RGM Watch Co., based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and founded in 1992 by Roland G. Murphy, is quite literally the only true American watch company standing. Unlike other brands that might build cases, dials or straps in America, RGM manufactures their own high-grade, in-house calibres that rival comparable movements from Switzerland. They’re a complete watch manufacturer. My first serious mechanical watch was a Model 107-P Pilot, an entry-level RGM piece (with an ETA 2892-A2) that’s also the oldest in their portfolio, produced since the mid-1990’s. They often use antique, hand-operated machinery to craft dials and to hand-polish components, mixing modern and traditional techniques to produce luxury watches that are often limited editions. Many have advanced complications, such as the Pennsylvania Tourbillon or Caliber 20 (with a 2nd type motor barrel and “Precise Moonphase”), and are painstakingly adorned with elaborate engine-turned (guilloché) dials and movements like the Model 801-EE. One of their most popular watch series was the Model 121-M William Penn line from the years 1999 to 2000, and in RGM style, they have reissued the watches in a very limited series of 10.
Named after William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, the original watch had three versions, differentiated by complications. One had a date, one had a moonphase and one had a sub-second. The new watches only have the moonphase complication with a power reserve display, and use original (new old stock) cases and hands with a newly manufactured guilloché dial. The company’s inspiration for the case design came from another of their watches in the 1990’s, the rectangular Model 102-J Jumping Hour.
See below some examples of the original series:
From left to right – date model – small second model – moonphase model
The rectangular case is 40mm x 28mm and 7.9mm in height. Two models are available, one in 18K rose gold and the other in stainless steel. They’re water resistant to 50m with sapphire crystals on the front and back. As these are original cases from 1999 to 2000, they were manufactured in Switzerland. The cases are fully polished with a knurled, polished crown and the lug width is 20mm.
The dial is Argentium Silver, which has a higher purity than traditional sterling silver (95.84% vs. 92.5%) and is engine-turned in the centre portion (hand-cut guilloché). Surrounding this are three black Roman numerals per side, with the centre ones straight and flanked by two slanting away toward the corners. The top and bottom numeral rows are wider spaced than the sides, adding some complexity and asymmetry to the aesthetic. RGM’s logo sits in its own mini plaque at 6 o’clock, cutting off about half of the Roman numeral, and the half-circle moonphase window rides just above it. The power reserve indicator sits at 1 o’clock with its own unique guilloché. The hands are blued steel and everything is predictably absent of lume. This is a dress watch through and through.
The movement is a manual wind RGM/Jaquet 736, which is Swiss-Made and on display through the exhibition case back. As this movement is a modified version of the original Model 121-M inventory (from the company’s early years), it’s not an in-house calibre. It has 19 jewels, beats at 21,600vph, has a 42-hour power reserve and is rhodium plated with Côtes de Genève lines, blued screws and perlage. The movement has hours and minutes (no seconds), with moonphase and power reserve indicator complications.
Both models come with a black alligator strap with either a stainless steel or 18K rose gold buckle. Prices are in line with similar luxury dress watches and while expensive, they’re not outrageous. The stainless steel model is USD 7,900 and the 18K rose gold model is USD 12,900. If you’re looking for a unique timepiece from what certainly is the last true American watchmaker, RGM offers an interesting blend of luxury and exclusivity. And although this William Penn reissue utilizes earlier Swiss movements instead of in-house, the attention to detail, new engine-turned dials and classic design make the series a strong contender against Swiss rivals. More details on www.rgmwatches.com.