Universal Gèneve Compax
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Universal Gèneve Compax

For an industry focused on such traditional items as wristwatches, the watch industry is a remarkably fluid one. In fact, its survival is a study in adaptability. From its earliest days as a cottage industry, in which each watch part was crafted by hand by a series of artisans, to the present-day conglomerations where mass-machining is king, it has weathered World Wars, Depressions, and changing times while many others have failed to adapt.

Just think—when was the last time you listened to a CD or cracked open an issue of the Encyclopedia Britannica?

To be true, when the quartz movement was introduced in the late 1960s, it sounded the death knell of many watch brands. But others survived, and still continue to this day. One of these brands that did make it through the Quartz Crisis (battered, but not completely beaten) is Universal Genève.

In fact, Universal Genève owes its continued existence to quartz technology. When many Swiss companies shuttered, Universal Genève phased out their automatic movements and replaced them with Japanese quartz ones. In the 1980s, when the manufacture was purchased by a Hong Kong-based investment group, Universal Genève focused on the booming Asian market.

While the purists may lament this decision as a lack of integrity, it proved to be a good one; in fact, the brand was later able to continue to release watches with automatic movements in them, and even a chronograph or two.

It’s in the latter complication that Universal Genève has always excelled.

In fact, some collectors and amateur historians assert that Universal Genève led the production of wrist-worn chronographs, back in 1915. Whether that's true or not, their chronographs from the 1930s and 1940s, with their clean lines and legible dials, attracted the attention of dignitaries and statesmen the world over. Members of the Dutch royal family and U.S. President Harry S. Truman were known to wear Universal Genève watches. 

But the 1950s to the 1960s were in many ways the golden years of chronograph production for Universal Genève. The chronographs produced during this period (in particular the "Nina Rindt" Compax and the "Eric Clapton" Tri-Compax) have attracted the attention and admiration of collectors. So in the 1990s, when Universal Genève wanted to commemorate its centennial, a chronograph seemed a natural choice. 

This model, the Compax 1950 (Reference 884.495), took for its base the acclaimed Compax of the 1960s. Its silhouette should be familiar to collectors, with sharp, twisted lugs and bezel reminiscent of the Omega Speedmaster's. The dial, too, is familiar, with the "panda" color-way that characterized some “exotic dial” versions of the "Nina Rindt." The Compax 1950 feels regal and self-aware, proudly crowned in its sterling bloodline.

And for the movement, Universal Genève relied on the Lemania Calibre 1873, essentially an Omega Caliber .861. This particular example features a striking blue over silver color scheme and is in virtually mint condition, showing only the lightest signs of shop wear and coming complete with its original hangtags.  

In light of the Compax's undiminished popularity in recent years, this reissue—with its unflagging faithfulness to the original of the 1960s—poses a unique value proposition, tirelessly enjoyable in its own right. 

Details

SKU: AS02100

Stainless steel case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Universal Genève Reference 884.495. Lemania Calibre 1873 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1990s.

Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in excellent, near mint condition with sharp lugs and only the faintest signs of "shop wear" consistent with handling. Dial is similarly excellent, untouched condition. Universal Genève signed crown. Case back is in excellent condition.

Includes one 20mm aftermarket Oyster-style bracelet. Bracelet is in excellent condition, likely unworn.

Also includes original Universal Genève hang tags.

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