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Chronographs by Universal Genève are unquestionably the stuff of collecting legend. Founded in Le Locle in 1894, the brand established itself from its earliest days as a manufacturer of in-house movements of exceptional quality. The acquisition of movement designer and complications expert Louis Eduoard Berthoud in 1897 ensured Universal Genève's supremacy in the development of complicated watches into the 20th Century.
By the 1930s, Universal Genève recognized a need for chronograph wristwatches for military and motorsport applications, and answered that need with the introduction of the Compur in 1933 and the Aero Compax in 1936. The Compax line of chronographs quickly attracted the attention of some of Europe's elite, including the Dutch royal family, who in 1939 granted a royal warrant to Universal Genève to supply chronographs to the Dutch military.
Perhaps the most iconic variation of the Compax, which has gained a kind of reverential reputation that very few other chronographs have attained, is the Tri-Compax. Debuting in the 1950s, the Tri-Compax features a full calendar--day, date, month--and a moon-phase complication in addition to the registers requisite of chronographs. On paper, a dial with so much information on it may come across, initially, as being unnecessarily busy, but the beauty of the Tri-Compax is how aesthetically pleasing and legible it is. The registers are perfectly balanced on the dial, surrounded by simple stick indices surmounted by luminescent hour plots and a simple, thin outer chapter ring. It's truly one of the most beautiful and most advanced chronograph wristwatches of the era, and certainly one of the highest quality, deserving of the reputation it's gained over the past few years.
Many early Tri-Compaxes came in gold or were gold plated, and attracted the appreciation of such august personages as President Harry Truman. However, it's these later sports models of the Tri-Compax with their handsome and sturdy steel cases and distinctive "panda" dials that have entered the pantheon of horological icons. This particular example, a First Execution model, dates from the 1960s and has the desirable "reverse panda" color-way: white registers on a black dial, punctuated by a red chronograph hand and a date wheel in red. By now, it should be no mystery why these Universal Genève pieces are so sought after, but regardless of how popular they become, what makes them special to us is their unrivaled design and unparalleled beauty.
Stainless steel case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown and pushers). Universal Genève Reference 81101/02. Universal Genève Caliber 281 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1960s.
Overall Condition: Case is in fantastic condition throughout, featuring sharp lugs and no signs of over-polishing. Dial is in very good condition with crisp printing and no signs of hand drag. Dial is in excellent condition showing light signs of age including patina to the luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands. Bezel is in very good condition with some very slight flaking at 12:00. Case back is in very good condition with the model number and serial clearly visible. Signed crown.
Includes one 19mm Bulang & Sons Saffiano Elegante strap.