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A mere five decades after the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, air travel was burgeoning.
On November 15 of 1954, a DC-6 aircraft christened the Helge Viking departed Copenhagen for Los Angeles, becoming the first flight to traverse the North Pole. The route, devised by Scandinavian Airlines, sought to shorten the flight time from Europe to the United States. This achievement was touted by a Swiss newspaper as “the first new commercial route in a thousand years.”
Yet despite the technological advances in avionics and aeronautical engineering, considerable challenges still loomed, especially to sensitive equipment and instruments. To address the problem of magnetism on a watch’s movement, SAS leaned on Universal Genève to produce a watch that could withstand the magnetic waves emitted by the instruments in an airplane’s cockpit (such as the navigational and communications equipment), as well as the strong magnetic field concentrated over the Pole itself. The concept of anti-magnetic watches was not untried by other brands—IWC made headway in creating the Mark XI pilot’s watch in 1949, which enclosed the watch’s movement with an iron dust covering.
But an anti-magnetic, purpose-built watch represented a departure from the watches that had been Universal Genève’s forte, namely elegant dress watches and chronographs.
This was the genesis of the “Polarouter’ (later renamed the Polerouter), brainchild of a young designer who was only just stretching his legs, creatively speaking. With the Polerouter, Gerald Genta designed a watch capable of resisting the magnetic fields over the Pole and remaining accurate during the flight. Both the flight and the watch were successes, leading to a fruitful partnership between the growing airline and the Swiss watch manufacture.
The Polerouter serves as a subtle foreshadowing to Genta's later designs: the Patek Philippe Nautilus, IWC Ingenieur and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. This particularly Polerouter is an early version with a bumper-wind movement (Caliber 138SS). Capped in yellow gold, the slim and elegant proportions of the case launch this watch firmly into dress watch territory, a feature that is bolstered by the dauphine hands.
With an interesting history and great design, the Polerouter is not just a watch, it's a tangible piece of aviation and horological history that is as at home on the modern wrist as it was on the pilots that helped make it famous.
Gold-capped case is approximately 35mm (excluding crown). Universal Genève Caliber 138SS Bumper-Wind Automatic Movement.
Overall Condition: Gold-capped case is in very strong condition throughout, with minimal signs of wear but no major signs of deterioration or damage to the plating. Quadrant dial is very good condition, showing signs of age but no major signs of discoloration or hand drag. Universal Genève signed crown. Universal Genève case back shows some faint scratches and tool marks.
Includes one 20mm black Horween shell cordovan leather strap with gold tone buckle.