A Rare Pair

Two 1920s Flieger style watches – both are a little over 40mm in diameter.  The one on the left a Tiega (sub-brand of MST) and the one on the right the newly arrival Roamer, which is incidentally slightly larger by 1 or so mm.

For an idea of the size of these here it is compared to a 3/0 Waltham in a Depoilier silver case.

The Roamer has a 6 jewel MST264, here it the watch just after servicing the movement, and before applying the lume to the dial and hands.

Roamer Trench Watch Love

It is a challenge to find dated Roamer Trench watches, below is a timeline of the watches in my collection, starting with a 1917 Black Dial MST157 in a hallmarked silver case on the left, and on the right the last MST 175 models from the late 1920s. The dates given indicate the UK hallmarked cases which can be dated exactly, the remaining watches are placed in a continuum between these in approximate (read guessed) date order, based on dial, font, movement finish etc.

The top two watches in the 1918 column are calibre MST157, the bottom two MST175 – after this all production was MST175. 8 Watches are Sterling Silver, 6 of which are UK hallmarked, one is Gold filled, and the remaining 3 are in Nickel cases.

While I have seen one or two ‘Roamer’ trench watches dated earlier than my 1917 example (one was 1913) I believe these are recessed – for various reasons including case screw marks and the essential point that the merger with Tieche-Gammeter appears to coincide with the use of the Roamer name and the use of lever watch movements.  This is not true for Medana incidentally.  For these reasons, unless we uncover some new and compelling evidence, I would look suspiciously at any Roamer trench watch dated to before 1917.

The Stingray

In 1966 Roamer revamped its range into, Anfibios, Stringrays, and Mustangs.

In general, the previous patent waterproof cased manual watches became the newly designed Anfibio range, while the waterproof automatic MST436 powered Rotopower range became the basis for the new and iconic Roamer Stingray range. Stingrays were usually automatics – using the new 44 and 28 jewel automatic MST471 movement. There were of course always exceptions with some early manual versions using the MST430 calibre. Later Stingrays also featured manual wind Chronographs, while there was a small number of anfibioMATICs, later Mustangs also had electric and electronic movements.

However, this article is on the Stringray, so rather than explore the entire post 1966 range, let us concentrate on the Stringray.

In 1966/67 the Stingray range started with bezel styles 600, 601 and 602 – within these cases there were a number of dial options. All three were waterproof dress watches, examples:

600:

601:

602:

At this time there was also a prototype Stingray S a 200m Diver, announced in 1966, but seemingly not available until late 1967. The 1966 prototype as shown in the initial advertising (from the 1966 Basel expo) has a number of small detail differences from production versions – most significantly, crown at 2 rather than 4. The large crown at 3 rotates the internal timing bezel.

I believe this is the earliest production model brochure, showing clearly the first dial design, and only minor differences from the prototype above:

In September 1967 the Roamer Stingray S was awarded a Design Gold Medal at the Leipzig trade fair:

The very first production model (This salesman’s sample is marked 1968 on the back) is generally the same as the prototype, including baton hands – but with the crown at 4 like all other production versions:

1967/68 Model Stingray S – gloss crosshair dial, matching bezel ring and plain baton hands.

…Reassemble watch and insert photo here…

1968/69 Model Stingray S – the major difference being the hands.

The Stingray S was a significant success, and the range expanded in 1969 to include the first Stingray Chrono powered by the Valjoux 72. This watch also used the patent Roamer waterproof case design.

Deletions: Dress style Stingray 602 deleted.

The 1969/70 Model Stingray S – changed to utilise the 28 Jewel version of the MST 471 automatic movement, a matt crosshair dial and new hands. The internal bezel dot changed from a triangle to a dot. This watch was the last appearance of the “rotodate” marking on the dial.

The 1970/71 Model Stingray S – saw a major case update, now style 605, with the case given an asymmetric crown guard and a new dial design with tritium lume, new markers and deletion of the crosshairs. In addition, the strap size was changed from 18mm in the earlier 602 models to 20mm in the later 605 models – the new strap featured with a brick pattern and signed Roamer. This year the internal bezel numbers became orange.

The 1970/71 Model Stingray Chrono received only a minor update with the sub dial hands getting the ‘candy stripe’ treatment.

The major Stingray news of 1970 was the introduction of two new Stingray Chrono models – the enormous Chrono-Diver (CD) and the Jet-Time (JT), both powered by the Valjoux 23 movement. The only real difference between the two watches was the outer bezel, the JT featuring a 12/24hr markings. Note the brick linked bracelet.

Deletions: Dress style Stingray 600 deleted.

The 1971/72 production year saw minor and major changes all around. The Stingray S reverted to white bezel numbers and a new Rockshell strap was factory fitted. The Stingray Chrono Valjoux 72 was unchanged while the Chono Diver now used a new movement, the Valjoux 7733 or 7734 depending on date option while Jet Time only came with date and therefore a Valjoux 7734. These were referred to as MOD 733 and 734 respectively.  Here is my 7734 powered w/date Chrono Diver model, shown on the correct bracelet:

The 1972/73 no changes to the S Stingray Chrono or the Stingray Chrono Diver. However a new model of Stingray S was introduced alongside the original model, with an external bezel rather than internal:

Deletions: The last dress style Stingray 601 and the Stingray Jet-Time deleted.

1973/1974 The only Stingray model remaining in the 1973/4 model year was the Stingray Chrono Valjoux 72 (726) which was discontined in 1974 when production of the Valjoux calibre ceased. The final 1973 models featured non tritium lume and white subdials.

Deletions: Stingray Chrono Diver, Pasadena, S and the new S deleted.

From 1975 the Stingray name was no longer used, being replaced in the sporting/dive by the Rockshell models, which had started in 1971/72. The Stingray name was next seen in 2012 as a product of the current Roamer company.

1972-3 Roamer Chrono-Diver

I’ve been waiting for one of these to come along for about 5 years at the right condition/price point. It is powered by a Valjoux 7734, early ones without a date have the Valjoux 23, slightly later a 7733.

Roamer Chrono-Diver – MOD: 734.9120.900

Just a few quick snaps:

Crown guards – crisp and sharp (these are often worn and dented – I doubt this watch saw much wrist time).  For such a chunky watch it has a very slim profile and feels just right on the wrist.

Strap was temporary – you can see the proper factory bracelet in the previous photo. Image from the 1972-73 range catalogue

When it arrived the crystal was very scratched – but as nothing else is damaged/worn I wonder if it had been stored in a drawer face down…

The Original Competence.

I am not messing about here – this is rare, not ebay rare, but actually rare.

This watch was thought to exist only as a prototype, and is the design that was used to launch the entire modern Roamer Luxury Competence line. The modern competence design was based on drawings and an empty case found in the Roamer archive.

Beautiful machined dial.

I apologize for the dust, it is on the crystal – not under.

1950s style lugs.

Case is 20 micron yellow gold plated.

MST 373, 8 3/4”’ launched in or around 1944/45 – this one would be about 1955 due to use of kif-duofix on escape cap jewel, yet still no shock protection on the balance (this is originally a ladies movement used in a man’s watch). Its not a sport watch, so it probably isn’t needed anyway.

I feel incredibly privileged to own this. I doubt I will see another, especially in this condition.

Military Roamers

It makes sense to start this post with the most famous (or well known) of military Roamers are those produced for the Rhodesian (Zimbabwe) bush war (July 1964 and December 1979) – which were a hacking MST520 manual wind movement. These were sourced via South Africa due to the Rhodesian trade embargo, and are alternatively marked, RA (Rhodesia), ZA and Z (Zud Afrika), and the watches must have been sourced between 1973 when the MST520 movement was introduced and 1976 when production ended.

You will note this example (mine) is marked ZA4063 and also SFA200.

The SFA could be the Security Force Auxiliaries that was created in 1978, well after production of the watches ceased. I would guess the watch was reissued to the SFA on its formation, unless the abbreviation turns out to mean something else.

Moving on from the well known, let us head back to WWII and look at Roamer’s involvement. Firstly Roamer watches were available to Allied military personal in the PX – they produced shock resistant and waterproof watches that were ideal for private purchase. The following advert run in Life Magazine 1954 – clearly states the purchase of the writer’s roamer watch from the N.A.A.F.I (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) in Italy – unfortunately there is no mention of the model.

Roamer – like many other watch companies was keen to produce watches for military issue as well. Although clearly available in Allied PX stores, it is certain that Roamer never supplied the British Military even though they had had a strong British presence establishing Medana Watch UK Limited in the 1920s. So what about the Axis forces – a number of lists of DH watch suppliers mention Roamer, but do not include any examples. The following watches are from my collection:

The three (non Rhodesian) Roamer watches are D. marked, fitted with an MST364 movement launched around 1940 and fitted with shock protection. The cases fitted to the D. 6852 and D. 7719 were patented in 1940 and are marked with their D. numbers using the same templates, and are identical in all other respects. The case is fully waterproof, and somewhat unconventional for military specifications of the time – and certainly exceed the watertightness of the conventional waterproof cases usually specified. I understand the the specifications for the Luftwaffe (D. marking) were somewhat looser than the Wehrmacht. Roamer was always a little different, a very independent watch manufacturer. The style of the lugs reflects the Bauhaus geometric elements of the late 1930s.

The last watch D. 8347 is in a more conventional waterproof case, that more closely matches the other other DH watches of the time. Otherwise it features the same dial (albeit slightly smaller), hands and movement as the previous 2 watches. It is no surprise that the change to the case style was made, as the patent case was very expensive to produce. I think it is worth stressing that this watch is marked with exactly the same and very distinctive ‘8’ as D. 6852.

There is another identical watch to D. 8347 owned by a member of the uhrforum.de with the number D. 12234.

The dials on all three of mine are original – being copper plated then overprinted with a negative of the dial – standard for Roamer of the late 1930s period and very durable. The hour and minute hands on D. 7719 may have been replaced – but they are otherwise sympathetic – so it is difficult to be certain, especially as they are correctly copper/rose gold coloured.

The movement is common to all three, being identical in every respect, from bridge marking to the patent numbers on the shock-resist cap jewel retainers. They are clearly from the same production run, as in general Roamer movements vary considerably over time, with respect to market, markings and finishing. This movement is finished with the characteristics of prewar production – postwar production featured plain finishing without geneva striping and usually 17 jewels, this is certainly true from 1944 onwards, and potentially true a few years earlier – subject to additional data. The Roamer chairman at the time was strongly anti-communist and therefore, at least in the early days in favor of the regime, while interestingly his brother-in-law and fellow director on the board was strongly anti-nazi. They must have had some heated discussions, and perhaps explains to some extent why the watches seem to be produced only in the early war period.

Here is a final group shot.

Unfortunately there are no Roamer archives remaining for this period, and therefore nothing can be confirmed absolutely.

Even earlier, Roamer produced what appears to be a 1920s/30s Flieger – of which there are several examples around powered by MST264 movements. While they appear to be classically styled Fliegers, I doubt they were anything other than fashion ‘lookalikes’ as the bezel does not rotate and cannot therefore utilize a pointer which of course was the Raison d’être for the watches. The following photos show my Tiega version (made by Roamer) – which is identical in every way to the more commonly seen Roamer, except for the Tiega dial and MST manufactured Tiega movement.





Now what about post war? Feeling like a bit of trivia? Bring on 1949, and…

Roamer presented a Roamer watch to Monty. If you are interested, the full translation is:

Our Director Leo Meyer and his wife had the pleasure and the honour of meeting Fieldmarshal Montgomery in Muerren during February. They learnt that this outstanding military leader was a modest, most likeable and very wise man. And as we can see over the page Monty’s welcome was a relaxed affair, just watch the children and their teacher, who were performing a welcome song, which shows the great regard for the British Fieldmarshal.

In a simple personal handwritten note Monty thanked Roamer for the lovely watch, which he felt will bring him joy every day.

We wish him all the best.

In the 1950s Roamer made a lot of effort to promote its patent waterproof case, and shock proof durable sports watches. These were featured ongoing advertising campaigns, and while perhaps not officially issued military watches – were clearly used and promoted in these roles. Here are some of these adds, presented here for fun!

The following Swiss Captain and Bicycle racer won his Roamer in 1939 in a Military Bike race.

The following British Tank commander used his Roamer since 1945.

The following British Major bought his in Cairo in 1942.

This Roamer survived 17 days stuck in the conning tower of a British Submarine.

As used by British Test pilots.

Used by the 1959 winner of the British Lockheed Trophy (acrobatics), Major Liardon (Swiss)

Early Rectangular Calibres

Rectangular watches really started off with the Gruen Quadron in about 1925, these being the first watches with a rectangular movement.

This was a move away from the earlier square or cut corner watches, that usually housed a smaller round (and usually ladies calibre), to a purpose built rectangular movement that retained the larger style men’s components and therefore accuracy (the size of the balance is important).

These rectangular watches were a huge success from about 1927 – and were copied by many other companies most of whom rushed to produce comparable rectangular movements, although some continued to use round movements in the meantime – leading to the stepped cases as an attempt to hide the unfashionable round movement. The following bulova is a classic example, note the size of the movement peeping out from under the dial.

Roamer, was fairly quick to produce their own in-house rectangular movements, with the first rectangular ladies Roamer calibre introduced in the 1920s, the MST 237 and 270. The first men’s rectangular calibre was introduced shortly after – probably around 1930 or 1931, the MST 302 – and appears in the 1933 materials catalogue.

Here is an early example, with the early logo – the Standard nomenclature was adopted sometime before 1933 as it appears in the 1933 catalogue.

Period side engravings, late 1920s, early 1930s.

Dial detail, appears all original on close examination – it is a commonly held myth that the notch at 3 always indicates a redial – this was used by Roamer (and others) in the manufacturing process for location between stamping and printing.

The case has a clear service mark of 1933 – if one assumes a reasonable 2 years to first service, it would place the watch at 1931, a fair estimate is of course 1931-33.

The watch needs substantial cosmetic work (not the dial) and movement work including a new balance staff. While it will eventually appear in the main collection, I thought it interesting enough to publish in the blog now due to the dearth of provably early 1930s Roamer watches.

1945 Roamer Shock Resist

I have recently finished up servicing this nice example of a 1944-46 Roamer Shock Resist in the patent waterproof case. The watch is a respectable 33mm and the movement is an MST 372.

I’ll leave the photos to tell their own story.

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New Arrival, Roamer Alarm

This one is a beauty – and the chrome ones are usually in the worst condition.

MST 427 movement, you can tell as the 417 has an additional hole on the barrel bridge.

Happy, because I now have them in all three finishes, Gold fill, Rose Gold fill and Chrome. I have no idea why the went with chrome on the cases as these were expensive watches when new – and Roamer were certainly making stainless steel cases by this time.

Seems I didn’t post my MKII and MKIII Rockshells…

…on the main site. Outrageous!

The Rockshell MKII

Launched in August 1971, with an MST 482 (modified ETA 2630) as the fully in-house MST522 calibre was not yet in production, and the existing MST471 was not available with a Day-Date function. Shown below is the red dial version of this watch.

This was was probably the desk-diver version of the range, as we will see later the MKIII is much more a true diver’s watch. None-the-less, this watch features a compressor case 100% waterproof up to 200 m., a sloping easy-read housing in high grade saltwater resistant stainless steel with hardened anti-reflective mineral crystal with tritium to the hands and markers.

Here are some more photos (the schmutz is gooey gasket)

Note the plain bracelet clasp

Wristies

The white stuff on the dial is some of the white lines from the crystal, it will brush off when I service the watch. I am really happy with the condition of this one, as often the inner bezel is quite degraded. Win

Next up – the Rockshell MKIII, Electronic

This one is near mint – I would almost suggest NOS, as there is not a trace of wear on the strap (the links are tight as new) or case – however it didn’t come with box or papers.

Also launched in August 1971, with an MST 916 (ESA 9154 Dynatron) – this was a true diver’s watch, featuring 100% waterproof up to 200 m., sloping housing in saltwater resistant stainless steel, with a hardened anti-reflective mineral crystal, dial with raised hour markers and hands in tritium, a large adjustable graduated internal bezel for dive times…

…and the heavier duty strap included an additional clip to expand the bracelet when wearing a wetsuit, plus a clasp lock and the clasp itself is increased in size from 17mm to 20mm.

Wrist shot

Compressor case construction

Fathom Dive Magazine Advert

Wearing it

So, what’s it like to wear. Heavy. Very heavy. But, wrist presence plus. And, that sloping angle, on a watch this thick is great, it makes it much more comfortable to wear. Love it.

Size: 46mm without crown(s) and 160 grams (incl. bracelet).

Update: My Roamer Diver Collection

Also, a little update on my Roamer Diver collection, all on the correct factory straps:

Left to right, early, mid and late Stingray S, Stingray Chrono (Valjoux 72) and the two Rockshells in this post.

Actually there is one more to post, a Seth-Thomas branded version of the Pasadena Valjoux 7734 powered chronograph.