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When thinking of air battles in the Second World War, the mind jumps to the fierce fighting of British pilots in the Battle of Britain. Or the cat-and-mouse missions the US Air Force took against Japanese kamikaze fighters, high over the Pacific. But the glory doesn’t belong only to these nations—the noble pilots of the Dutch Army Aviation Brigade (Luchtvaartbrigade) also saw a hand in the fighting, often faced with overwhelming odds.
During World War I, the Netherlands maintained an air force even though the nation was neutral. Throughout the 1930s, as the Third Reich rose in Germany and flexed its military might, the Netherlands rebuilt its air force. Though faced with a shortage of instructors, navigators, and pilots, the Dutch military mustered 176 aircraft fit for combat.
This ragtag assemblage of airplanes was comprised mostly of Dutch-built Fokker bombers and fighters, but also included 17 Douglas DB-8A-3N bombers made by Northrop. Their mettle was tested almost immediately, as Germany invaded the Netherlands in May of 1940. By the fifth day after the invasion, the Luftwaffe had wiped out all of the Luchtvaartbrigade’s bombers—some on the ground, but most in the air.
But the Dutch fought on, destroying 350 Luftwaffe aircraft—at a devastating cost, with almost all of the Dutch pilots losing their lives.
To honor their sacrifice, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands granted the Militaire Willemsorde (Military Order of William, the highest and oldest military honor bestowed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands) to all members of the Luchtvaartbrigade—living and dead.
Survivors fled to the United Kingdom, and two squadrons—the 320 and 321st Squadron of the RAF—were raised and served through the remainder of the war.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the Universal Genève Compax was military issue to the soldiers and pilots of the Netherlands armed forces. Though this particular Compax was not military issue, it dates from roughly the same period. The stepped case with faceted lugs (similar to those produced by C.R. Spillman S.A., who were also used by Bovet) is 38mm, large for the period, making it a clear choice for the modern collector.
But perhaps the most attractive feature of this watch is the dial, a handsome salmon color that glows in the light, offset by the cool blued steel of the chronograph hands. With its sturdy proportions and telemeter scale (a feature often found on military chronographs), it’s not hard to imagine it on the wrist of one of those brave fighters of the Dutch Air Force. Or perhaps on your own wrist, as you pilot throughout life’s adventures.
Stainless steel case is approximately 38mm (excluding crown and pushers). Universal Genève Compax Reference 22499/9851X8. Universal Genève Calibre 285 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1940s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with sharp lugs. Case does have the slightest signs of use and wear consistent with age. Dial is in very good condition with fine even patina to the luminescent hour plots. Hands have been professionally relumed to match that of the hour plots. Unsigned crown. Case back has some faint scratches and scuff marks but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one 19mm dark brown embossed leather strap.