The West Coast’s biggest watch-connoisseur event of the year is just over a week away. The inaugural WatchTime Los Angeles show will be held on May 3-4 at Downtown L.A.’s Hudson Loft, with 27 watch brands exhibiting their wares — including Lancaster, PA-based RGM, which will be represented at the event by its founder, American watchmaker Roland G. Murphy. Among the U.S.A. brand’s highlight timepieces will be the new Classic Enamel model from its flagship Pennsylvania Series.
The watch features a “double sunk” enamel dial, constructed of three separate pieces that have been soldered together — a technique used on pocketwatch dials dating back 100 years or more. RGM achieves the dial’s classical look by employing the grand feu (French for “Great Fire”) enamel process, a high-risk art performed by a highly skilled craftsman. The enameling process typically begins with colored, powdered glass applied to a metal plate, after which the plate’s surface is heated to a temperature high enough to melt the powdered glass to form a new surface. The grand feu technique raises the stakes, with repeated baking of successive layers of enamel at extremely high temperatures — ensuring a distinctively crisp aesthetic while permanently setting the enamel. Of course, using such extreme heat to create the dials also poses a daunting challenge to the dial-making artisan: each time the dial is re-fired, the danger of its cracking, melting or burning increases. The finished dial, in a gleaming white with vintage-style Roman numerals, a railway track minutes scale, and blued Breguet hands, calls to mind the pocketwatches from a largely bygone era of American watchmaking.
At the heart of this American-made watch is an American-made movement, RGM’s Caliber 801, which Murphy first used in a watch in 2008. Its highlights include classical bridge shapes, reminiscent of those found on vintage American-made Edward Howard models; hand-polished and blued-steel components; a seven-tooth winding click inspired by the system used in classical Illinois Illini watches; and entirely hand-executed finishes and decorations that include perlage, anglage, and circular damascening. It features manual winding, a frequency of 18,000 vph, and a power reserve of at least 40 hours. The movement, which is visible under a flat sapphire crystal (the front sapphire crystal is domed), can also be customized at the client’s request.
The polished steel case, 43.3 mm in diameter and water-resistant to 50 meters, is also made at RGM’s headquarters in Lancaster County, PA — once a hotbed of watchmaking in the U.S., and finished by hand. It features historically inspired large lugs and fluted sides and a large onion-style crown and is mounted on a brown leather strap. The RGM PS-801-CE retails for $11,900, with an additional model in an 18k rose gold case also available for $24,700. You can check out this American-made timepiece in the metal — and maybe even have Murphy himself (below) demonstrate to you its features and attributes — at WatchTime L.A. Click here to order event tickets now, and here for more info on the two-day event.