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In 1945, the leaders of the Allied Powers met in Potsdam, Germany at the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm. Nazi Germany had agreed to unconditional surrender just nine weeks earlier.
At Potsdam, the Big Three—the U.S., the Soviet Union, and the U.K.—debated what to do with Germany after the cessation of hostilities. Once more, nearly thirty years after the Allies had met at Versailles to discuss reparation for the First World War, they found themselves with the fate of a country—and Europe—in their hands.
Some considered the uneasy peace following World War I to be needlessly harsh. The economist John Maynard Keynes, for example, likened it to the destruction of Carthage by the Romans. However, unlike Carthage, whose earth was salted so that nothing could grow there again, an angry Germany rebuilt and renewed itself as a far deadlier power.
Wary of history repeating itself, the Big Three gathered at Potsdam. It was the third time the leaders of the Allied powers had met during the course of the Second World War, but at Potsdam the dynamics had changed. Stalin was still in power, but the Red Army controlled much of Eastern Europe, and after VE Day refugees began to stream into the West. Churchill, his counterpart in the UK, was still Prime Minister, but he was joined by Clement Attlee (who was to be his successor) while the country awaited the outcome of the general election. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who many considered to be the glue that held the Allies together, had died, leaving his successor—Harry S Truman—to attend in his stead.
The Agreement laid out these aims for the Allies’ occupation of Germany: demilitarization, decentralization, and denazification. The map of Europe was redrawn to its pre-war dimensions, with Germany losing the territories it had seized in 1939. Nazi leaders would be tried as war criminals, and, perhaps most importantly, civilian shipyards and aircraft factories in Germany would be destroyed, removing the country’s potential to rise up in arms again.
On July 20, 1945, Truman delivered an address to General Eisenhower and the U.S. Army in Berlin in which he said: “We have conclusively proven that a free people can successfully look after the affairs of the world.”
The previous year, a watch was released at the Basel Fair that would be inextricably linked to the luminaries of the world, including Truman: the Universal Genève Tri-Compax.
Switzerland’s neutrality during the Second World War meant that the country could continue to export watches. Accordingly, watches made by Universal Genève found their way to the wrists of Axis and Allies alike. Hermann Göring, the second-most powerful man in Nazi Germany, owned one, as did Harry S Truman.
Though the later 1960s models of Tri-Compax perhaps command the most collector attention out of all of Universal Genève’s chronograph offerings, there’s a quiet, dignified beauty about models from the 1940s and 1950s.
This particular piece, a Reference 12555 dating from the 1940s, is simply elegant. While the Tri-Compaxes of the 1960s are known for their sporty, twisted-lug steel cases, this one is clad in solid 18k yellow gold. The soft hue of the case brings out the warm glow of the dial, rich with a creamy patina and featuring stunning Art Deco hour markers.
With looks like this, there’s no question why the Tri-Compax was—and continues to be—such a universal favorite.
18k Yellow gold case is approximately 37mm (excluding crown). Universal Geneve Reference 12555. Calibre 285 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1940s.
Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition with light, normal signs of use and wear consistent with age. Dial is in very good condition, showing light even patination throughout, including some minor scratches. Unsigned crown. Case back is in very good condition with crisp engravings.
Includes one 18mm dark brown suede strap with gold tone buckle.