Small Business Spotlight: RGM Watch Co.

About the Small Business Spotlight

The second Saturday of each month, the #PAProud blog highlights small businesses and owners who are delivering new products, services, or technology; are positively impacting their local community; or offering creative solutions to their own challenges or those of others.

In 1992, Roland G. Murphy founded RGM Watch Co. in Mount Joy, Pa. in an effort to build upon Pennsylvania’s long history of watchmaking. Now, RGM is one of only two watchmakers in Pennsylvania – and the only one to make its own movements — attracting watch enthusiasts from across the U.S. and around the world. RGM employs a unique blend of tradition and modernization, and prides itself on its care and quality control in all aspects of the business.

What does your business specialize in and who are your clients?

Roland G. Murphy, RGM Watch Co. founder

Roland G. Murphy, RGM Watch Co. founder

RGM prides itself on handcrafting specialty watches and ensuring quality in everything our employees do and touch.

I’m originally from Maryland, but I founded the company in Mount Joy, Pa., in 1992 after attending Bowman Technical School in Lancaster. I chose Pennsylvania for my business because of its extensive watchmaking history — I wanted to continue that tradition in Pennsylvania. Now, RGM is one of only two companies statewide that manufactures watches (the other is Kobold in Pittsburgh). We produce about 200 watches per year, and about 25 percent are custom built.

We don’t really have head-to-head competition here; most of our competitors are in Europe. Our customers come from all over the world, but mostly from within the United States.

What does your company do differently that sets it apart?

Watch face

Engine turning example of ornate geometric engravings on the watch face.

We do things others don’t do. Our niche is specialty, like engine turning — a type of geometric engraving that we use to decorate parts. We’re one of the only companies in the U.S. — and the only in Pennsylvania — that makes high-grade, mechanical watch movements anymore. Some of our watches have Swiss movements, but we build three proprietary movements, which are found in our higher-price watches.

The heart of the watch is the mechanism —it could take several months to build a watch with custom movements. This is the factor that has gotten us widely recognized by watch enthusiasts worldwide.

RGM uses a good blend of both modern and traditional techniques. We use antique engine-turning machines and hand tools, right up to small computer-controlled mills. We use modern software to draw components and parts. It’s very much a 50/50 blend of modern and traditional equipment – most competitors probably aren’t using as much of the traditional equipment that we use. We’re also proud to have famous customers and supporters, including actor Albert Brooks, classical musician Awadagin Pratt, chef and author Anthony Bourdain, and Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh. RGM was also prominently featured in a GMC commercial in 2015, which ran during prime spots, such as Monday Night Football games.

Why are you proud to be a Pennsylvania small business owner?

The history of the watch industry in Pennsylvania is a big advantage to being here, and it’s a beautiful place for visitors. I have now lived and worked in PA for more than 30 years. PA is my home, and it’s been my home for a long time. I never considered going anywhere else — I love what we do here, and I like the lifestyle.

RGM Employees

The watch shop in Mount Joy

In December 2016, we collaborated with Nazareth, Pa.-based Martin Guitar on its two-millionth guitar. We created a special version of our Caliber 20 movement to fit into the head of the guitar and made several other parts for it. We also built parts for the D-200 guitar — inspired by the Two-Millionth — and built a custom watch to be sold with all 50 limited-edition guitars. Teaming up with another Pennsylvania business to create unique products was not only a lot of fun, but also one of the proud accomplishments of my 25 years at RGM.

To learn more about starting your own small business in Pennsylvania, check out our Small Business Assistance Network or our Entrepreneur’s Guide and signup for our monthly newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest Pennsylvania news.

Guest Blogger
As a high school student in Maryland, Roland G. Murphy worked half days for a clock company in its cabinet-making wood shop. His interest in timepieces grew quickly, leading him to enroll in the Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, Pa., in the 1980s. In 1986, he furthered his training in Switzerland when he was accepted by the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program (WOSTEP). He was later hired to work for the Hamilton Watch Co. in Lancaster, Pa., and remained there until he started RGM Watch Co. in Mount Joy in 1992, aiming to build off of Pennsylvania’s rich history in watchmaking.
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