RGM’s New Enamel and Engine-Turned Caliber PS-801-EE
by Keith Lehman
When I first visited RGM Watch Co. in April in Mount Joy, PA, I was the new WatchNews editor and quite frankly, I knew nothing about wristwatches and horology.
Since that April visit, I learned what I don't know about watches and horology.
Visiting RGM was my first step on this strange sort of illumination. In my first article about Roland Murphy and RGM Watch Co. I describe that Roland's watches are not just beautifully crafted timepieces but works of art. They speak of the spirit, culture, and ingenuity of early American watchmaking—and of Murphy himself. He clearly stated that when thinking of a new piece he asks himself, "What kind of watch can I make that fits me?”
I came to ask Murphy at my meeting with him in October: "What does your new line of 801 watches say to you and what do they say to the rest of us?"
RGM’s new enamel and engine-turned caliber 801 model. RGM Co.
Roland Murphy with his personal collection. Keith Lehman.
Rolad Murphy's first watch, the Wile E Coyote, given to him as a child. Keith Lehman.
“What kind of watch
can I make that fits me?”
The 801-EE is a beautiful watch. Different from his last line, the proud and soldierly 801-COE "Corps of Engineers,” the PS-801-EE is elegant and vulnerable. The enamel dial of the watch is ground out—known as a skeleton dial— revealing the beautiful Guilloché main plate. For those new to RGM an explanation of terms like PS, EE, and 801 can be found on RGM's website.
This is the first time Murphy has released a line of enamel skeleton dials. The enamel is just visually delicious with lovely Roman numerals and markings that are not painted but fired into the dial using a method called, "Grand Feu," which means "Great Fire."
The PS-801-EE is a collaboration of talents that only a handful of people in the world are capable of creating. The watch hands, enamel dial and Grand Feu aren’t done at RGM. These techniques require talents from elsewhere. Roland makes the rest of the watch and does the Guilloché. If you were to compare the watch to a piece of music, Murphy is somewhat like a conductor. He coordinates all of these rare and wonderful talents together. But he is also the composer who performs with the other players! It's just amazing and I’m in awe of his abilities.
What's even more impressive is the easy and friendly nature of Murphy and his staff. When waiting to speak with Murphy, they helped me find a comfortable place to sit and asked if I needed any coffee or water. If I had a question, they were helpful and happy to respond. Instead of just talking about his latest watch, Murphy shared other bits of his work and interests with me. He is a talented photographer and videographer and offered some tips on how to take better photos. We talked about the creation of RGM's web page and videos, the reconstruction of a playground which RGM helped pay for by donating a special watch, and his nomination into the Balvenie 2015 Rare Craft Collection.
It's inspiring to visit RGM. I left feeling motivated to create something amazing. When I asked Murphy how he does so much—and frankly so damn well—he simply said, "Over time." Makes sense coming from a watchmaker. I think I'll keep that one.
Back of the PS-801-EE. Keith Lehman.
The PS-801-EE. Keith Lehman.
The PS-801-EE. Keith Lehman.
The following is taken from RGM's website which describes the watch:
We are pleased to announce two new additions to our in-house 801 collection: 801-EE and PS-801-EE. These latest models combine two time-honored crafts: Grand Feu Enamel and Guilloché, or Engine-Turning.
Following on the heels of our first two enamel-dial models, we have created an enamel skeleton dial version. Grand Feu enamel requires the repeated baking of each layer of powdered glass at extremely high temperatures to ensure a uniquely crisp aesthetic while permanently setting the enamel. The Roman or Arabic numerals are baked into the surface, creating the vivid, unmistakable appearance distinctive of a real glass enamel dial.
The enamel skeleton dial reveals the hand cut Guilloché mainplate. Guilloché, or Engine-Turning, is a centuries-old craft that today involves the use of antique hand-cranked machines to cut or engrave delicate geometric patterns. At RGM, we have 6 vintage and antique machines that are used to decorate dials, or in this case, the movement mainplate.
The pattern seen on the mainplate of these models is called Moiré. This complex geometric pattern is achieved when each line is slightly offset from the previous cutting line, thus creating a classically pleasing effect that can captivate the wearer of the timepiece.
Exposed under this unique skeleton dial and hand cut Guilloché mainplate is our original in-house American movement: Caliber 801. Inspired by America's great watchmaking history, the 801 has classically shaped bridges, hand polished or blued steel components, and is entirely hand-finished and decorated. The movement can also be customized at your request. The watch is housed in a polished 316L stainless steel or 18 karat solid gold case. Visit RGM's blog: http://www.rgmwatches.com/rgmblog/ for more info.
A sample of Roland Murphy's antique camera collection. Keith Lehman.
Roland Murphy holding the PS-801-EE. Keith Lehman.
Roland Murphy holding bridge and plate parts. Keith Lehman.
Damaskeening machine and tools.