Once upon a time, American watchmaking used to be a thing. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, birthplace to one of America’s most important watch brands, Hamilton, is rich with watchmaking history. And while American watchmaking isn’t completely dead, we aren’t teeming with factories either. Younger brands today are increasingly incorporating and crafting watch designs stateside, but the manufacturing largely happens offshore. Lancaster-based RGM Watches is a notable exception.
For over 20 years, Roland G. Murphy has been selling American made watches and even has three manufacture calibers to his name (including the “Pennsylvania Tourbillon” that retails for $95,000 in stainless steel). Every year, RGM cranks out 200 to 400 watches in a former bank building in Lancaster County. One of these is a modestly sized pilot watch, the 151.
Its finely polished steel case is classically sized for a range of wrists at 38.5mm, and it’s only 9.9mm thick. The dial is somewhat reminiscent of a flieger with Arabic indexes save for a triangle at the 12 o’clock position, although it’s decidedly original. Behind the dial is an ETA 2892, decorated by RGM, and you can see the caliber through a sapphire crystal exhibition case back.
A lot of RGM’s watches come with options and this watch is no exception. You can have the case brushed or made of titanium; the dial comes in black, white or orange with a date at 6 o’clock, 3 o’clock or no date at all; and there are several strap options ranging from leather to fabric. While I personally don’t love to pick and choose too much when I’m buying a watch, I understand a small shop’s interest in tailoring its offerings to win more business.
Some of these options affect the pricing, which at first glance would cause a lot of collectors to pause. The 151P starts at $2,950, which seems like a lot for a three-handed automatic watch utilizing an ETA movement. But–I hope this is clear–the 151, and all of RGM’s watches, are about reviving America’s watchmaking tradition, and economies of scale (or the lack thereof) result in pricing that might appear high to some. To others, however, the premium to own such a versatile mechanical watch made in the USA is a small price to pay.