Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Review: Vintage Roamer Anfibio 1970s

"Roamer! I have seen many and I used to have a few. The last time I bought a Roamer watch was in the year 2003. As my Swiss collections developed, the spill-over victims are the Roamers. After sometime, only one fortunate Roamer survived in my collection. A severe damaged junk Anfibio! Don’t ask me why! Left in my spare box, I almost forgot about its movement and signatures. But recently I bought another Anfibio from an avid collector named Irhomdeys. Mistaken by ETA, this ordinary man’s brand is actually powered by an extraordinary movement- the almost forgotten Meyer & Stüdeli!" – thetick-thetick

Roamer of Switzerland
Roamer Watches was founded in 1888 by a master watchmaker named Fritz Meyer in Solthurn town in Switzerland. Headed by Meyer, the company early business is to manufacture cylinder escapements for the local ebouché manufacturers and watchmakers. In 1904, Meyer joined forces with fellow watchmaker Johann Stüdeli and started manufacturing their own movement to power their own Roamer timepieces. Roamer was a reputable Swiss brand before the WWI. In 1952 the company changed its name to Roamer Watches Co. SA. Today, the company still exists as an independent watch-making company. Among the famous signature models produced by the company is the patented watertight watch case called Anfibio. The Anfibio proved to be a commercial success to the company. It was first introduced to the market in 1955. Since its inception, Roamer has produced various Anfibio models until the last series marketed in the late 70s. Today, Anfibio survived as vintage and less likely known by watch traders and collectors of its history and horological differentiation.

My first 2011 vintage purchase. A sea blue basket woven dial Anfibio.

The Roamer In-House Movement
The Roamer has always been mistaken as ETA, A. Schild, or Ronda powered mechanical watches. May be because of these three big names are so dominant in the Swiss watch-making industry during Roamer’s renown era. Also, the brand is well perceived as equivalent to other ETA powered Swiss brands like Tissot, Oris, Titoni, and Camy. Hence, the Roamer Watch Co. stamped on the movement looks very much similar to other ETA, A. Schild, and Ronda powered mechanicals bearing the name of the watchmaker. The Roamer watches are actually powered by in-house movements developed by the owners - Meyer & Stüdeli (short-coded as MST). There are many MST variant used in Roamer watches. Be it manual or automatic, the MST is actually a very profound movement. The most sought-after movement is the MST500 series movement. The movement has been used in the Anfibio, Searock, and other Roamer signature models of the 70s. Continuing the legacy of the MST400 variant, the MST500 movement was introduced in the early 70s. The MST500 series is considered the last in-house mechanical line as the company forward-path is production into quartz in 1972. The MST calibers used in Roamer watches can be identified from the model number on the case back. Giving example from my newly acquired vintage Anfibio, the case back engraved with MOD. 521.1121.013 tells you that the watch is using the MST521 movement. The first 3 digits represent the MST movement variants.

Model number (MOD) indicates the MST movement used in Roamer timepieces.

Anfibio MOD. 521.1121.013
The Roamer Anfibio MOD. 521.1121.013 that I purchased recently is in pristine condition. My first purchase from Irhomdey’s blog! http://irhomdeys.blogspot.com/ Manufactured in two-piece construction; the cushion shaped stainless steel case and the timekeeping module can be disintegrated just by using the snap case opener. Powered by the MST521 caliber, this clean look sea blue basket-woven dial is a great hand-winding timepiece. What is so special about the MST521?

A two-piece construction! The disintegrated timekeeping module is well constructed for easy maintenance and assembly.

The stainless steel case is a brilliant design; precisely measured and fabricated to house the timekeeping module in watertight finish.

MST Caliber 521
The construction looks simple but the movement is somehow better than its mechanical rivals in the 70s. The MST521 in-house movement was manufactured in a complete yet basic feature to meet the demand for more power reserve and quick-set operation. Based on the MST520, the 521 variant is integrated with the calendar module. The original manufacturer movement specification summarized as the following:

Caliber: Meyer & Stüdeli 521 (MST521)
Jewels: 17 jewels
Diameter: 25.6mm
Height: 3.9mm
Frequency: 21,600bph (6bps)
Power Reserve: 56 hours
Shock Device: Incabloc
Operation: Manual Wind, 3 hands, Quickset Date, and Hacking function
Production Year: ca.1974

MST520 base movement. Simple yet upgradeable.

The variants from MST520 DNA:
• MST520: manual
• MST521: manual, date
• MST522: auto, date
• MST523: auto, day, date

Vintage Condition
Definitely it is not fare to compare with the original manufacturing specification for a 30+ year old vintage. The previous owners must have maintained the watch well. Upon receiving the watch, I just make a simple cleaning and polishing on the case and the acrylic crystal. Like the Omega, the original inner crystal is etched with a tiny Roamer logo in the center. The signed Roamer crown retains its originality. Surprisingly, the crown is still steady, not wobbling when operated for winding, quickset date, time setting, and hacking. Hacking! I love watches with hacking function. Easy to synchronize. I wonder how the original strap looks like. The watch lug proposes a stainless steel bracelet but I just strap with this white-stitched black calf leather to rejuvenate the entire look.

Timekeeping Performance
Not bad for a 30+ year old machine. The movement runs non-stop for almost 54 hours after fully hand-winded. Minus 2 hours from its maximum power reserve claimed in the production specification. It is normal for the mainspring to loose its elasticity after many years in operation. I am satisfied! Remain untouched, the uninspected movement is running at almost acceptable performance: +/- 25s per day in static face up position. On the wrist, the result satisfies the 6bps movement: +/- 10s per day. Not bad huh? Anyway, this machine will be overhauled and oiled soon.

A cleaned-polished Anfibio.


Picture from Irhomdey's blog. Noticeably, the hour hand lume was punctured.

“Roamer, a watchmaker brand often perceived and valued by vintage enthusiasts as comparable to Titoni, Enicar, Titus, Tissot, and the like is essentially an in-house powered timepiece. Like other Swiss OEMs, Roamer and the names Meyer and Stüdeli depleted seamlessly with the brand and less likely known by the market. The utmost important of a watch is its movement. Own an MST timepiece is a chance to experience horological differences. Honestly, having one in my Swiss collection is enough for me to preserve the genius work of Meyer and Stüdeli. Anyway, a good purchase. Thanks again Tuan Syed. Penjual vintage Roamer kat mana-mana blog bole la kasi up sikit harga tuuu... rare movement braderrrr.”– thetick-thetick

2 comments:

  1. Personally I just like the fact that there are tiny moving parts in there that are working in conjunction with each other in order to precisely keep time.
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