RGM, the pioneering Pennsylvania-based watch brand founded in 1992 by Roland G. Murphy, turns 20 years old in 2012. Murphy commemorated the anniversary in the manner he knows best: by developing his brand’s third in-house mechanical movement, called Caliber 20, and outfitting it in a new watch that RGM introduced at January’s Geneva Time Exhibition.
Caliber 20 joins its predecessors, RGM’s groundbreaking Caliber 801 in 2008 and the MM2 Pennsylvania Tourbillon movement in 2010, in the exclusive fraternity of “Made in the U.S.A.” watch movements manufactured entirely at Murphy’s small atelier in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, a traditional center of watchmaking since the 1800s.
Fittingly, the watch’s movement incorporates a distinctly American technological touch, one nearly lost to antiquity: the so-called “motor barrel” system. An American invention, the motor barrel (illustration below the watch photos) was designed to reduce friction and wear in the mainspring barrel surfaces, thus transmitting power more efficiently. According to Murphy, motor barrels were commonly used in the movements of top-grade American-made railroad watches of yesteryear, such as the Illinois Bunn Special and Hamilton 950.
The RGM 20th Anniversary Watch has a polished, stainless steel, tonneau case measuring 42.5 x 38.5 mm, with a sapphire crystal in the front and back. The case, like the movement, is made at RGM’s atelier. The dial, made of solid silver, is available in a skeletonized (shown) or full guilloché version. Hours and minutes are indicated by two blued steel hands with keystone-shaped tips to represent Pennsylvania. The running seconds are displayed on a rotating disk at the top right of the dial and a precise moon-phase indicator is installed in the lower left.
Caliber 20 is a manual-wind movement with 19 jewels and a frequency of 18,000 vph. Like other RGM in-house movements, it boasts an array of decorations, including cotes de Geneve, perlage and anglage, in addition to the novelty of the motor barrel system. The watch, which comes on a brown or black Louisiana alligator strap, is a relative bargain compared to others with in-house mechanical movements, starting at $19,500. Murphy says he can produce the watch with a gold case, for a higher price, on request.