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We don’t blame you if you weren’t familiar with UG before first seeing them on Hodinkee’s Instagram feed. One of the most unfortunate “dead brands”, UG was once one of Switzerland’s best manufactures, producing many classics, but best perhaps known for their Tri-Compax chronographs.
Feautring a full calendar plus a moonphase complication, the Tri-Compax was one of the most advanced chronograph wristwatches of the era, and certainly one of the highest quality. It’s no coincidence that the U.S. distributor for UG was the Henri Stern Watch Agency. And what was the sole other brand distributed by H. Stern? That would be Patek Philippe.
This example of the Tri-Compax, Reference 22297, dates to the early 1950s and features a stunningly crisp steel case with a silver-toned dial, lightly patinated to a beautiful cream color and accented by luminescent dart indices. With four subsidiary registers, moonphase display, and two calendar apertures, the watch sounds on paper like it would have an overly busy dial, but the beauty of the Tri-Comapx is how aesthetically pleasing and legible a watch it is. Instead of coming off as a busy mess, the Tri-Compax is a gorgeous example of mid-century watch design, and its style holds up better then most from the era.
Universal’s later Compax sport models, like the Nina Rindt (HERE) and Evil Nina (HERE), have spiked in value and received more than their fair share of attention recently, but as any vintage chronograph nerd will tell you, the Tri-Compax Moonphase is UG’s true flagship model. The in-house, manually-wound Calibre 281 chronograph movement was a great achievement for UG, especially when most of their competitors relied on outsourced movements for their watches. With few exceptions, the Tri-Compax caliber was just about as fine a chronograph as consumers could buy at the time, and that’s in no small part why they’ve become so highly collectible today.
If you’re a chronograph fan, its incumbent upon you to have a Tri-Compax in your collection. Given UG’s ascent to the upper tiers of collectability, it is getting harder to find honest original examples, but that's just what we've managed to do here.
We're going to regret parting with this one.
Steel case is approximately 34mm (excluding the crown). Universal Genève Reference 22297. Calibre 281 Manually-Wound Movement. Circa 1952
Overall Condition: Case is in excellent condition over all, showing only light signs of wear from age and use. Original silver-toned dial is in excellent condition with light even patination and crisp print. Alpha hands have developed light patination to luminous elements. Blued steel and red subsidiary register hands are in excellent condition. Original case back and unsigned crown.
Includes 18mm analog/shift Highland handmade leather strap.