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The watch industry is one of many brand names. Whether derived from Latin or Greek (Omega or DOXA), or pulled from mythology (Vulcain); the name of a place (Longines), or something entirely made up (Rolex), each name tells a story. But many are family names, stemming from the industry’s genesis in the households of Switzerland.
Berthoud is a name that might not be familiar on its own, but it’s connected to one that should be quite familiar to collectors of vintage chronographs: Universal Genève.
In 1894, watchmaking schoolmates Numa-Emile Descombes and Ulysse George Perret established Universal Watch. But three years later, Descombes died at the young age of 34. Perret—bereft of his friend and with a burgeoning watch company to run—took in a young movement designer by the name of Louis Eduoard Berthoud.
Descombes and Perret had already established themselves as noted producers of complicated pocket watches, even making a foray into early wristwatches. The addition of a talented designer proved invaluable in securing the fledgling manufacture’s success. They sold watches under Berthoud & Perret or under the Universal marque, and became the first manufacture to release a wrist chronograph during the First World War.
In the 1930s, shortly after Perret’s death, the manufacture moved from Le Locle to Geneva. It was during this period in Geneva that the trademark of Universal Genève was registered, along with a new logo. Business was booming, despite the worldwide depression that engulfed the world’s economies—so much so that Universal Genève (now under the leadership of Perret’s son Georges) bought out the old Martel èbauche manufacture in Pont-de-Martel.
Watches were sold under Berthoud’s name from the 1920s until his death in 1947, in countries such as the Netherlands, New Zealand, France, South Africa—even Iraq.
This chronograph is a brilliant exercise in minimalism, reminiscent of those that adorned the wrists of soldiers and pilots in the Dutch military. With a glossy black dial, bold Arabic numerals, and wide-open twin registers, it exudes a kind of thoughtful elegance that—regardless of what name is printed on the dial—is hard to surpass.
Stainless steel case is approximately 35mm (excluding crown). Universal Genève Calibre 385 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1940s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with only minor signs of use and wear. Glossy black dial is in excellent condition with crisp printing and a fine overall patina. Steel feuille hands. Unsigned crown. Case back has light tool marks but is in otherwise good condition.
Includes one 18mm straight-end link JB Champion bracelet, in very good condition.