Review: Roamer Mechaline Pro

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My affection for Roamer began as a child. I really envied my father’s Roamer SuperSlender quartz dress watch.

I managed to get my hands on a Turler-branded Roamer from 1948 when I was already collecting watches, and part of my urge for a Roamer was satisfied. But when I got the chance to get the Roamer for myself from the top of the line, I took it.

This led to me becoming a happy owner of a Roamer Mechaline Pro. Or a less-than-happy owner. 

So, how do things look with this watch?

The Brand

Many people overlook Roamer, but it’s a respectable brand with a long tradition.

It has existed continuously since Meyer & Studeli was founded in 1888. Until the 1970s, Roamer used mostly in-house MST calibres that ranged from pin levers to high-grade automatic movements.

The line-up included dress watches, field watches, diving watches, chronographs and it remains an independent brand to this day.

We Walked The Homage Line

In recent years, Roamer has tried to develop a compelling line of mechanical watches. The company’s previous (and still ongoing) venture was into ultra-dressy watches with ceramic components. The Centrix looks uncannily similar to these, but they’re distinct enough from them to be considered originals.

With quartz watches, you’ll find a wide variety of unique styles. No less, the brand’s homage inclinations are easy to spot.

The Rotodate name was revived as a tribute to the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. Its dial mimics the Omega down to the minute track and date window, just with a different design for the minute hand and case.

Sure, it’s not like the kinds of homage you’d find on AliExpress. It’s not like they copied a design entirely and slapped their name on it.

The Searock collection is a lot better. While it borrows from various sources, everything blends together in an appealing way. The Searock Classic has been updated as part of the last two years’ update.

Then there’s the Rockshell Mark III, which only has a WR rating of 100m, so it’s probably a desk diver or some beach bling at best. Oris didn’t do a better job with the 65, but that’s no reason to do the same.

Apparently the previous R100 and Swiss-Matic collections have been replaced by the Rotopower and Mechaline Pro. Apart from the Tudor-esque ROTOR SELF-WINDING inscription, they’re both original designs.

The Roamer Mechaline Pro

The Mechaline Pro was introduced last year as a development of the Swiss-Matic.

The new case is 100m water resistant, which means it’s like the Swiss-Matic on steroids.

Technical Specifications

Material: 316L stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire with ARC (front), sapphire (display back)
Diameter: 41mm
Thickness: 10.5mm
Lug to lug: 47mm
Lug width: 20mm
Water resistance: 100m
Bracelet: solid links and end links, 5-row, cotter pin, butterfly clasp
Movement: STP 1-11 – bidirectional rotor automatic, 26 jewels, 28800 A/h, quickset date, hacking seconds, power reserve 44h (Roamer claims 48h).
Price: 599 CHF (660 USD).

Initial Impressions, Initial Flop

After unpacking the watch, I fell in love with its design and finishing. However, that was the only good thing that happened.

Shaking the watch vigorously got it going. But it started up. 

The snags started after I adjusted the bracelet.

Since the bracelet has no half-links or micro-adjustments, I have to accept it being slightly looser than I’d prefer, otherwise it’s too tight. 

The clasp turned out to be defective. I know some people love the butterfly clasp. Sure, it blends in with the rest of the bracelet, so it’s an elegant solution.

Unfortunately, it’s also impractical. When the watch flies down a little bit too low, and you bend the wrist a bit too much, the biggest fear comes true – the clasp can unlock itself. This one gave me the fits because it took pressure on just one button for one arm to the clasp to get unlocked.

The button worked so delicately that just reaching up for something higher on the shelf activated it. The bracelet unlocked, and the watch flew up to my elbow. I’m just glad it didn’t fly the other way, to the ground. It did so more than 5 times that day, and that’s 5 too many.

Although I could spew more vitriol, it’s pretty easy to figure out exactly how it made me feel. I took the watch off the bracelet, and placed it on a leather strap.

After that, it stopped working.

The movement decided, for whatever reason, that it would only work when the watch was stationary, and any random movement would shut it down. And that was just the day after I got the watch! Quite a few Polish curses came out of my mouth that day.

Absolutely furious, I sent the watch for a warranty repair.

What happened to the movement? I have no idea. According to the service center’s slip, “it didn’t work, and now it works.” Yeah, well, while it’s true, I’d like to have some more information. 

Anyway, the watch ran smoothly after I received it back. It still does, and I hope it’ll stay that way. While the standard practice of not giving specifics should be changed, the authorized service center did a good job – fixing the issue and servicing the movement.

The bracelet was also fixed. Not like it can’t unlock itself at all, it can, but it takes bending the wrist deeply with the clasp right over the joint. However, it’s an inherent flaw of butterfly clasps. I can’t blame Roamer or their ASC for that.

Let’s examine the watch in more detail…

The Dial and Hands

While the hands have some lume, it’s more of a decorative addition to play along with the white print, because so little of it is no good at all.

No need for me to vent my usual frustration at using lumed hands with a non-lume dial. Even if they had lume plots, these little strips would not be very useful in the dark because they are so weak. So, why bother.

That’s true for a lot of watches. The Longines Heritage Flagship, for one.

The white stripes on the hands do improve legibility in daylight when the watch is at an angle that makes the polished hands appear almost black. After all, they do serve a purpose, just not the one you might expect.

The track with minute numerals is a modern touch. Slightly like in the Omega Aqua Terra or the Rolex Datejust 41.

This watch’s ROTOR SELF-WINDING inscription is a clear nod to Tudor, but I would see that as a nod of respect to Tudor rather than a knockoff. This subtle tip of the hat adds to the charm of the dial.

Dial and hands of the Roamer mechaline Pro

The Case

Another job well done. At 41 mm, it has a large case, but the screw-in display back distributes the weight evenly. With a diameter of about 10mm, it’s not a thick watch, and its center of gravity seems low. Overall, the silhouette is noticeable, bordering on bulky. However, it’s also streamlined and sleek where it needs to be, compensating for the dimensions. 

The edges are nicely finished, and the polished lugs contrast nicely with the brushed chamfers. 

The crown is an ordinary push-pull one signed with Roamer’s R logo. No bells and whistles, just does its job. 

With a water resistance of 100 metres, you should be able to take this watch swimming on your vacation. In all honesty, it’s not an ideal holiday beater. However, having a decent water resistance margin can bring some peace of mind. The Mechaline Pro does well in that respect.

Sapphire is used both on the display back and on the front. Earlier models had a mineral crystal, so the sapphire in the back is a welcome upgrade. 

The AR coating on the front crystal has performed admirably. I haven’t encountered any issues with legibility at any angle.

If there’s one thing I dislike about the case of this watch, it’s the white plastic holder around the movement. It’s visible by the edge of the display back, and you can see way too much of it when looking at an angle. Although if you don’t stare at the back that much from different angles, I suppose it’s not much of an issue.

The Bracelet

Earlier I mentioned that this bracelet is a complete cluster…umm…fail.

Bracelet Roamer Mechaline Pro

It doesn’t have any half-links or fine adjustment. I mean, wrist sizes vary, approximately 7mm this way or that way just doesn’t cut it. It’s much too big an increment. The only exception to this is if you are born lucky enough to get a good fit with this one. But it’ll more likely give you the fits than be a good fit.

I have to fry the butterfly clasp some more. There’s really no comfort in this solution.

First of all, it fails to provide the level of security that a bracelet locking mechanism should provide. Apart from factory defects, I’ve seen enough people having trouble with the spontaneous opening of a butterfly clasp to consider it a plague. This flaw can’t be fixed without a totally different clasp design, so a service center can’t fix it.

The clasp presses deeply into the wrist, so you’ll feel its outline for a while after taking the watch off. It’s also not very comfortable to have the clasp dig into your skin.

Last, but by no means the least, there’s an issue with the fit between the end link and the first link. The outermost rows of the first link just want to get under the end link, and there’s no way to unblock them without scratching the end link. They’re already covered in scratches.

It does look better on a bracelet, which is why I plan to keep it that way. Just not on this bracelet. I’m sorry, but the stock bracelet belongs in the bin. Not only do I not love it, I can’t even bring myself to like it. There’s nothing good about it, and I won’t let myself believe otherwise. I might consider buying a generic Jubilee with a civilized clasp that doesn’t frequently scratch the end link.

The Movement

The Swiss Technology Production STP 1-11 model was a commercial success for the Fossil Group subsidiary. ETA 2824 and Sellita SW-200 alternatives are in high demand. The STP 1-11 is, in theory, a 2824 clone that performs better than the 2824 itself. And on paper, it does.

Thinner. Way longer power reserve. As per STP specs, it beats the 2824 by 6 hours of power reserve. As per Roamer’s specs, it does so by a whopping 10 hours. The 48h power reserve claim is, however, questionable. Without extensive modifications, 4 hours over the movement manufacturer’s specifications is unlikely.

There have been many conflicting opinions about the STP 1-11. STP’s modifications to the base 2824 architecture have weakened the keyless works, making them more susceptible to shocks. Hand-winding of the 2824 too frequently can cause wear to the keyless works, and I’m slightly concerned that it could be worse in this movement.

Then there are the defective specimens. Among the 650 STPs a watch dealer claimed to have sold, 10% of them had factory flaws. Although I don’t want to take that as a revealing statistic, nonetheless, it doesn’t sound good.

Its fans claim that its finishing is superior to the SW-200 and 2824 in comparable grades. It’s true, the finish on the STP 1-11s is excellent, and the Roamer is no exception. The Geneva stripes on the rotor are particularly well done. Most of the plates have perlage throughout. If you want a looker beneath the display back, this movement happens to be one.

Movement Roamer Mechaline Pro
The display back with a view of the STP 1-11 movement.

There’s also the issue of accuracy. Most opinions seem to have one thing in common – an overall good performance in that department. Well below +10, even below +5 seconds per day. For me… I haven’t needed to set the watch once in more than a week of wearing it every day. That says something. The accuracy here is excellent.

I find the rotor in this watch quieter than, say, the ETA 2824 in my Edox Les Vauberts, but the noise is also caused by the case and dial. Open-hearts like my Edox amplify the sound, so perhaps the Roamer’s case muffles the rotor noise. However, it could just as well be an incredibly well-working rotor. I certainly am happy with its efficiency and relatively quiet action.

I can’t stomach the fact that my specimen has thrown in the towel after just a day of wearing it. Because I didn’t get any information from the ASC, I can’t tell if that was a factory fault or if the watch was mistreated in storage or transportation. As much as my emotions tell me to sharpen the pitchforks and bring out the torches against STP, logic says I can’t do that.

Of course, that still raises questions about the shock resistance of the 1-11, but since I don’t know what happened there, let alone how it was treated in storage and transport, I can’t fully blame it on STP or Roamer.

All in all…

Once the watch was fixed, I’ve been wearing it a lot. Honestly, the bracelet is the only remaining issue. Whenever I get something to replace it with, I’ll do it immediately. This shouldn’t happen in a watch that costs slightly more than the Tissot Le Locle. 

If you want a dress watch with a bit of vintage flair, a safer bet would be the Tissot Le Locle. With only 30m WR, it certainly falls short of Roamer’s 100m WR rating. However, it’ll make up for that with a superior movement. If you’re looking for something more robust, you’ll have to spend a little more on the Tissot Couturier automatic or the Certina DS-1. Even though they lack the Roamer’s excellent movement finishing, they make up for it by using the ETA Powermatic 80 movement in a case with a 100m water resistance rating, like the Roamer.

Would I recommend the Roamer Mechaline Pro? The specimen reviewed belongs to me, and I wear it often, but… No, I wouldn’t.

I mean, it arrived with a flaw or damage resulting from mistreatment during storage or transport. Then you’d have to play the STP lottery, and to quote Dirty Harry: “Do you feel lucky?”

The watch has a lot of potential, with its classy design and great dial finishing. However, Roamer would have to make some changes in order to compete with the major brands in the same price range.

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