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Optical Gaging Products OGP


Time and Technology Don’t Stand Still at RGM Watch Co.

OGP Starlight 150 vision system helps watchmaker measure small, complex watch parts without operator interpretation

Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 12:03

The RGM Watch Co. was founded by American watchmaker Roland G. Murphy. His career and interest in horology (the art or science of timekeeping devices) began as a teenager while working part-time for a clock company. Later, he enrolled in the Bowman Technical School of Watchmaking, and in 1986, Murphy was accepted into WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program).

After finishing WOSTEP, he worked in product development for the Hamilton Watch Co. until he founded the RGM Watch Co. in 1992.

Roland G. Murphy

RGM Watch sales are conducted on a personal, one-to-one basis. Customers who visit the company are often greeted by Murphy himself, who openly shares his passion for classic watch design, innovation, and craftsmanship as he discusses the custom design features that are often requested. RGM employs a team of 11 people and produces “a few hundred” watches a year, priced from $3,500 to $95,000, depending on design and material.

The challenge

Upon entering the RGM facility, visitors are immediately surrounded by multiple classic watchmaker benches and a number of antique rose engine lathes. These hundred-year-old lathes can produce an intricate and ornate metal pattern using a guilloché engraving technique. This level of decorative detail in an RGM timepiece is just one of the factors that make RGM a premier American watch company.

In the beginning, RGM product development was often painstakingly slow due to a lack of suitable metalworking machinery to produce very small parts. Swiss companies had the equipment but were not particularly interested in working with an untested startup company—especially one from America. With enterprising determination, the help of a local machine shop, and a collection of used metalworking machines, Murphy introduced the Caliber 801 mechanical movement in 2007. RGM inspection and measurement of small parts for the Caliber 801 was performed on a used 25-year-old Nikon 6C-2 optical comparator. Using the comparator for part inspection took quite a bit of time to set up and wasn’t very automated, but was adequate for handling the first few low-volume series of watch components.

Today, there are seven versions of the Caliber 801, requiring a complex component mix. This is when making consistently accurate component parts became critical. “Before we could count on reliably accurate parts, we would make components with undersized holes, and the watchmakers would rectify the holes on a jig borer later,” explains Murphy. This means they would be individually made to fit by making the holes larger, an additional time-consuming process done by the watchmaker during assembly.

QVI Starlight 150

The OGP solution

In June 2016, RGM purchased a QVI StarLite 150 video system to perform the dimensional measurement and inspection tasks being done on the optical comparator. “The StarLite 150 quickly showed the benefits of having a system that could consistently measure small and complex watch parts without operator interpretation,” says Benoit Barbé, director of micro-mechanical design.

The results

Production and prototype needs have increased in recent years for the company, and the StarLite 150 has become integral in the development process through its compatibility with the company’s 3D CAD system and CNC milling machines.

Once a CAD model is complete, it can be downloaded to the video measurement system, allowing measurements within a few seconds, rather than minutes (or longer) with the optical comparator. “Plus, our confidence is high that the measurements are accurate, which were questionable when using the optical comparator,” says Barbé.

One feature of the StarLite 150 especially appreciated by the manufacturing team at RGM is the VectorLight LED programmable ring light. “The high degree of illumination makes checking a dimension between two blind holes very quick and easy—a task that was always time-consuming and subjective using the optical comparator,” says Barbé.

RGM Custom watch features are more in demand, requiring unique, complex designs with a CNC mill production run of one. “We now routinely measure and inspect custom micro-mill etching done with end mills as small as 0.02 mm,” Barbé says. “It’s never been easier or more accurate. The more we learn about our StarLite 150 video measurement system, the more productive we become.”


About The Author

Optical Gaging Products OGP’s picture

Optical Gaging Products OGP

Optical Gaging Products (OGP) designs and manufactures precision video and multisensor coordinate measuring systems used for dimensional inspection. Headquartered in Rochester, New York, OGP has facilities in Tempe, Arizona; Singapore; Germany; and Shanghai, China. Optical Gaging Products is a division of Quality Vision International.