by C. Bradley Jacobs
Originally published in International Watch Magazine, April 2005
Recently, a trend has emerged in which long-established watch companies are expressing pride in their heritage through re-issues of classic pieces from the past. Roamer Watch Company, in a move that reflects a history of following their own path, has chosen to issue a watch they might have made, but never did until circumstances made such a move irresistible. At the 2004 Basel Fair, Roamer introduced the Compétence MST, a limited-edition watch that combines a new old stock vintage movement with an inspired nostalgic design.
Roamer is a Swiss company whose presence in the US has not previously matched its reputation in Europe and Asia where its long history is more familiar to watch aficionados. Founded in 1888 by Fritz Meyer, the Solothurn-based company began manufacturing watch escapements before expanding into the assembly of complete watches. In 1905 the firm became a movement manufacture under the name Meyer & Studeli. Having begun to create their own movements (marked MST), Meyer & Studeli grew steadily, eventually taking on the manufacture of cases and dials and employing more than 1200 individuals. In 1952, having become a fully integrated manufacture, the name Roamer Watch Co. SA was adopted and has been in use to this day. Through a transformation of its image--a combination of attracting new markets while delving into its prestigious past of mechanical watchmaking--the brand is experiencing a revival and its new focus promises to guide the firm into the up-market position it seeks. Integral to this aim is Roamer’s insistence upon assembling their watches entirely in their own workshops. Their focus on quality and individuality is clear.
Leading the way, Roamer’s new Compétence MST watch series employs a recently-discovered cache of unused examples of MST Caliber 468 (see technical specifications below), a hand-wound movement manufactured in the 1950s. Found hidden in the Roamer archives, this well-preserved supply of 19-jewel movements will only be used in the new limited edition watch. Caliber 468 will not be reproduced because the original technical drawings and tools no longer exist.
Additionally, because the competence line’s pierced case designs are based upon a vintage prototype only recently refined for production, the new Compétence MST timepiece is truly a time capsule representing the high points of Roamer Watch Company’s competent creative history.
The Compétence MST houses Caliber 468 in a rectangular case that is at once an expression of post-WWII retro-modern elegance and an interpretation of the Roamer company’s present individuality. The frontiers of the dial connect to the case by way of numerals and indices, creating a skeletonized effect where the dial (or movement, depending upon one’s point of view) almost floats within the case. Though the movement is diminutive (6 ¾ lignes) the polished stainless steel case measures a healthy 34 millimeters across; large dimensions for a square watch. Sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating protect both sides of the watch and give a clear view of the decorated movement with its blue screws and côtes de Genève. Other modern touches include a caseback secured by four screws, an exclusive decorated crown and a 316L stainless steel folding clasp for the leather straps. Dial variations include black, blue, silver and anthracite. Despite the impressive array of features and the inherent exclusivity of the Compétence MST, pre-tax MSRP is a mere 1450 Swiss Francs (~$1170).
Roamer’s Compétence MST is the new flagship of the Compétence product line, which includes several nicely decorated display-back timepieces such as the Original, “La Grande,” and automatic Skeleton models. Roamer’s attention to its past has also found expression in the classic 1960s “Stingray” nameplate and the “Golden Days” line which recalls the “golden age” of the Roamer line: the 1950s. The remainder of Roamer’s output includes decidedly modern influences from slim dress to modern sport, from bold chronographs to elegant women’s watches. More than 100 years of existence and more than 65 years of movement manufacturing give Roamer a pedigree that few of today’s Swiss “watchmakers” can match. Though not yet fully poised to invade the North American market, Roamer’s plans for expansion certainly include the United States, which is seen as having huge potential for a firm offering traditional Swiss watches with such impressive price-to-quality ratios. American watch enthusiasts are invited to keep an eye on this storied Swiss firm and bid them renewed welcome.
Manufactured by Roamer in Solothurn, Switzerland, ca. 1950s
6 ¾ '''; diam. 15.5mm
19 Jewels with Incabloc anti-shock system and
Girocap escape-wheel jewel anti-shock system
21,600 V/h with Power reserve of approx. 35 hours
Hand-wound with Hours & minutes indication
Blue tapered screws & Côtes de Genève
Roamer Watch Company Website
Text and images: ©2008 C. Bradley Jacobs and WatchCarefully.com, unless otherwise credited