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Thread: Designing the RGM Skeleton

  1. #1

    Designing the RGM Skeleton

    I've been meaning to make a complete post about how this watch came to be (especially since Roland hasn't acknowledged the history anywhere). It all started back in March of 2017, when I sent this email to Roland:

    "I have been a serious watch collector for a number of years, and have often browsed your website.

    For some time now, I have been looking for a skeleton watch for my collection, but havenít been able to find one that suited both my desires and my budget. I know that you do custom watches, and I see that you have done at least one skeleton in the past; however, that was a traditional version, different than what I would be interested in. I thought I would run my ideas by you, and see if itís something you would be able to do, and if so, then we could talk about pricing/schedule etc., and I could decide whether it would be feasible for me.
    Iíve attached some photos to give you examples of what Iím trying to accomplish, as described below.


    Ideally, I would like:



    • Industrial rather than ornate finishing--the one skeleton pictured on your site looks like Mr. Benzinger's work, which is spectacular but not what I'm looking for here


    • Matte/black/gray/pebble finishing as in the Breguet and Dubuis examples, as opposed to something shiny as in the Tissot


    • As much open space/minimalism in the design as possibleósomething as open as the Dubuis may not be practical, but that is the sort of feel Iím after


    • Case sizeóyour 42mm x 10.5mm would be fine, as well as your RGM 801 movement--a slightly smaller case would be good, but I assume 42mm is the smallest that the movement will fit


    • Indices in a small ring, as in the Tissot and Dubuis examples, as opposed to a "pure" skeleton with no indices at all


    • Hands with a size and shape that enable them to be easily read, as in the Tissot (not necessarily that shape, just the concept of visibility)


    Other details could be worked out later, but the main questions are whether you could do something like this, and if so, a rough idea of the cost.


    Thanks in advance."

    Over the next few days we exchanged emails about design, and Roland sent me these pictures of an old Hamilton pocket watch movement, which I said was definitely heading in the right direction:

    Name:  Hamilton skeleton front.JPG
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    We talked about rhodium or gold plating, and I said definitely rhodium, in keeping with the industrial design I had in mind. Roland quoted 10-12 months for delivery (he he--that was off by a bit). We then started talking about finishing, specifically, either brushed or more frosted, like the Breguet tradition line. Roland said the plan would be to work on drawings, and eventually sample bridges for approval.

    In August of 2017, Roland sent the first set of drawings:

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    I replied to Roland:

    "Thanks for the initial drawings, this is a great start. My only question would be whether it's possible to remove more from the front plate to create more open space--I've attached a markup highlighting potential areas that perhaps could have more removed. I recognize that structural integrity needs to be preserved, so I don't know how practical what I'm suggesting would be. I've also re-attached the picture you had sent me originally of the Hamilton movement that has more open area along the lines of what I had hoped could be achieved. I understand your movement is different, and I of course will rely on your expertise as to how much can actually be done.



    I agree that engraving just on the balance bridge makes sense. We can have more discussions about finishing for both front and back down the road."


    Here's my crude marked up drawing:

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    Soon after that, Roland sent along some new drawings with some additional material removed. They show before and after (the left sides are after more has been removed):

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    Everything then sort of went dark until April of 2018, when I sent Roland an email asking for an update. He replied that they were starting to prototype pieces of the movement, and sent this shot of the first prototype bridge:

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    Shortly after that, Roland sent this drawing showing his (awesome) idea for the seconds hands, as well as his proposal for the dial ring:

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    I replied with enthusiasm , and also requested that the gold plates at 12 and 6 should also have a brushed finish to avoid being too shiny. This was also the time when he said he wanted to add the skeleton to his lineup.

    To be continued in the next post, with more prototype pictures...

  2. #2
    In May of 2018, Roland sent another update, with a picture of the prototype movement:

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    Things went silent again until September off 2018, when Roland sent this picture of the seconds hand(s):

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    Then came the long winter...no progress until March of this year, when Roland sent this picture of the dial:

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    Shortly after that, Roland sent pictures of the prototype finishes, which were close to what I had hoped for:

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    Roland explained that if he made the finish more pebbly, the anglage on the bevels wouldn't have worked properly.

    In April, we had some discussions about what the caseback would read, in light of the fact that Roland was going to have the skeleton in his regular lineup. Shortly after that came the first pass at the caseback engraving:

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    I then asked that a different font be used, one that I had seen on caseback pictures from other RGM models, and after a couple of iterations, got to the final version:

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    At the beginning of May, Roland emailed me that they were debuting the skeleton model (albeit using their larger, polished case) at a Watchtime show, which is when I realized what some of the delay had been...

    A week or so later, the watch was finally ready and I received it in late May.

    Everyone's seen the final result, so I don't see the need for final pictures.

    I thought people might find it interesting to see how it developed; I can't design a watch mechanically, but I feel that my original concept was well executed by Roland, and I'm very happy with the result.

  3. #3
    Great post. I remember you showing me and Walter some of those updates. That's such a fantastic journey and special watch for sure. I'm sure I'll get to see it one day when your in Boston.

    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk
    Cheers,

    Richard

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  5. #4
    Very interesting and thanks for sharing.

    Having the whole process well documented does increase the material (and immaterial) value of the watch. I'm not sure I would have the talent (and the patience) to embrace such a project. Obviously, you gave it a lot of thought and it also reflects the knowledge and experience you have accumulated over the years. This is definitely your watch and you have every reason to be proud of it.
    Last edited by CFR; Oct 14, 2019 at 05:09 PM. Reason: typo

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  7. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by CFR View Post
    Very interesting and thanks for sharing.

    Having the whole process well documented does increase the material (and immaterial) value of the watch. I'm not sure I would have the talent (and the patience) to embrace such a project. Obviously, you gave it a lot of thought and it also reflects the knowledge and experience you have accumulated over the years. This is definitely your watch and you have every reason to be proud of it.
    Thanks, C. I don't know about talent--I just sort of could visualize generally what I wanted. As for patience...well, not normally one of my strong suits, but when you've already made the deposit, you're sort of committed.

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  9. #6
    El bot. geoffbot's Avatar
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    Excellent. My all time favourite periods of my career in this biz has been making custom wus and iwl watches - I've done 3 I think. I loved the process oh so much. Turns out I didn't cherish and keep the final pieces, but they were relatively inexpensive so no biggie (and also perhaps part of the reason I didn't appreciate them that much - yes, I'm shallow).

    For you was it worth the wait, and cost? Was the better than the kill?

    Also, absolutely need a final piece pic please - do edit your op for posterity and stuff.
    Follow IWL on instagram! https://instagram.com/iwatchleague

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  11. #7
    Also, absolutely need a final piece pic please
    was just thinking this very thing

    This was also the time when he said he wanted to add the skeleton to his lineup.
    I want to know how itís selling
    Last edited by Seriously; Oct 14, 2019 at 05:50 PM.
    Watches for SALE:
    <PRICE REDUCED> Nivrel 322 Black Dial: http://www.intlwatchleague.com/showt...869#post447869

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  13. #8
    Pinist. Al Pinist. rodia77's Avatar
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    Great recount and

    Quote Originally Posted by mlcor View Post
    Everyone's seen the final result, so I don't see the need for final pictures.
    I don't have pet peeves, I have major psychotic f***ing hatreds. GC

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  15. #9
    Moderator - Central tribe125's Avatar
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    Good stuff - and I think it shows the value of a focussed briefing and effective communication thereafter.

    A true collaboration.

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  17. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by geoffbot View Post
    Excellent. My all time favourite periods of my career in this biz has been making custom wus and iwl watches - I've done 3 I think. I loved the process oh so much. Turns out I didn't cherish and keep the final pieces, but they were relatively inexpensive so no biggie (and also perhaps part of the reason I didn't appreciate them that much - yes, I'm shallow).

    For you was it worth the wait, and cost? Was the better than the kill?

    Also, absolutely need a final piece pic please - do edit your op for posterity and stuff.
    Yes, it was worth the wait and the cost (the latter being far less than what he's listing them for on his website, because he underestimated the amount of work but kept to his original price estimate for me). I got as close as practical to what my vision was, and am happy with the results. Can't imagine it not being a permanent fixture.

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