1888-1894: Genisis of a Watch Company

The origins of the Roamer Watch Company hark back to 1888, when the first enterprise in what would later become MST, and ultimately Roamer, was established by the then 29 year old by Fritz Meyer. The Meyer workshop produced a single product - a cylinder escapement for sale to etablisseurs or assemblers.
In its earliest days the company had 6 employees and fitted in very much with the traditional Swiss cottage industry, whereby small independant workshops would each supply a single, or small range of specialised product(s) that would then be assembled into an entire watch by an etablisseur. It was this environment into which the company was born, and the later changes within the company to a large degree mirrored the changes in the Swiss watchmaking industry as it grew from a cottage industry into a modern industrialised manufacturing base - that is, mergers, aquisitions, modern integrated factories, and a continual move upwards in terms of quality.
Right: Fritz Meyer (1859-1926), founder and later partner in (with Johann Studeli) Meyer and Studeli; this photograph was kindly provided by the Roamer Watch Company).

1895-1904: Fritz Meyer, the Ètablisseur

After only 7 years Meyer's company had enjoyed considerable success and was in a position to become an ètablisseur in its own right. Therefore in 1895 they began building complete watches - using ebauches, components, cases and dials made by other firms. A reversal of their earlier position in the manufacture of watches. As no brand seems to have been trademarked, it is likely that all production at this point was for other brands.
By 1897 Meyer could boast 60 employees and a major milestone in his ambition to become an integrated watch manufacturer - his first calibre, number 38 - named in honor of his 38th birthday. The calibre still used components from external suppliers, such as gears, but it is likely the plates and many other components were of Meyer manufacture. The movement iself was almost certainly a budget clyinder movement, as the company in these early days, was concentrating on producing large numbers of profitable lower quality movements. It was however, yet another step towards becoming an integrated manufacture, a long held personal ambition of Fritz Meyer.
The next step was the production of watches under Meyer's own brands. In 1900 the brand 'Femina' was registered for use in the profitable watch market for ladies - far more subject to fashion and the need for more frequent replacement than mens watches. Later in 1903 the 'Moles' brand was trademarked, and while I have never seen an example of a Moles branded watch, I presume it was intended for entry into the mens watch market.

1905-1915: Meyer and Studeli (MST) and Roamer

This decade was a time of massive expansion and success for the the company. 1905 heralded the most significant turning point for the fledgling company - when Meyer entered into a partnership with the watchmaker Johann Studeli forming the firm Meyer and Studeli. The new company continued to grow and in 1906 had 120 employees and opened a bright and spacious new factory. The new factory could accomodate 300 workers - more than twice the current size of the company.
The products at this time concentrated on cheap cylinder movements for mens and ladies watches. There are some claims made in modern histories of the company an example that MST began making lever escapements as early as 1906. However this date appears to be incorrect, as in horological periodicals of the time (i.e. La Fèdèration Horlogèrie - Suisse) advertising in 1908-1910 lists only cylinder and not ancre production, also the employee figures in the linked document (quoted as many as 400) are well in excess of the numbers (120) reported at this time by Flury in his treatise on the state of industry in Solothurn. Both of these claims therefore need to be disregarded in the face of contrary independant evidence.
The big news of 1908 was the registration of the Roamer brand in Switzerland, reg 23699. There has been considerable debate in other articles about when the Roamer name first came about, with dates ranging from as early as 1905 through to 1924. I have copies of letters signed by both F. Meyer and J. Studeli, dated 1920, giving the details of the Swiss registrations and in addition both make the statement that 'Roamer' had been in use by their company from that date. These letters provide unequivocal evidence and lay this question to rest. The Roamer brand was registered again in 1917, although no Roamer branded watches from the period 1908-1917 have yet come to light.
In 1909 MST began their foray into international markets - with the setting up of the UK branch (The Medana Watch Co.) by Fritz's son Leo Meyer. The UK was a significant stepping stone for MST and would remain one of their most important markets until the 1970s. After the setting up of the branch, management passed to another son, Charles Meyer in 1915 - a position he would continue to hold until his death in 1945. MST was truly a family enterprise. 1915 also saw the granting of MST's first registered patent - the first of several pertaining to concealed movement mounting screws.
Next: 1916-1926

All text and images are either © Kris Bubendorfer 2011-15 or © Roamer Watch Company.