When I was researching the post for the Satisfaction pocket watch in my collection, I came across this information about Meyer and Studeli. It is not a name that I was looking to add to my collection as their early focus was on low-quality cylinder watches. However, I thought it was a waste of research not to post this article.
In 1882, in the village of Lengnau, Switzerland, Fritz Meyers (1859-1926) opened a small watchmaking workshop with around ten employees. The business was not successful and Meyers was forced to abandon the venture. To earn a living Meyer took a job at the Uhrenfabrik Langendorf SA (later to be the Langendorf Watch Company). The factory produced a range of ebauches for other watchmakers. The company was run by Karl Kottman, the founder’s son, who took over the factory in 1880. At the time the company was nearing economic collapse because the workforce, consisting of around 80 employees, suffered from rampant alcoholism and absenteeism.
Under Kottman’s leadership, the factory began organizing housing and training of its workers, and it gained a reputation for being socially responsible. It built schools, a hydrant system and financed the installation of electric lights in Langendorf. By 1881, Kottman had turned things around and had expanded the business to over 200 employees and would go on to manufacture complete watches in-house.
Meyers’ exposure to Kottman’s business style taught him valuable lessons on how to run a successful business. Meyers was inspired to try again and opened a new workshop in 1888 with 6 employees in Solothurn, Switzerland. He focussed on the budget side of the market and produced cylinder escapements. In his second attempt at business, Meyers was much more successful. By 1895, he had expanded to 60 employees and started making complete watches, sold under different brand names, using components from other manufacturers. By the time Meyers turned 38 years old, in 1897, the workshop had created its very first caliber, named “38” in honour of the founder’s birthday. It was an inexpensive, but reliable cylinder movement designed for mass production.
By 1905, Meyers had registered around a dozen original caliber designs and competed at the World Fair in Liege, apparently winning a bronze medal for his entry. I cannot find any records for the medal winners for the 1905 World Fair. I also find it surprising that the manufacturer of cylinder movements would win a medal at such a prestigious event. The same year, Meyer, with an ambition to expand, partnered with the Swiss watchmaker Johan Studeli. Together, the two founded the company Meyers and Studeli or MST.
By 1906, MST had a workforce of 120 employees and was in need of a new production facility. They built a new factory, large enough for 300 workers, in Solothurn, at the foot of the Jura mountains. Manufacturing was focused on low-priced cylinder movement watches. MST also designed and registered new calibers, winning silver medals at the 1906 Milan Fair and the 1910 Brussels Fair. In 1909, MST entered the British market, setting up a UK branch selling Swiss made watches under the name Medana Watch Co.
In 1917, MST acquired the company L Tieche-Gammeter (LTG), a reputable business also located in Solothurn, Switzerland. LTG was known for producing top quality lever escapements, under several well-known brands, Satisfaction, Roamer and Tiega. The acquisition allowed MST to produce a premium line of lever movement watches. In 1918, MST became a limited company trading as Meyer & Studeli SA, on the Swiss stock exchange.
During the First World War, the trench watch was found to be incredibly helpful to military personnel in trench warfare, aviation, and artillery operations. After the war, the soldiers continued to wear their trench watches and the trend caught on with the civilian population. Like many other watch manufacturers at the time, MST followed the trend and added a line of wristwatches. In 1920, MST trademarked the brand names Roamer and Medana. The Roamer brand would be the company’s premium line, housing the higher-quality in-house jewelled Swiss lever movements. The Medana watches would continue to house the more basic cylinder movements.
The acquisition of LTG allowed Meyer and Studeli SA to depend less on outside manufacturers. By 1923, MST were able to completely manufacture and assemble their own watch cases and movements. That same year, the company’s watch production reached one million self-produced units. Business continued to grow during the 1920s, until the Great Depression in 1929. The business survived the depression and changed the company name to Roamer in 1952. Roamer continued until the 1970s when they suffered like many watch manufacturers with the Quartz crisis.
Meyer and Studeli SA at Wikipedia.