RGM Model 222-RR
The RGM Model 222-RR is now available with a new Type II Montgomery marginal minute dial. This watch features a vintage hand-wound Hamilton movement, thermally-blued hands and a sumptuous grand feu enamel dial. And yet, despite its impressive specification and high quotient of hand craftsmanship, this creation from Pennsylvania is remarkably affordable.
Roland Murphy is the founder of the eponymous firm, RGM Watch Co, based in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. Initially, Murphy attended Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, PA before acquiring further watchmaking know-how at WOSTEP, Switzerland. Thereafter, he worked for SMH, a company that ultimately became known as the Swatch Group. During his time working for SMH, Murphy worked for its subsidiary, Hamilton, firstly in product development and thereafter as Technical Manager.
However, in 1992, Murphy chose to set out on his own and formed his own firm, the aforementioned RGM Watch Co. With a keen interest in both American and Swiss watch history, Murphy chose to use vintage Hamilton pocket watch movements. Incidentally, Hamilton originates from Pennsylvania, however, in 1969, all production moved to Switzerland.
The RGM website describes the company as ‘America’s Premier Watchmaker’ which on the face of it sounds like a bold claim. However, look closely at many of Murphy’s creations and you will note hand-guilloché dials, made using a rose-engine lathe, hand-blued hands, mirror polishing and grand-feu enamel dials. Quite simply, there is much watchmaking expertise to be found at this independent Maison.
Recently, the American firm unveiled an additional version of the RGM Model 222-RR with a new railroad dial. Described as a Type II Montgomery marginal minute dial, its periphery is marked with a minute track endowed with 60 sets of Arabic numerals, with every fifth value denoted in red. The dial is offset, similar to the Longines Avigation watches or the Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921. I have worn a few examples of watches with offset dials and can attest the relative position of the indications proves highly intuitive when reading the prevailing time.
The RGM Model 222-RR is available with a choice of two USA made vintage, hand-wound Hamilton movements, the 921 or 923. The latter movement is more scarce, hence it commands a price premium.
On a final note, this is the first time I have looked at an RGM timepiece and one thing comes to the fore, value for money. The specification of the RGM Model 222-RR with its grand-feu dial, blued-steel poire-style hands and vintage Hamilton movements in ‘better-than-original condition’, all led me to assume five-figure pricing. It was therefore surprising to learn that prices start at US$ 5950 for the model with a 921 movement and US$ 7950 for the model with a 923 movement. Put simply, these watches represent incredible value for money and, moving forward, I will be looking more closely at this fascinating brand.
The brand’s press release (October 2020)
Inspired by America’s Great Railroad Watches from the Past
The Model 222-RR is a modern wristwatch with a vintage heart, featuring a Hamilton 10 sized pocket watch movement. RGM was the first to use these wonderful classic movements in a wristwatch. Our vintage Hamilton movements are rebuilt using parts that are in optimum condition, including a new mainspring made for this movement. We flat polish the steel parts by hand on a tin block to better-than- original condition. The entire process of careful reassembly to precise adjustment of the movement is managed by one watchmaker. 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.
The Grand Feu Real Enamel dial is modelled after American railroad watches from the past. The blued- steel hands remain true to the classic form and the 1:30 crown position pays homage to early 20th century timepieces. It’s also very natural to read the time when worn on the left wrist.
New Dial Version – Type II MONTGOMERY MARGINAL MINUTE STYLE DIAL
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.
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.
Existing Dial Version – BOX CAR STYLE DIAL
In 1925, Ball introduced a new official RR standard dial referred to as the Box Car dial. It displayed plain, sans-serif, heavy hour figures, making the dial extremely legible. Waltham, too, offered a similar Box Car dial, as did Elgin and Hamilton on some of their railroad models. Box Car style dials were in demand by railroad employees. They remain popular for their functionality and understated style.