Would it surprise you if I said that the Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver is one of the best watches I’ve purchased over the last year? Well, it should because it shocked me and to this day, it still does. At first glance, this oddly designed seems to belong in the all-too-frequent category of questionable 1970’s designs that haven’t quite held up as well as their prior decade ancestors. But look again, or, better yet, allow me to shed some light on this sports chronograph and also to photograph it in a way that supports my opening statement. Folks, it’s #TBT and in my semi-humble opinion, I think it will be a good one.
Roamer – the brand
A quick look on ebay under “vintage Roamer” will lead one to a garbage trove of brightly painted, bad 1960’s cased dress watches that are available from what must be where old dress watches go to die: India. It’s a minefield not unlike what happens when one searches for Favre-Leubas and Enicars. Sad really, but it’s just some of the sorting and sifting that makes this hobby so fun. Scroll down for a while – these folks from India list a lot of “new” pieces every day – and you just might happen upon a real piece from Roamer from the later 1960’s or early 1970’s and it just might be a Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver. Per a nice history link, Roamer was founded in 1888 in Solothurn, Switzerland and was quite a large maker of mechanical watches well into the 1970’s until, like so many others, the quartz crisis began to take control. The brand was sold and today is partially owned by a Hong Kong-based firm. Before all this, though, Roamer made its own movements – including automatics that were used up through the early 1970’s and, furthermore, they had a lineup during the 1960’s and 1970’s composed of some pretty legitimate sports watches. Names like the Stingray, Mustang, and Rockshell were just some of the solidly built, high quality pieces that existed and if one does some searching, there are real bargains to be had on the market right now. A quick trip over to the fantastic Vintage Roamer Blog should help prepare you with mountains of great information on the many models from the brand. After I go into some detail on the piece before you, perhaps you’ll agree that Roamer is worth a look.
Seeing is believing
So, truth be told, I had seen many a Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver for sale on eBay before and, like so many other watches, I just figured that I’d pick one up eventually and at a very low price. After all, at any given time, I used to see 3-4 on the Bay and with prices between $600 – 1,000. Then, the last year or so happened… Now, it seems that good Stingrays are tougher to find and so when I received a message from @watchesandart with some pictures, I decided it was now or never. And so over a dinner, Boris passed the watch to me and I really couldn’t believe that the watch I was holding was the same goofy looking thing that pictures made look so lumpy, ungainly, and downright ugly. In person, this was a whole different ball of wax.
Details that rival more famous watches
On screen, I always felt that Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver was a massive watch both in diameter and in height. I couldn’t have been more wrong about both. The other thing I’ll mention is that most sales ads fail to accurately capture everything that’s going on with this watch and the complexity. I feel funny saying this but along with some Enicars, this Roamer is probably the most creative and highest “attention to detail” piece I’ve reviewed. And the quality? Pretty darn ridiculous.
Kicking it off, the Roamer Sting Ray Chrono Diver is fully stainless steel and contains a front-loading case that measures about 42mm in diameter. Actually, consistent with other Roamers of the time, the movement pops out of the case including the caseback and crown/pushers still attached. It’s unconventional and probably your first clue that a lot of thought and, likely, investment went into the design and making of these. No, Roamer wasn’t using an also-ran case like so many of the time and while pictures of a deconstructed Chrono Diver don’t show any markings, other models of the time did use EPSA cases. Also, as this is the “Chrono Diver” model, the case back is adorned with a depth rating of 120 meters or roughly 400 feet.
What a case on the Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver
Let’s spend a little time on the case of this Roamer Sting Ray Chrono Diver because it’s certainly the most polarizing detail. A parting glance at this chronograph would assign it to being just another goofy 1970’s c-cased chronograph made to compete with the likes of the extreme c-case purveyor, Omega. However, this watch – a year after Omega’s initial Speedmaster II – was actually introduced in 1970 and that makes it fairly progressive for the time. Also, I’d draw your attention to the shape of the case and the sheer amount of asymmetry. Left on its side, crown down, it actually does take on the shape of a stingray – or maybe more of a horseshoe crab, but they both live in the water, right? The other oceanic reference I thought of, what with the watch’s boldly notched bezel and severely pointed crown guards, is that of a barnacle – tough and a bit unshapely. However you’d call it, it’s very unique and the other surprise about it is that it fits so well. Coming back to the case side, the watch is outfitted with a nicely signed crown, those wild crown guards and two aptly sized pushers.
I generally dislike watches with hidden lugs as I find the cases too blocky and they usually look odd on straps. Well, the Roamer Sting Ray Chrono Diver certainly doesn’t qualify for too blocky and I happen to think it looks amazing on a 20mm strap. Plus, despite it looking huge, the lack of lugs does wonders for its size and it fits me perfectly. However, if straps aren’t your thing, know that Roamer went big time on bracelets and utilized hardware from Gay Freres. I actually have one that came with this, but it’s for a different model, so it now lives in the parts drawer.
So, great, the Roamer Sting Ray Chrono Diver has a unique case, a signed crown, was equipped with a Gay Freres bracelet, but what does it look like and does it impress? Well, in brief, it looks amazing in person and, hell yes, it’s impressive. I mentioned that sales postings make the “C-D” look awfully thick and ungainly. In the metal, though, it’s phenomenally flat and while the acrylic crystal is curved around its edges, it’s basically flat and not overly thick. Oh – and in one more nod to details, it’s signed in the middle of the crystal with an “r” just like Omega and Universal Geneve did with their respective logos. Also, the dial itself is not far below the crystal.
What a face!
But my favorite detail as far as the looks department on the Roamer Sting Ray Chrono Diver has to be the inner minutes bezel. What actually looked to me as something printed on the dial itself is actually a separate piece that acts as a spacer between the crystal and dial itself. It brings an amazing amount of depth for such a shallow space and if you get anything from this article, I hope that it least one of my photos fleshes out this optical trick and does it a bit of justice. It’s a fabulous detail along with everything else that you see that makes the Stingray an absolute carnival for the eyes.
Other wonders abound on the Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver such as the beautifully bold bidirectional bezel that’s outfitted with the first 20 minutes in red font. It’s unique, bold, but not cartoonish. The red carries over on the applied Roamer logo, hashes found on the inner bezel, the “candy cane striped” minutes register hand, the Roamer trademark red slash at 20 minutes on the sub register, and the sharp centrally mounted chronograph seconds hand. This is all contrasted against a matte black dial and white font and hands. The writing on the dial – the offset brand name and the “C-D” with trident makes highly creative use of the dead space on the dial and while this originally offended my sense of symmetry, it actually fits the brashness of the case design. Oh, I forgot something, didn’t I? This example just might contain the greatest example of patina that I’ve ever owned.
Who knows why some watches develop such great patina? Could it be too much sun or not enough? On this Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver, my guess is that because the bezel is in such great shape that it is a case of the latter. Plus, the tritium is amazingly intact, which, as we’ve seen in examples such as the Wittnauer 242T, big swaths of applied lume often crack over time as decomposition sets in for whatever reason. Still, this has turned a lovely caramel color and is beautifully consistent throughout. Funny, I don’t consider myself a freak for so-called tropical dials or aging, but this is lovely.
This Roamer packs a serious movement
I’d be remiss to omit a discussion of the movement found inside this Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver because this one has a great one. If you’re a student of the game, you’ve likely noticed that the lower pusher is slightly more “off-center” than its upper counterpart. So, yes, inside beats the lovely column-wheel Valjoux 23. And it’s wonderfully smooth to wind and use. It’s also signed despite being a tough movement to uncover. So that brings up an interesting point because after only one year of production, Roamer chose to lower cost with a move to the cam-lever Valjoux 7733 as seen here. This according to “roamer-watches.info” was only made for the next 2-3 years until the model was phased out entirely. Naturally, understanding whether you’re buying a V23 or later version is important value wise. Thankfully, the pusher configuration is a dead giveaway if ample photos are given.
Locating your Stingray – deals are out there
Values for the Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver are all over the map. On the one hand, it is a watch that falls into the love/hate category. I’d actually add that like so many vintage watches that we buy purely based on online pictures, this is one that would overwhelmingly swing positive if held. In any case, due to the serious build quality and rugged design, most C-D’s I see are in nice condition. Therefore, I think the greatest value determinant is whether the watch is correct (head-only), has the early Valjoux 23, and contains the Gay Freres bracelet. Regarding the final point, bracelets do actually show up from time to time, so they’re not impossible to find. Other parts, such as dials and crowns show up every so often as well, but hands and bezels are probably quite difficult. Price-wise, I’d out values anywhere from $750 – 1800, which is wide indeed, but I think it reflects the difference in movements. Of course oddities exist because the watch was also later made with a date at 6:00 and using the Valjoux 7734. Also, if you’re out looking you may stumble across a very similar model called the Jet Timer. This piece was essentially the same except for a very funky 24-hour bezel in red and blue and a logo featuring what looks like an old Pan-Am logo between “J-T”. This watch was made in the exact same timeframe and aside from those physical differences, when the J-T dropped the column wheel; it was only sold with the 7734. Here again, a big thanks to the Roamer blog I mentioned before – great detail!
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the Roamer Stingray Chrono Diver. As mentioned, the watch took me by complete surprise when I finally held it and that tells me that there are still loads of great new experiences to be had within the vintage watch world. Also, if it hasn’t sunk in yet, I do love this watch – the amount of details are just astounding from a brand that I had never paid any attention. For now, happy hunting!