Collectors Corner: a Spotlight on Roamer Watches

 In Collecting Watches

This is a guest post by Martin Lee.

Until about three years ago, I’d little interest in watches – either modern or vintage. Then one day, I managed to break the mineral glass crystal on my cheap Pulsar and decided to browse the web for an affordable replacement.

At the time, I  was on a vintage razor collecting spree.

eBay seemed the go-to site for old watches, and despite my lack of knowledge at that point, I pulled the trigger and won a nice enough Tissot Seastar from the 1960s. I’d heard of the brand and was aware they had a long history. Other than that, I hadn’t a clue.

The watch arrived (from India !), and even my novice eye could detect a less than brilliant re-dial. The watch had the correct Tissot movement, though, and worked well enough.

I liked the idea of having a few different watches, so I decided I’d need to do a bit more research to find future buys at a reasonable price as well as being authentic. Hopefully, with a historical pedigree as well.

That is when I discovered Roamer watches.

A Brief History of Roamer

Roamer was originally one of many brands produced by Meyer & Studeli (MST), who gradually grew from being a small supplier of parts/movements to other companies before creating their range of cheaper cylinder movement watches for the mass market.

As they grew, they invested more in developing/producing their complete watches. They also bought up a company named L. Tieche-Gammeter in around 1916, which produced good quality lever escapement calibers.

Roamer dresswatch

Roamer dress watch with an MST 372 movement and a special chapter ring

By the late 1920s, MST had a large new factory and was able to produce almost all the components they required, including dials and even screws, to become a manufacture.

During the ’20s and ’30s, watches were still produced under many brand names of both  L.T.G. and M.S.T., but it was the Roamer brand that seemed to gain a reputation as it used good quality jeweled lever in-house calibres.

The Roamer brand was eventually adopted as the new company name in the early 1950s.

One of the reasons the brand attracted me was the breadth of styles of watches they produced. Very similar to the likes of bigger, slightly more expensive brands like Tissot, for example.

Many early (’20s-’40s) Roamers suffered from relatively cheaply made cases. Usually, these cases were made of chrome-plated brass, which has suffered from corrosion and wear. You may have to hold out for one in decent condition.

The movements, by contrast, seemed remarkably robust and accurate for the time.

Some parts are still available new from suppliers, and there are plenty of cheap potential donor movements around if you’re collecting on a budget.

However, from around the mid-1940s stainless steel cases are still affordable. Often in the “Waterproof” case design that Roamer used and improved over a near 30 year period.

Roamer dress watch

Roamer dress watch with an MST 372 movement

There are a few examples of military watches issued to German forces during WWII.

The “Anfibio” range was a successful line for Roamer ich was introduced in the 1950s.

By that time, the company had also produced two automatic movement calibers as well as a calendar pointer watch and their alarm calibre watch, introduced not long after the famous Vulcain Cricket Alarm.

A small number of both chronometers and chronographs were also produced. The chronographs using non-Roamer movements, (I have one with a Valjoux 22 calibre).

By the end of the 1950s, Roamer was almost ready with their new line up of even higher quality and often slimmer movements.

The most notable of these was the 44 jewels automatic  MST 436/437  (no date/date ), which was introduced around 1962 and then revised around 1966 as the MST 470/471.

The later version was used in many of the Roamer upper model ranges, such as the Stingrays, Mustangs, and Rockshells.

The Stingray dive chronographs are currently fetching reasonable prices due to both the fashion for dive and larger size watches as well as the fact that they used Valjoux calibres.

Roamer Searock

Roamer Searock with an MST 521

In the late 1960s, the company was still looking ahead. It produced some very modern-looking watches for the time with both electronic/conventional balance movements and one of the early affordable Swiss quartz movements.

In the mid-1970s, the original company finally stopped production of mechanical movements and after a few changes in ownership, is still in existence and operating close to their previous base in Solothurn.

Whatever your budget or preferred watch era or style, I think you may well find a watch from this still slightly “under the radar” brand that appeals.

Martin Lee is a relative newcomer to vintage watches who enjoys the history, style, and workmanship. He’s gradually trying to learn more about the technical side of watch movements.

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Showing 15 comments
  • Avatar
    BRIAN ALDER
    Reply

    Hello,i have a watch 1940/50s brass g/plated case. really nice watch keeping great tome On the lovely dial it is signed ROMEOR and also on the case back. wonder if you can throw some light on this very similar name of Roamer.Many thanks and kindest regards Brian

    • Melvin Hollenberg
      Melvin Hollenberg
      Reply

      Hi, it’s not in Mikrolisk and I’ve never heard of it. Sorry, but I can’t help you.

  • Avatar
    Mika
    Reply

    I have 70’s Roamer Searock Automatic MOD 471.2210.328 Gold with golden bracelet and blue face and date. I have been looking for information about it, but I haven’t found similar watch anywhere. Could You help? Thanks in advance 🙂

  • Avatar
    MORRIS
    Reply

    Hello there
    I have a wristwatch for a 18 karat gold mechanical man in a completely new condition.
    I can send pictures of the watch.
    I would like to know what his valuation is.
    Thanks.
    Morris

    • Melvin Hollenberg
      Melvin Hollenberg
      Reply

      Hi Morris. I’m sorry, but we don’t appraise watches. The best option would be to search eBay for similar sold watches.

      • Avatar
        Rob
        Reply

        I have a Roamer stingray marked 14k on the reverse is it actually gold ? , what year is it roughly no 0585 USA on its metal strap any information would be good

        • Melvin Hollenberg
          Melvin Hollenberg
          Reply

          Hi, that’s impossible to say without pictures of the reference number and pictures of the movement.

  • Avatar
    Sarah Robinson
    Reply

    Hi, I recently had a old Roamer Watch passed down to me, and was wondering if you could tell me any information about it please as I’m unable to find any information about the watch online. I’m also able to send a photo. thanks 😊

  • Avatar
    Albert Stroumza
    Reply

    I have an old roamer watch received from my father…. Can send a picture ….?

  • Avatar
    Argya Trijono
    Reply

    Hi Melvin, I have recently got Roamer watch with retangular shape seem I couldn’t find any information about it. May be you can help me, I can send a picture for detail. Thanks in advance. Have a nice day.

  • Avatar
    Cheryl Lesley
    Reply

    I was looking for a antique Triangle/Roamer Watch with a square watch face and the winder is on the front right side of watch/lighter, Pat.Sept. 4 1928 .I was trying to find out something about the one I got. Can’t seem to find one that looks anything like mine.

    • Melvin Hollenberg
      Melvin Hollenberg
      Reply

      Hi, sorry but it doesn’t sound like anything I’m familiar with.

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