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There is fire sweeping through the inner circles of the collector community that can be summed up in two words: Universal Genève.
Until a few years ago, this high-end Swiss brand was little-known outside of their Polerouter models (designed by a young Gerald Genta), but recently, intense interest among collectors and enthusiasts has pulled the largely defunct manufacture into the limelight - a light that has long been overdue.
Universal Genève was once responsible for some of the most beautiful dress watches and chronographs from the mid-20th century. From the purpose-driven to the ornate, UG had a touch all its own and breathed incredible beauty and craftsmanship into every piece they produced. While there has been some contemporary stirring from the brand (they released a manually-wound limited edition Compax at Basel World in 2009), it is Universal Genève's sumptuous vintage stylings that have the Big Apple all abuzz.
Introduced in the 1930s, the Universal Genève 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. The "Big Eye"came in two distinct expressions. The Reference 884100/01 was fitted with a black dial with white sub-registers, while the Reference 884100/02--featured here-- sported the classic 'panda' configuration. Introduced in 1963 and only manufactured for two years, fewer than twenty "Big Eyes" have surfaced in the commercial market in recent years.
With its 36.5mm stainless steel case, Valjoux 23-based Universal Genève movement, and dial in the always-attractive "panda" configuration, the "Big Eye" has the makings of a classic mid-century chronograph. Its most distinctive feature is of course the oversized minutes counter at 3 o'clock, the genesis of the nickname "Big Eye." The subtle accents of red in the registers and an internal tachymeter bezel--reminiscent of the Heuer Carrera--make the "Big Eye" as handsome as it is rare.
Stainless steel case is approximately 37mm (excluding crown and pushers). Universal Genève Reference 884100/02. Valjoux 23 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1960s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition overall, with only slight signs of wear consistent with handling. Dial is in excellent condition with crisp printing and no signs of discoloration or hand drag. Universal Genève crown; case back has some slight tool marks but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one 20mm dark brown leather strap and two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle