RGM Model 600 Chronograph: A Perfect Fit
Car fanatics are likely to have a slew of fast cars on their “want list” and pipe dreams for that lottery win. For many, that list will read like the Who’s Who of the car world with muscle cars, sports cars, exotic cars, classics, and perhaps even an odd quirky car thrown in for good measure.
Names like Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Jaguar, BMW, and Mercedes are likely to feature alongside Chevy, Ford, and Dodge if you are looking for powerhouse monsters to dominate the local track or drag strip.
The Japanese import market provides options like Nissan, Honda, Toyota, and Mazda, who have all created iconic vehicles that thousands around the world crave getting their hands on (I’m looking at you, Mazda RX-7 FD).
But if you ask people what they drive every day, almost nobody is going to mention a car on any dream list: they are going to talk about accessible vehicles that are practical and sensible for real people living real lives.
One of the best-selling cars of all time is the Toyota Corolla, which has sold more than 45 million vehicles since production began in 1966. The second-best selling vehicle is the Ford F150, selling a little over 40 million trucks since production began in 1948.
The next dozen vehicles on the list are also as practical and fill out the Who’s Who of everyday cars and trucks. The reality is, flashy cars and big horsepower get people paying attention, but usability and practicality are what people drive home.
The same goes with the watch industry: my list of grail watches includes many absolute gems. But the best-selling watches in history are the ones that people can buy knowing they will have solid, reliable timepieces suiting their needs and not competing with their mortgages.
This is why I appreciate brands that work hard to build their heritage and carve a niche for themselves with solid daily-wear watches while having fun with the occasional haute horlogerie piece, especially if that brand is an independent.
If you add to that an American brand that makes its watches out of a small shop in Pennsylvania then you have a real winner.
The new Model 600 Chronograph is a bicompax chronograph inspired by the military and pilot chronographs of the 1960s and ’70s, though it still has the pre-1900 heritage vibe we often find with RGM timepieces. Displaying running seconds and a 30-minute chronograph counter, the Model 600 does something that many watch lovers are bound to appreciate: it drops the date window and keeps the dial as clean as possible.
Additionally, and staying within the theme of military-style watches, the dial is simple with a black background and white everything else. Combined with especially clean markers, a lack of eighth-of-a-second marks, and only a small brand logo and no other writing, the dial feels clean, classic, and timeless.
The numerals are military inspired and in bold sans serif font, but the ends of every stroke have the slightest flair, adding a touch of what feels like pre-automation hand lettering.
The syringe style hands take that style just a bit further, tying in the classic with the mid-century modern aesthetic of the simple military chronograph. Interestingly, the mix of styles almost makes the Model 600 feel a little bit anachronistic like it was made earlier or, more fittingly, that the Model 600 Chrono is a watch out of time.
Most of the details are set firmly in that mid-century aesthetic, but while most of the military and pilot’s watches of that era were built to be tool watches, and often eschewed historical inspiration in favor of practical design, the combination of the syringe hands and ever-so-slightly flared numerals betray the mind of the designer.
But overall, Model 600 is a right solid mid-century-style military chronograph.
Like many tool watches from that era, Model 600 features a box crystal. But unlike those watches this is a sapphire crystal, something not seen until the modern age conquered the complex art of making sapphire crystals.
This allows a modern, high-tech addition while keeping to the proper aesthetic. One of the aesthetic details I have always liked best about watches from that era is the box crystal, but it is also the one I don’t want on any of my watches because the traditional Plexiglas or Hesalite crystal is just too easily scratched and cracked.
So when crystal manufacturers started producing box crystals in synthetic sapphire, I knew if I ever had a vintage chronograph or tool watch with that style of plastic crystal I could theoretically swap it for a sapphire crystal to keep the look but ditch the obsolete tech.
With the Model 600 Chronograph, that isn’t needed and might be one of the best design decisions of this model. I know many vintage collectors love that style and regularly admit that the crystal is actually a problem, so keeping that style with a sapphire box crystal is a no-brainer for me.
The Model 600 is built around the ETA 7753, a rock-solid chronograph movement powering a variety of timepieces and is now the base for this new RGM chronograph. As a watch that is meant to be attainable and used as an everyday watch, this is a great choice for reliability, but it also serves another purpose.
If RGM had chosen a higher end, more visually appealing movement – something worth displaying – then the brand would have been silly to cover it up. But historically, and practically, military-style watches don’t have display backs because they are one more point of possible failure during rugged use.
The Model 600 Chronograph has a solid case back because that makes sense for the style. And since there is really no harm in covering up the 7753 with a case back, RGM can keep to the roots of the design without compromising just to show off.
I know many collectors allow and regularly accept this modern shift to transparent case backs even on watches like the Omega Speedmaster or Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, but in my mind that departs from the purpose, something RGM seems to remember with the Model 600 Chronograph.
An exotic or practical choice?
This is why the RGM Model 600 Chronograph is a great choice for someone actually looking for a sharply designed watch that could become a 20-year friend without worrying that it should be stored in the safe.
Too often collectors seek watches that present themselves as rugged everyday watches but instead end up being safe queens – or are only worn to business meetings lest they get scratched or jostled too much.
Granted, there are those who buy a Patek Philippe Nautilus and treat it like a regular tool watch (imagine that amount of money that confidence might cost). But for the average watch enthusiast, getting a timepiece like Model 600 allows them to buy a quality watch produced by an American independent, thereby joining an exclusive club, and wear the watch daily.
I feel that RGM has always represented a great value for the collector, and stylistically the brand’s collection is clearly intended to appeal to a broad audience, like the Ford F150 or the Toyota Corolla.
And just like Ford has the GT40 and Toyota has the Supra, RGM still has the Pennsylvania Tourbillon, Pennsylvania Series 801, and Caliber 20 models to get people paying attention and attract well-heeled customers to their more exotic pieces of wristwear. But a watch like the Model 600 Chronograph is positioned to be the bread and butter for the brand. It really is a watch that should strike a chord with collectors and help RGM expand into a market segment that is lacking a solid American presence.
While you ponder its position in the market, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 7.9 A solid chronograph that avoids overly styled details and lets its strengths speak for themselves? Yes, please!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 79.5» 779.628m/s2 As a pilot’s chronograph this watch is made to handle some serious Gs!
- M.G.R. * 50 A solid ETA 7753 is hard to beat for a reliable chronograph, especially from a small brand like RGM. It’s a great choice!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild Clearly it features a chronograph but is only a bicompax and lacks the date window so this one stays with a mild diagnosis. As such, I’ll prescribe some regular strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream as it swells with some timely goodness!
- Ouch Outline * 7.9 Forgetting to use your legs when picking up a heavy box! The refrain “always lift with your legs, not with your back” is a solid piece of advice. Sometimes you don’t realize just how heavy a box is until it is too late, and you are now hurting your back as you heave it up onto a table with a groan. Still, I’d gladly take that pain if it meant getting RGM Model 600 on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Ooh, so clean! After fawning over watches for as long as I have, seeing a well-designed watch with just the right amount of detail is enough to make you fall so hard you start making the seating chart and debating buffet versus finger food!
- Awesome Total * 568.8 Start with the case diameter in millimeters (42) and multiply by the case thickness (12.4), then add hours of power reserve (48) for a supremely solid awesome total!
Quick Facts RGM Model 600 Chronograph
Case: 42 x 12.4 mm, 316L stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber Valjoux ETA 7753, 48 hours power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph with 30-minute counter