Following on from the success of RGM’s 801-COE, the Mount Joy, Pennsylvania brand has introduced a smaller 38mm automatic version of the Corps of Engineers design. A complement to its big brother, the 151-COE incorporates many of the same design features that make the 801-COE so desirable, including the real glass Grand Feu enamel dial and classic style blued steel hands.

The 151-COE also boasts a beautiful RGM-made solid gold rotor, specifically designed for this model. Like all RGM 151 models, the case is made in the USA of either surgical quality 316L stainless steel or aircraft quality titanium.

The inspiration:

When the United States joined “The Great War” in April 1917, British and French governments made the arrival of American engineers their top priority. By the end of August 1917, nine newly organized engineer railway regiments, recruited largely from the nation’s private railway workers, had arrived in France. Since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had adopted the General Railroad Timepiece Standards of 1893, they brought with them about 1,000 American made Hamilton railroad watches that met those standards.

Each watch incorporated several technical features to ensure easy winding, legibility and accuracy to within 30 seconds a week. In an effort to reduce reliance on trans-Atlantic shipping routes, the AEF Quartermaster Corps chose to procure more watches from within Europe, ordering from several Swiss companies.

The original Corps of Engineer watches had real glass enamel dials, widely used in the watch industry at the time, though rare in modern watches. Since the beauty and depth of a real glass enamel dial cannot be simulated, the only way to achieve this classic look was to produce it in the same way. So the dial was designed and a master of the Grand Feu (French for “Great Fire”) technique was commissioned to make the enamel dials. Creating an enamel watch dial is a high risk art. Enameling is a technique in which colored powdered glass is applied to a metal plate.

The surface is then heated to a temperature high enough to cause the powdered glass to melt and form a new surface. The Grand Feu technique ups the stakes. The repeated baking of successive layers of enamel at extremely high temperatures ensures a uniquely crisp aesthetic while permanently setting the enamel. Using such high heat to create these dials also poses a risk: each time it is re-fired, the danger of cracking, melting or burning increases. However, with great risk comes great reward - the appearance of a real glass enamel dial is unmistakable.

The General Railroad Timepiece Standards of 1893 required that the watches have bold Arabic numerals on a white dial with dark hands. The RGM model features an easily readable deep white glass enamel dial with large luminous numbers. The hands are also classically made of luminous blued steel in a period style that match the dial and design of the complete watch. The luminous material on the dial and hands is non-radioactive SuperLumiNova. Under the dial and hands beats a Swiss automatic movement modified by RGM, including the RGM-made solid 14 karat gold winding rotor and a 38 to 42 hour power reserve. The watch comes on a brown Tuscan calf leather strap.

Price: Stainless steel - US$6,950.00

Titanium - US$7,950.00

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