Universal Genève Compur

Universal Genève Compur

Before there was the Compax, there was this watch: the Universal Genève Compur. 

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, Universal Genève 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'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, all 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. 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 general issue for pilots. Interest in the Compur waned, and the relatively diminutive number of surviving examples make it rare indeed.

While the Compur wasn't as innovative as Breitling's first double-pusher chronograph, the Compur nevertheless paved the way for Universal Genève's later chronographs--in particular the Compax line, known for the sporty "Nina Rindt" and "Eric Clapton" references that present-day collectors go absolutely bananas for.

This particular Compax simply resonates with an old-world charm. At 36mm it's the perfect size to slip under a cuff, thanks also to the small chronograph pushers. The dial is absolutely breath-taking, with luminous numerals and hands that have aged to a gorgeous patina.  

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