Universal Genève 'Big Eye' Compax

Universal Genève 'Big Eye' Compax

Why we love it

It has often been said that if the quartz crisis had gone a little differently, we would be speaking of Universal Genève in the same terms as that of Patek Philippe.

Unfortunately in the version of the Matrix in which we find ourselves, UG did not survive. Fortunately for the collectors of the world, some of their watches did.

This piece is a Reference 884100/01 and is known in the collector community as the 'Big Eye' due to its asymmetrical subregisters. Though produced with both black and white dial variants, there’s just something about how the black dial sets off the red accents found in the chronograph registers and those that bisect the dial - lovely.

Introduced in 1963 and only manufactured for two years, fewer than twenty "Big Eyes" have surfaced in the commercial market in recent years. 

This particular example is in exceptional condition. With its 36.5mm stainless steel case, Valjoux 23-based Universal Genève movement, and dial in the always-attractive "reverse panda" configuration, the "Big Eye" has the makings of a classic mid-century chronograph—as handsome as it is rare.

The Story

Universal Genève, although relatively unknown outside collector circles, was responsible for some of our favorite timepieces from the mid-20th century. From the purpose-driven to the ornate, Universal Genève breathed 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's Universal Genève's sumptuous vintage stylings that have the Big Apple all abuzz.

And if there's one thing the manufacture excelled at, it was making chronographs.

The brand developed its first pocket chronographs in the last decade of the 19th century. Later, when watches transitioned to the wrist, the manufacture brought out its first wrist chronograph in the waning years of the First World War. Known for their beauty, both inside and out, these early chronographs had a single pusher which operated the chronograph function.

However, in the 1930s Universal Genève would change the horological landscape completely with the introduction of the Compur in 1934.

This was the same year that another manufacture, Breitling, presented a two button chronograph at the Basel Fair. Before then, virtually all mass production chronographs were operated by a single pusher. Breitling's design was a game-changer, and many brands—such as Universal Genève—soon followed. 

Universal Genève produced the Compur until the Compax line was launched in the 1940s. An instant hit, the Compax took off, both in popularity and in actual fact. It attracted the attention and admiration of many of Europe's air forces and became regular kit for aviators.

While the early variations of Compax, with their elegant precious metal cases, are a study in refinement, it’s the later sportier variants from the 1960s that have more recently captured the imaginations of collectors.



SKU: AS03337

Stainless steel case is approximately 36.5mm (excluding the pusher & crown).Calibre 125 manually-winding chronograph movement. Circa the 1960s.

Overall Condition: The case is in great condition overall showing normal wear consistent with age and use and light sleeve polish. Luminous black matte dial is excellent condition with crisp printing, lightly patinated indices and matching handset. Light lume loss at 5 o'clock. Signed crown. Caseback engravings obscured by normal use.

Includes dark blue leather strap with steel pin buckle.

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