careful reassembly to the precision adjustment of the movement is managed by one watchmaker.
Two movements are offered by RGM. The grade 921 movement has 21 jewels and was made in large quantities; the grade 923 has 23 jewels and is rare, with less than 4,000 movements manufactured. Both calibres run at 18,000 vibrations/hour and boast 42 to 45 hours of power reserve. And the view through the sapphire caseback is simply stunning.
Availability & price
The RGM Model 222-RR Type II Montgomery Marginal Minute Dial isn’t a limited edition; however, its production is limited by the availability of vintage Hamilton movements. The price for this watch is USD 5,950 with a 921 movement and USD 7,950 with a 923 movement. Not bad when you know it’s handmade in the USA in small quantities, with a high-end enamel dial and fully restored vintage movements…
More details at www.rgmwatches.com.