Roland G. Murphy is the founder of RGM Watch a U.S. based independent company. Having first studied in the U.S. at Bowman Technical school, he continued his education by going to W.O.S.T.E.P. RGM watches was founded in 1992.
1. Describe briefly your childhood.
I grew up in Maryland here in the USA, my father worked at a factory that made telephone cable, he worked long hours but always made time for me on the weekends, we visited museums, explored photography, and many other activities. I loved to build and repair things as a child, car models, slot cars, tree forts, and much more.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
I loved building, so my first desire was to be a carpenter, I pursed this and took carpentry and cabinet making in vocational high school. During high school I worked a half day for a company that made Grandfather clocks, even though I worked on the wood cabinets, this is when my first interest in timepieces started to grow.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child? I remember staying with my Grandmother when my family went to the World’s Fair in Montreal Canada back in 1967. I was 6 at the time, I am sure other memories are bouncing around in my head, but this is the one that comes to mind.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
I mentioned above, I worked as a cabinetmaker and carpenter for a short while.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
When I worked at the small factory making Grandfather clocks, they went into bankruptcy and a lot of items were up for sale, my father and I bought cabinets movements etc.. I assembled some cabinets with the German clock movements and sold them. I started to be very interested in the movements, I would set one up on a table with a hole in it so the weights could drop thru, then I could sit there and examine how everything worked. Next, I took a movement apart and put it back together and it worked, this was the point I was hooked on horology!
A friend told us about Bowman Technical school which was Lancaster PA, here in the USA where I first learned clockmaking and watchmaking, after that I went to W.O.S.T.E.P. in Neuchatel Switzerland in 1986. After that I worked for SMH (Swatch Group now) back in Lancaster, PA in product development for the Hamilton watch brand, after 5 years there I started RGM in 1992.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
The worst thing I can think of was putting plywood on a large roof when I was a carpenter in very cold and windy weather. I hated working outside in the cold.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
I would have to say it was when my father died in 2016, he had a stroke so it came very suddenly, the day before he was fine and we had a very nice lunch, and the next day everything had changed in an instance. My wife and children helped me thru this time, and of course staying busy is always beneficial in these situations. At times I still have to deal with this big loss in my life.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
In the watch industry I would have to say fellow independent watchmakers, I have many friends who have been an inspiration and a help from time to time. I hesitate to name them as I would feel horrible if I forget to mention one. My only goal when I started was to be able to make a living doing what I love making and repairing watches. I have achieved that goal.
9. What are you most proud of?
Bringing watch movement making back to the USA (on a small scale), being far from the modern watchmaking center in Switzerland this was a mountain to climb.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
I would never discourage someone from pursuing their dream. I would however let them know that it takes hard work, determination, endurance, and the ability to push thru disappointment. I would also tell them to learn from their failures and mistakes, sometimes this is the most important aspect of pursuing anything. And always do what you love, you won’t be very good at something that you’re not passionate about.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
1. See my grandchildren grow up.
2. Go to Yellowstone National Park.
3. Complete the watches in my head.
12. Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years time.
1. More watch brands selling direct and online. 2. More innovations and high-tech materials, some for the good, and some for the bad. 3. I hope a return to more classic watchmaking!
To learn more about Roland G. Murphy