1916-1926: Expansion, Growth and the Passing of a Legacy

The biggest news of 1916 was the purchase of the widely respected Messrs Tièche-Gammeter, who were makers of high quality lever escapements - with medals awarded at various international expositions. MST continued to make Tièche-Gammeter calibres under the brand Tièga until the later 1930s. The Tièga calibres were produced as a seperate range alongside the Roamer lever and Medana cylinder calibres, and are a fundamentally different design philosophy with the motion works driven via the barrel rather than directly from the centre wheel as in the Roamer designs and most others. The acquisition of Tièche-Gammeter also included the Vidar brand.
I had originally believed that Tièche-Gammeter was bought as the means by which MST became a manufacturer of lever movements, however due to the different design pinciples - showing no relationship to any Roamer calibres or calibre families - this idea now seems unlikely. At around the same time MST also constructed the factory in the Wiessesteinstrasse in Solothurn - and this is perhaps an alternative explanation as to when Roamer lever movements began production - the oldest known Roamer lever movement dates from 1918 which would corresponded with the new factory. It is this factory that became the iconic Roamer/MST works, and featured on much of their advertising and publications right through until the end of the 1960s.
In 1917 MST became a Sociètè anonyme (SA) or in English, a limited liability company. The new company was chaired by Fritz Meyer, and the board of directors was at this time composed of: Johann Studeli, and Meyer's sons Leo, Charles, Hermann Meyer and son-in-law Heinrich Benisch. In 1918 the company made a move to differentiate their brands and product ranges. The Roamer brand was reregistered in Switzerland and became the premium name applied to MSTs high quality jeweled swiss-lever movements while Medana became the name used for the traditional clyinder, and then later, their pin lever movements In 1919 Fritz's youngest son Ernst joined the board of directors.
1920 saw the first attempt at entering the United States, with applications for both Roamer and Medana brands as trademarks in the USA and Roamer in the UK in late 1920.
The Roamer trademark was issued in 1921 in the UK, while a conflict with the makers of the Roamer Automobile in the United States delayed registration until 1922. The conflict was amicably resolved when MST reduced the scope of their trademark claim to exclude automotive items.
MST had obviously long been intending to incorporate case manufacture into the company for some time, with the case screw patents and later in 1922 a patent for a gold coloured alloy for use in cases. Case manufacture and polishing finally started in 1923. In compliance with Swiss governmental policy of dispersing industry, MST was operating a total of six branch factories with assembly and finishing departments in remote and non industrial area of the country.
In 1924 MST saw their highest daily production record of 5000 watches, a figure that they never again surpassed - even in the watch hungry post WWII period, due in part to the higher quality movements they were beginning to produce (which of course are more labour intensive), but also due to the Great Depression beginning in 1929.
1926 saw the death of Fritz Meyer, the founder and chairman of the company and marked the end of the companies first era.
Left: Fritz Meyer Memorial (1859-1926), founder. The memorial bust was dontated by the workers at MST and situated in the lobby of the MST Head office in Solothurn; this photograph was kindly provided by the Roamer Watch Company).
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All text and images are either © Kris Bubendorfer 2011-23 or © Roamer Watch Company.