Monday, April 3, 2017

The Pennsylvania Series Caliber 801 Chess

From RGM-

Courtesy of RGM

While 25 years of operation might seem like the blink of an eye for Vacheron and others, when we talk about the preeminent watch making firm in the US, we are talking about RGM and 25 years is an achievement to take note of.  And given when they started, and the current tempestuous nature of the watch market, 25 years is nothing to sneeze at!

And what is always nice about the watches offered by RGM is that not only are they beautiful to look at, they also often tell a story.  And in this case it is the story of a "missing" pocket watch that was presented to American chess champion Paul Morphy upon his return to the US following a successful European sojourn.  And just who was Paul Morphy?  His story is almost as interesting as the mystery of the disappearing pocket watch that inspired this new version from RGM.

Born to a wealthy New Orleans family, Mr. Morphy learned the game of chess while watching his father and uncle do battle on the board.  He was not only a precocious chess player, but quite accomplished as a scholar as well, completing undergraduate studies as well as those requisite to the practice of law.  Being too young to practice law despite having received his LLB degree from the University of Louisiana (now Tulane), competitive chess offered an opportunity to occupy the idle time while he waited to be old enough to become a practicing lawyer. 

What is perhaps most interesting to relate regarding his European tour was that his trip was spurred by a challenge issued to the then European champion, Howard Staunton of England. According to some dispatches of the day, Staunton was unwilling to travel to the shores of the former colonies to take up the challenge of a young, (to him) unknown upstart.  And so Staunton embarked on a quest to meet the best that Europe had to offer, and best them.   Only that is not exactly how it worked out, as history reflects that the two never faced off against each other to lift a pawn in anger.  Some said that the schedules could never be worked out, others inferred (less sanguinely), that Staunton was ducking the challenge due to poor health or outright fear of facing the young American.

Despite the non-event of the "battle royal" craved by chess aficionados on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Morphy essentially cleaned the clocks of pretty much all comers European and otherwise during his stay on the continent.  He returned to these shores to a hero's welcome and was presented with a beautifully crafted pocket watch created by the American Watch Company, graced with a dial worthy of a grand master -
Courtesy of RGM
Following his return to the US, Morphy hung up his chess career with the intention of focusing on his nascent law career.  As history will again bear out, circumstances (in the form of the Civil War) intervened, and he was never able to get his practice going from that point on.  

Mr. Morphy died young, even by the standards of the day, at the age of 47.  The belief of the medical examiners that he suffered a stroke brought on from partaking of a cold bath after a walk in the noonday sun.  And apart from the research of chess historians, all that was left was the dial of his lost pocket watch which currently resides in the NAWCC Watch and Clock museum in Columbia, PA

It is the type of story that could be the work of a master story teller were it not true, and it seems fitting that RGM has brought the legend of this curiously brilliant, eccentric and enigmatic chess champion back to life with the Pennsylvania Series Caliber 801 Chess!

Here are the pertinents -

Pennsylvania Series Caliber 801 Chess (PS-801-CH)

American-made RGM Caliber 801, Manual wind 19 jewels
18,000 vph
Rhodium or Gold Plated

Circular Damaskeening
7-tooth winding click
Optional wolf’s tooth winding wheels available 

Power Reserve: 
40 - 44 hours 


American-made, polished stainless steel
Sapphire crystal front and case back

Diameter:  43.3 mm
Height:  12.3 mm
Width between lugs:  22 mm


Grand Feu (Great Fire) white enamel double-sunk Black and red chess piece indices, fired in enamel Subsidiary seconds dial
Blued steel Keystone hands 

Stainless steel with Keystone insignia

Black alligator

USD $13,900 in steel  
*Gold and Platinum by request

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