RGM – Joe Biden’s American-Made Watch?


RGM Pennsylvania

As he calls for ‘Made in America,’ Joe Biden prefers Swiss-made Rolex hindustantimes.com’s headline proclaims. This the day after the President signed an executive order directing Uncle Sam to buy American, “Ensuring [The] Future of America is Made in America by All of America’s Workers.” A bit of horological dissonance that the rest of the mainstream media somehow missed . . .

Joe Biden Rolex 2

“Biden’s $7k stainless steel Rolex Datejust is a far cry from the Everyman timepieces that every president not named Trump has worn conspicuously in recent decades,” The New York Times wrote (linking to TTAW). The Gray Lady wrote the piece before Biden’s EO. Still, The Hindustan Times has a point. Or does it?

Truth be told, there are precious few maybe even no “made in America” watches. We recently reviewed the Walden Watch Heritage Professional, a timepiece running on an American-made quartz movement. As for the rest of the watch, not so much.

Dufrane Diver

There are plenty of American-based watchmakers, such as Shinola, Tally & Twine and Austin’s own DuFrane (above). All but a few assemble their watches in the Land of the Free using some to most to all foreign-made parts. The majority of which hail from The People’s Republic of China.

Devon Tread

For the sake of argument, let’s say Joltin’ Joe wanted to ditch his Rollie and flaunt an America First kinda watch.

If we’re talking about a modern piece (Vortic re-manufacturers American-made pocket watches), if we discount the way cool but WTF Devon Tread, if we eliminate American watchmakers who don’t produce a series of timepieces, the Commander-in-Chief’s horological options are limited to one company: RGM Watches.

RGM factory

RGM calls itself “America’s Premier Watchmaker.” Yes, well, it’s not hard to be “premier” in such a small field. Even so, RGM Watches has a genuine claim to the title.

RGM manufactures watch parts, cases and mechanical movements at their Mount Joy, Pennsylvania factory. (The same state that claims President Biden as its native son.)

RGM caliber 801

Legally, RGM can’t say their watches are “made in America.” Federal law requires that any product so labelled must be “all or virtually all” American-sourced.

What does “virtually” mean? Ninety percent of RGM’s 801 caliber-based watches qualify. The movement’s balance, escapement, hairspring, mainspring and jewels are all made in Switzerland or Germany to RGM’s design.

RGM founder

“I don’t play the American made game,” RGM founder and watchmaker Roland Murphy (above) tells TTAW. And hasn’t since he started the company in 2007.

Mr. Murphy’s company certainly represents the entrepreneurial spirit that made America great. Promising to build back better, the new President would do well to learn from RGM’s success. And, I’d say, wear one of their watches.

RGM skeleton

“We don’t turn any customers away,” Mr. Murphy avers when I ask if he’d welcome an order from President Biden.

RGM’s caliber 801-based timepieces start at $8k and rise to $135k (equipped with an American made tourbillon). Their entry-level price is a grand more than the $7k Rolex for which Biden’s been bombarded.

An RGM watch would be a lot more defensible, especially for Americans worried that President Biden’s trade policies will encourage foreign outsourcing while his immigration policies lower wages.

RGM corps of engineers watch

Truth be told, Joe Biden can easily afford an RGM watch. The politician who once claimed to be the poorest man in Congress somehow managed to become a multi-millionaire (as did at least two members of his family).

I reckon Say It Ain’t So Joe banked big bucks by understanding the power of projecting power, or at least its perception. An American-sourced watch would do little to diminish that recipe, and much to enhance it.


  1. Old Joe is a watch nerd. He is an Omega man, owning a Speedmaster Moonwatch and a Seamaster Professional 200. Plus he has the customary Vulcain Cricket he got as a Vice President and a Seiko Chronograph he used as a daily beater. Last, he has also an Apple Watch.

      • Pulsar used to rock mightily back then. Ford also asked his wife to buy him the Pulsar calculator. She said “nope, too costly”

        • If I did the inflation correctly, a gold one was the equivalent of $19k in 1975, although a year later a stainless one could be had for ~$2,200 in today’s money.

          • You did the math right. Publicly! Within a couple of years, you could buy a digital watch for $20 in today’s money. Pulsar – set up as a separate company by Hamilton – failed spectacularly. So much so it sunk the parent company, one of America’s most famous, prolific and best watchmakers (that dominated pocket watch sales for decades). The Swiss bought the Hamilton name and American watchmaking disappeared.

  2. It’s very likely to my eyes that the RGM 801 is a highly decorated ETA/Unitas 6497/6498 ébauche/parts kit, or is a highly decorated clone of an ETA/Unitas 6497/6498.

    Not a bad starting point since it is an incredibly accurate, reliable, reparable movement.

    But perhaps the watches should be labeled “Designed by Unitas in Switzerland, Decorated and assembled in Pennsylvania.”

    I like the companies like Apple that bring the design and engineering jobs to the US.

    • The basic design of a 16 line three-hand watch has been around much longer then Unitas. In fact, the basic design of the Unitas was taken from an earlier movement from a different maker.

  3. Why no mention of Weiss Watch Company? Cameron Weiss builds watches in his workshop in Tennessee, albeit with Swiss movements assembled and finished in house but with American-machined cases, dials and other components. They may not be 100% American made, but if you’re going to mention Waldan and Shinola, Weiss probably deserves a shout out. A Weiss is also a lot more accessible than an RGM. At the low end of the price range, Timex’s American Documents series watches are made in America (right down to the wooden box they come in), with the exception of the Swiss quartz movements (though as long they were going to use a quartz movement I don’t know why they didn’t go with an Ameriquartz movement from FTS, like Waldan).

    • Thanks for the comment. I reviewed – and praised – the Timex American documents (click here for American-Made Watches – Time to Buy?), which mentions and links to Weiss.

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