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Founded in Le Locle in 1894, Universal Genève 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.
The brand answered that need with the introduction of the Compur in 1933 and the popular Compax line in 1936. It's with these chronographs that Universal Genève excelled and gained notoriety, even in exalted circles. Their 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.
The Compax came in many dial configurations over its lifespan, with two, three, or even four registers. The "Nina Rindt" Compax, with its distinctive black and white or "panda" dial coloring, is perhaps the most famous and desirable of these chronographs--especially the later versions with reverse panda or even exotic dial coloring. The panda Tri-Compax, with its association with guitarist Eric Clapton, has attained an almost mythical reputation among vintage chronograph collectors.
But the humble Uni-Compax, with its twin chronograph registers at three and nine o'clock--the register at 3 being the minutes counter for the chronograph--remains a perennial favorite. Perhaps the most interesting of these Compaxes are those with unusual applications. The Medico-Compax, introduced in the late 1940s, features a unique scale on the outer edge of the dial: a pulsometer or pulsograph. Designed for those in the medical profession, a pulsometer measures heartbeats per minute on a scale of 15 to 30 heart beats. To calculate a patient's pulse, the wearer would stop the chronograph at the patient's 15th or 30th heartbeat, and the patient's pulse would then be indicated on the dial without any additional calculations necessary.
Pulsometer scales have been appearing on watches in recent years, most notably by Blancpain and Longines. But there's something to be said for the charm of this vintage piece, with its handsome 18k rose gold case at a comfortable 37mm, large for the period, and its dial aged to a handsome patina. Whether you're a doctor or a nurse, or just desire a chronograph with an unusual function, it would certainly be an interesting (and rare!) addition to your collection.
18k rose gold case is approximately 37mm (excluding crown and pushers). Universal Genève Calibre 285 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1950s.
Overall Condition: 18k rose gold case is in very good condition with sharp bevels on the lugs, clearly-visible 18k gold hallmark, and no signs of over-polishing. Case does show some signs of use and wear in keeping with its age, including some light scratches on the sides of the case near the pushers, and tool marks on the back of the lugs. Dial is in very good condition, showing signs of age, including a heavy patina that is slightly darker from 1 to 5 o'clock. Unsigned crown; case back shows some light signs of wear but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one 20mm cognac Horween shell cordovan leather strap and two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle