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Universal Genève, the once obscure Swiss manufacture known only to the most illuminated watch aficionados, is now the stuff of collecting legend. Founded in Le Locle in 1894, the brand established itself from its earliest days as a manufacturer of in-house movements of exceptional quality. The acquisition of movement designer and complications expert Louis Eduoard Berthoud in 1897 ensured Universal Genève's supremacy in the development of complicated watches into the 20th Century.
By the 1930s, Universal Genève recognized a need for chronograph wristwatches for military and motorsport applications, and answered that need with the introduction of the Compur in 1933 and the Aero Compax in 1936. It is with these chronographs that Universal Genève excelled and pushed into the public view. Their Compax line of chronographs--which spawned such variations as the Medico- and Uni-Compax models, among others--quickly attracted the attention of some of Europe's elite, including the Dutch royal family, who in 1939 granted a royal warrant to Universal Genève to supply chronographs to the Dutch military.
Perhaps the most iconic variation of the Compax, which has gained a kind of reverential reputation that very few other chronographs have attained, is the Tri-Compax.
Debuting in the 1950s, the Tri-Compax features a full calendar--day, date, month--and a moon-phase complication in addition to the registers requisite of chronographs. On paper, a dial with so much information on it may come across, initially, as being unnecessarily busy, but the beauty of the Tri-Compax is how aesthetically pleasing and legible a watch it is. The registers are perfectly balanced on the dial, among the dart hour indices surmounted by luminescent hour plots. It's truly one of the most advanced chronograph wristwatches of the era, and certainly one of the highest quality, deserving of the reputation it's gained over the past few years.
Many early Tri-Compaxes came in gold or were gold plated, and attracted the appreciation of such august personages as President Harry Truman. However, it's the later sports models of the Tri-Compax--like their "Nina Rindt" Compax cousins--with their handsome and sturdy steel cases and distinctive "panda" dials that have entered the pantheon of horological icons.
By now, it should be no mystery why these Universal Genève pieces are so sought after, but regardless of how popular they become, what makes them special to us is their unrivaled design and unparalleled beauty in the sport watch arena. No where else can you find a watch quite like this one.
Stainless steel case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Reference 881101/02, Manually-Wound Caliber 281 Chronograph Movement. 1960s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition, showing no major blemishes or signs of over-polishing. Some light wear marks to the case and lugs are visible, but are in keeping with the watch's age. 'Reverse panda' dial is in excellent condition, with even patina and no signs of discoloration or hand drag. Luminescent elements on the hour plots have gained a light even patina which matches that on the hands. Tachymeter bezel bears some minor flaking throughout, but is otherwise in very good condition. Signed crown; unsigned screw case back.
Includes one 19mm brown leather analog/shift strap and two 19mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle