Watch Lust: The RGM 801 Line


Once upon a time, there were many American watch brands, like Elgin, Waltham, Hamilton, Benrus, Gruen and Bulova, that made their watches here in the United States. Some of these brands used Swiss ébauches, assembling them into American made cases, while others actually made their own in-house movements. Hamilton, Elgin, Waltham and Bulova, for example, all had their own calibers. But, times change and the watch industry in America diminished. These days, Elgin and Waltham are defunct, Hamilton is owned by Swatch and Citizen owns Bulova. While there are still many American brands, more popping up by the day, there is currently only one that manufacturers their own movements: RGM.

RGM, who are based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, currently have 3 calibers, the MM2 Tourbillon, their new caliber 20, and their first in-house, the 801. While the Tourbillon is magnificent, and has a price to match, the classically styled line of 801 based watches is the central focus of this Watch Lust. The 801 movement, which proudly wears the badge of being the first American made caliber in 40 years (as of 2008), is a 19-jewel hand-winder with 6 o’clock small-seconds that beats at 18,000 bph. It is available in Rhodium or Gold plating with various decorative options, all done in-house. In many ways, the movement resembles classic pocket watch movements, like those of Hamilton and Unitas, with large gears and ornate bridges, which demand a fairly large case to house them.

The 801 line itself has styling that ranges from 17th century classical design to a bold “aircraft” model with military undertones. The 801 E features full silver dials with ornate and beautifully executed engine-turned guilloches under blued steel Breguet hands, for a magnificent classical look.  While the 801 S have skeletonized dials to reveal the carefully decorated movement underneath. The American made cases also have classical styling with fluted sides and screw bar lugs.  Available with a range of dials utilizing calligraphic fonts and roman numerals for prices from 7 – 10k.

If guilloches aren’t your style, the 801 A happens to be one of the best-looking aviator watches out there. The dial, which is black with varying finishes, is marked with an almost day-glow turquoise and a stark pale-yellow. The dial is available in a few variations, but the one that really catches my eye has a very large minute index as its primary index. It’s one of those dials where every square millimeter feels like it is has been perfectly finessed. The hour and minute hands are lance style, which is somewhat uncommon, and provide another striking visual to the watch. For $6,400, this watch seems like a remarkable deal.

So, if you are looking to drool over a line of watches that thoroughly earn the “watch lust” title, head over to RGM pronto. While you are there, browse the rest of their line. They make all sorts of watches, many powered by ETA movements, from pilot’s watches to chronographs to a very sturdy looking diver.

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By Zach Weiss

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