Universal Genève Polerouter Sub

Universal Genève Polerouter Sub

In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy stated that, “Knowledge of the oceans is more than a matter of curiosity. Our very survival may hinge upon it.”

True to President Kennedy’s statement, in the decade that followed, most of mankind turned its eyes toward the stars. The scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, however, had theirs fixed firmly on what was happening beneath the ocean’s surface.

Founded in 1903, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography was initially an offshoot of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Its founder, Dr. Fred Baker, a physician who specialized in ear, nose, and throat studies, had a fascination with mollusks, particularly those that thrived in the ocean around San Diego. In the early 1900s, Baker approached a friend, H.P. Wood—secretary of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce—to set up a marine biology laboratory under the aegis of the University of California. The first expedition in 1903—which used the boathouse of the Hotel del Coronado as its headquarters—was a success, leading to the establishment of the Marine Biological Association.

By 1907, the Association had moved to La Jolla. Five years later, it was absorbed into the University of California system under the name “Scripps Institution for Biological Research,” after local philanthropists E.W. Scripps and his sister Ellen. But Scripps enjoyed its richest period of scientific research in the 1960s under the leadership of Roger Revelle.

Revelle, who was born two years after the future Scripps Institute relocated to La Jolla, gained a deep love of the ocean during his years in the Navy after World War II. In his role in the Navy, Revelle was in a position to help determine which scientific projects the Navy would fund. Revelle believed that the Navy’s primary focus should be to foster research of the world’s oceans, an attitude that he carried over to his work at Scripps; while at Scripps, Revelle notably launched studies that examined the effects of atomic radiation on ocean life.

Also, as the founding chairman of the Committee on Climate Change and the Ocean, Revelle co-authored a paper that suggested that a “greenhouse effect” would lead to global warming.

Meanwhile, in the 1960s, researchers at Scripps who were studying the distribution of sea-floor slopes led to the creation of the Deep Tow instrument system, which would prove instrumental in mapping the ocean floor. In the Deep Tow system, a side scan SONAR system tethered to a research vessel was lowered into the ocean. Eventually, the rudimentary system—which employed SONAR technology developed during the Second World War—grew to encompass a sounding system, along with television cameras.

The Deep Tow system was monumental in that it resulted in an unparalleled view of the vast canyons and mountains of the ocean floor, and it continues to be used by oceanographers to this day.

In 1961, Universal Genève also plunged under the waves with the launch of the Polerouter Sub.

A decade before, Universal Genève released the 'Polarouter' (later renamed the Polerouter), which was designed by 23-year-old Gérald Genta to resist the magnetic fields over the Pole and remain accurate during the Scandinavian Airlines’ flights over the North Pole. Throughout the Polerouter's 15-year run, Universal Genève deviated from Gerald Genta's original design, releasing variants with a panoply of case sizes and configurations. Though most Polerouters are dress watches in design and function, the Sub is a dive watch—but, because it’s Genta, it’s avant-garde in appearance.

Genta’s designs are especially notable for their ofttimes dramatic use of angles and unorthodox shapes. With the Sub, Genta took the asymmetrical date window of the Polerouter dress watches and magnified it, mirroring it in the shape of the Sub’s case. The asymmetrical shape does serve a purpose, however, as it protects the crown from being bumped during a dive.

The Sub came in several variations, with different dials, hands, and bezels. This particular Sub is a Reference 869116/02. The asymmetrical theme is carried over to the dial, with luminescent hour plots of varying lengths.

With its original crystal, this Polerouter Sub is a survivor, a lasting testament to the brilliance of Gerald Genta’s design and the enduring fascination we foster for the deep.


SKU: AS01948

Stainless steel asymmetrical case is approximately 38mm (excluding crown). Universal Genève Reference 869116/02. Universal Genève Microrotor Self-Winding Movement. Circa 1960s.

Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with sharp lugs and minimal signs of use and wear in keeping with its age. Rotating bezel is in very good condition with some light wear throughout. Dial is in excellent condition with puffy luminescent hour plots which have gained an even patina over time. Patina on luminescent hands matches dial beautifully. Correct date wheel and signed crystal. Universal Genève signed screw-down crown. Case back has some faint scratches but is in otherwise very good condition.

Includes one 20mm black leather strap.

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