Hands-On With Some RGM Caliber 801 American Made Watches

Hands-On With Some RGM Caliber 801 American Made Watches

Hands On With Some RGM Caliber 801 American Made Watches   hands on

At the heart of each of these watches, is the caliber 801 manually wound movement produced locally here in the United States. We've found that a surprising number of aBlogtoWatch regulars have an intense fondness for the RGM Watch Company located in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania near Lancaster. This green parcel of US country is not entirely unique from the traditional watchmaking regions of Switzerland. In fact, I've found that places outside of Switzerland in Germany, the United States, and Japan all seem to be based in the same type of locations as those found in Switzerland. Namely, green and agriculturally idyllic in the summer, and cold and snowed-in during the winter.

Whether or not the climate surrounding a watchmaker has an effect on the quality of watches produced is up for debate. I think it has something to do with the lack of external distractions, and not having much else to do during the winter. In any event, it is fascinating how the place a watchmaker sets up shop can often determine the quality and design of their watches. RGM didn't start by making movements. Rather, they began (and still do to an extent) by using Swiss-made movements in US cases and dials. A few years ago they finally released the caliber 801 which was to mark a new age for the brand.

Hands On With Some RGM Caliber 801 American Made Watches   hands on

Hands On With Some RGM Caliber 801 American Made Watches   hands on

The caliber 801 movement is simple and beautiful. Manually wound, with just the time and subsidiary seconds, it combines today's know-how with design influences of classic American pocket and wristwatch movements. RGM is very much a heritage brand, reviving themes and styles once common in US watchmaking practices. There was a time (albeit long ago now), that the United States was not only the most advanced watch producer on the planet, but also the most productive. The advent of cheap and accurate Asian-made watch movements changed all that, but the US was certainly the leader for a long time. That era left behind a rich history and catalog of designs that brands like RGM can borrow from today. This is the exact same thing that the Swiss brands do with their own country's watch history.

What you see in this article are a small variety of RGM watches that showcase different dials and movement finishing options available in the 801 series. The dials are either partially skeletonized or engraved using guilloche machine engines. Some models combine both techniques. RGM does their own in-house machine engraving - which while it does use a machine, is hand-operated. This creates beautiful dials with interesting swirling patterns on pieces of solid silver.

Hands On With Some RGM Caliber 801 American Made Watches   hands on

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20 comments
aleximd2000
aleximd2000

I don't know

this design looks pretty chinese to me

luckily there is a window and you can see the engine

Zeitblom
Zeitblom

Call me a philistine, but I'd rather have one of these than most watches costing 5 times as much.

I do wonder, though, about servicing for people living outside the US. I guess it would be ok in the hands of any competent watchmaker..... right?

SethGrenald
SethGrenald

Oh, and because everything is made to order, you have quite a bit of choice when it comes to customization. You want the movement engraved too? Custom guilloche patterns. Anything, really. It'll just cost you more...

Lesthepom
Lesthepom

I think if I got one of these I would use my phone for the time and were the watch with the back showing it is such a good looking movement those teeth on the cogs are a nice detail the detail on the face is very well dun too

The part skeleton dial would be the one I would go for the others are a bit too retro for me but nice all the same I am going to have to have a look at there website and have a look at the rest of the collection nice to see most of it is made in the US and not over seas with all that hand working you can see how they have to charge so much at this price they are competing with some good Swiss watches and I think they are doing a good job of it

SethGrenald
SethGrenald

A few comments corrections for the article: the "PS" designation doesn't mean "partially skeletonized," it means "Pennsylvania Series." E & S mean "engraved" and "skeletonized." A PS watch is slightly larger than a non-PS (43.3mm vs 42) and has a coin edge, and (I think) a different crown. Skeletonized means that it doesn't have a dial, so you see the main plate and Engraved means that they engraved it with one of their rose engines, as opposed to just finishing with perlage.

I visited Mt. Joy back in November (it's about a 2hr drive from Philly). Roland and his team are a great bunch of people. They showed my friends and I around the atelier (an old bank building) including the CNC machines in the basement. They make the movements in-house, but the cases and blank dials are custom made nearby in Lancaster. I think the only thing they outsource is the hairsprings and the like.

JonnyD
JonnyD

I very much admire the Breguet inspired guilloche dial and appreciate the fact that the 801 is a manually wound movement. It is a beautiful piece with such obvious artisan skill on show. I am currently saving for a Nomos Zurich Blaugold, but seeing something like this kind of throws the proverbial spanner. Don't you just love and hate that, when you have your mind set on a piece, then something comes along and just as easily takes your fancy. I just love watches. Oh yes indeedy!

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

They are very pretty, that goes without saying. I've always enjoyed how the movement has a lot of depth and detauil, but is all in the same colour with similar finishing, so it requires a deeper look to enjoy all the secrets.

I don't think I would want to pull off the dial on this one though. It's a little TOO machined, in my opinion. Looks too much like a doily. They make some other dials though that are very handsome. I keep meaning to drop into this place for a visit. I drive down to Philadelphia every year, and this would not be much of a side mission. Next year hopefully.

LapYoda
LapYoda

Absolutely gorgeous, and American-made to boot! I'd love to see these in person.

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

F*%# me, look at those movements, and those engine-turned dials.  Lovely.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Zeitblom Ah, the dark side of any manufacture movement. Outside of routine cleaning and lubrication, mostly likely any "non-industrial" (non-ETA/Sellita) movement  will likely have to go back the maker for repairs. There is something to be said for ease of maintenance and parts availability of so called industrial movements. But then the world  is richer for the manufacture movements. Just factory serviced...

SN0WKRASH
SN0WKRASH moderator

@SethGrenald I fixed up that error, thank you for pointing that out. And I would love to visit them; I've heard story upon story of what a great experience it is to do that!

Zeitblom
Zeitblom

@MarkCarson @Zeitblom Yes, I guess I knew that :-) I just like these watches so much that I was hoping somebody would say that RGM is an exception to the rule.......... thanks anyway for keeping me away from temptation......

SethGrenald
SethGrenald

@SN0WKRASH @SethGrenald No prob. I've only been a WIS for about four years, but this was my first visit to a true atelier. And Roland and crew couldn't be nicer. I can't wait for my 801ES!

SethGrenald
SethGrenald

@Zeitblom @MarkCarson I dunno about that. When you send off your watch, it's still your problem. It's not like the dealer will pack it any better than you will. And if something happens en route, you probably won't get any "satisfaction" until the dealer gets the insurance check. And when the factory calls and says that it's going to be 4-6 months to repair...

I would think that RGM would be faster than that, in any event. They're a lot smaller, and have all of the parts in house. 

You could always buy one of their ETA watches with an RGM guilloche dial. It'll look substantially the same, and you can get that ETA fixed anywhere. And they're a bit cheaper than the 801's


Zeitblom
Zeitblom

@MarkCarson @Zeitblom It's ok, I have burnt up my watch budget anyway.... but still, there is a great difference between taking [say] a Zenith to my local dealer for repairs, and trusting an RGM to UPS or whatever......the Z might have to go back to Switzerland, but that's the dealer's problem....

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Zeitblom Darn, that was not my intention (to steer you away from an RGM watch). I'd guess those other watches 'costing 5 times as much' will also have factory service  requirements unless you live in Switzerland. Still factory service even then, just local service, ha ha. . If I had a current watch budget that allowed for an RGM, I'd be talking to Roland already. Cheers

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