Fritz Meyer and MST
At 29 years of age, Fritz Meyer (1858-1926) established a workshop in Solothurn to produce cylinder escapements for other etablisseurs. The company grew rapidly, and began assembling complete watches by 1895. These contained components from many other businesses and were sold with other brand names. In 1897, Meyer's workshop produced its first complete movement, named “Calibre 38” for the age of the founder. Meyer was still focused on the inexpensive end of the market but began to branch out after 1900 with the registration of Femina (for ladies) and Moles.
In 1905, Meyer partnered with watchmaker Johann Studeli, forming Meyer and Studeli or MST. The combined company opened a large factory in 1906, still producing inexpensive cylinder movements, but plans for growth were ambitious. The Roamer brand was registered in 1908 but no watches with this brand are known. MST expanded internationally at that time, entering the UK market as Medana Watch Co. under Fritz Meyer's son, Leo. In 1915, Charles Meyer took over management of the firm, a position he held until his death in 1945.
In 1916, MST purchased the firm of Messrs Tièche-Gammeter, makers of high-quality lever escapements and owner of the Vidar brand. This gave them separate entry into a more lucrative market but MST continued as a producer of inexpensive movements as well. In 1917, MST invested in a new factory in the Wiessesteinstrasse in Solothurn that would become the symbol of the company. A year later, MST also began producing its own lever movements, unrelated to the Tièche-Gammeter line.
MST became a Sociètè anonyme (SA) in 1917 with Fritz Meyer as chairman and Johann Studeli, Meyer's sons Charles, Hermann, and Leo, and son-in-law Heinrich Benisch on the board. The company immediately moved into complete branded watches, re-registering the Roamer brand as their premium line alongside Medana for the traditional clyinder and pin lever products. Both brands were brought to the United States and UK in 1920, though the company was forced to delay and scale back their American registration due to the existence of a Roamer Automobile company. Fritz Meyer died in 1926, but the company was firmly established as a family firm and would continue for many decades.
MST was able to bring all production in-house by 1932, becoming a true manufacture. The company registered their distinctive triangular MST logo in 1927 and the modern Roamer logo was registered in the UK in 1938. The entire adopted the Roamer name in 1951, though the in-house movements were still known as “MST”.
The first in-house automatic movement, MST 410/411 appeared around 1950, complete with a patented bi-directional rotor and decoupled manual winding system. The company also produced an alarm watch with calibre MST 417 a few years later. The waterproof Anfbio line appeared in 1955, along with many patented innovations. Roamer also used Felsa movements, particularly for calendar watches, as Roamer's own designs were lagging.
One notable Roamer employee was Bernard Humbert, a noted horologist and Professor of Complications at the Watchmakers School in Bienne/Biel. He was responsible for many innovations in the 1950's and 1960's, culminating with the 44 jewel MST 436 movement in 1962. This movement would become Roamer's masterpiece and signature accomplishment, refined as the MST 470 family later that decade. The Rotopower 44 line was quite successful, as were the more modern Mustang, Stingray and Vanguard lines.
Roamer introduced a quartz watch in 1972 and shifted much of their production there. By 1975 the company had ceased movement production entirely. Roamer was incorporated into ASUAG in 1983 before being purchased by former marketing director Hrr. Leval in 1985. Leval sold control of the company to the Chung Nam Company of Hong Kong in 1994 but continued design and production in Solothurn throughout this time.
In 2009, Roamer was reincorporated as a joint venture between Chung Nam and Swiss Watch Group. Although no longer an independent family firm, Roamer has continued as a producer of Swiss watches for more than 120 years in the same city. Today, Roamer is a less-expensive brand, competing with companies like Rado, Mido, Movado, and Tissot with a line of quartz and ETA-powered mechanical watches. The brand remains popular in emerging markets like China as well as in the UK. Production is in Solothurn and Mendrisio in extreme Southern Switzerland near Italy.