It is a surprise to most people outside the watch community that Universal Geneve was once one of the biggest players in the watch industry. Since its early beginnings in 1894, Universal produced complete watches with in-house movements and went on, throughout most of the 20th century to deliver numerous important ‘firsts’ in watchmaking. Along with Audemars Piguet, Girard Perregaux, Patek Philippe and Rolex, Universal Geneve is world renown, not only for its innovation, craftsmanship and quality, but for its true Swiss manufacture status. This is one of the truly revered Swiss watch houses which designed and produced its own in-house watch movements and complete watches from start to finish including design and many significant patents. This by no means the norm, since by far the majority of companies operate more as brands, by buying part completed or even whole movements, before signing and fitting them in cases, also made by third parties. That Universal was a true manufacture is impressive enough, but when one considers the company mainly produced advanced chronograph movements, this makes Universal almost unique.
Some Universal firsts: The company was the first company to produce a wrist-worn chronograph in 1917, when the notion of a timepiece worn on a wrist was still a novelty amongst gentlemen of a certain standing. In 1925 the brand submitted some of the first patents for the self-winding watch, called the Auto Rem. In 1934: The creation of the double push-button Compur chronograph wristwatch, which was the first movement equipped with two column wheels. In 1944: The company presents the Tri-Compax. an hour-counter chronograph, with triple-date calendar and moon-phase display, which went on to become one of watchmaking’s greatest 20th century commercial successes.
In 1955, Univeral Geneve created and patented the Microrotor Automatic, a new type of self-winding movement with an oscillating weight integrated within the movement. This was first used in the Universal Cal.215, which was a forerunner of the watch you see here. Until then, all automatic watches used a large rotor with a central pivot.
Later in 1966, Universal created the world’s thinnest self-winding movement at a mere 2.5mm, the Cal.UG66, which was fitted to the Universal ‘Golden Shadow’.
The sunburst dial with applied pink gold baton hour indices and original, thin, ‘index’ hands is very understated and reminds us of the equivalent Patek automatics of the same period. The profile across the dial undulates slightly, to accentuate the reflective properties of the dial, as one rotates one’s wrist while wearing the watch. The effect is subtle but eye-catching and very attractive. The colour also changes slightly depending on the ambient light, from a pale yellow, through champagne, to a more golden sunburst yellow. We have tried to capture this in the photographs, but the dial and watch are far more impressive on the wrist and in real life. The contrast with the pink gold hands, batons and case is particularly pleasing and even the small date window is attractively shaped, in preference to the more usual box window.
However, perhaps the most notable feature of this dial is its complete originality. The dial has not been restored or retouched in any way and even more remarkably, it is in tip-top condition and shows no signs of ageing, visible to the naked eye. Only very close up, under high magnification can some of the slightest signs of spots be found. This is remarkable for a watch over 45 years old, indicating this watch has led a charmed life.
The original Universal Calibre 218 – 2, 28 jewels, micro-rotor automatic movement is surely the star of the show. The Geneva Stripes and highly polished surfaces are always a good indication of quality. Also the number of jewels, to a degree, and the large escapement wheel with Girocap shock protected cap jewels. As you can see it is all beautifully finished and is evident of very high quality.
The main advantages of the micro-rotor relate to it taking up less space in the case and also, the full case height can be exploited by the movement drivetrain. This is the reason Patek Philippe uses this system in their leading high-end movement, as do most automatic chronographs.
The movement has just been thoroughly overhauled and serviced by our watchmaker. This means fully dismantling the watch and movement, ultrasonic cleaning of all parts, close inspection of the critical surfaces under high magnification and replacement as required only with genuine original parts, then careful reassembly and oiling, using all the correct lubricants to manufacturer’s specification, before final testing and careful calibration. The movement here has a micro regulator allowing very fine calibration of the movement. This watch is therefore now running perfectly having been calibrated, tested and timed at +10 seconds per day! Please note, this timing is outstanding for any watch of this age and one of the best results we have seen this year and the power reserve is also excellent at 57 hours when fully wound. The watch movement is signed Universal Geneve, Swiss, and carries the Calibre number 218 – 2.
The Watch Case
The high quality original Universal Swiss made, 18ct pink gold case is of a sleek design with a thin bezel, sweeping lugs and a strong, press fit case-back. The case measures 34mm, not including the original signed Universal crown. The yellow gold colour of the crown is, we believe, original.
The case-back is of full thickness and has never been engraved. Cleaned, carefully inspected and lightly hand-polished by our case maker, it shows every sign it has been lightly used and well cared for and has no scratches, dings or other marks visible to the naked eye. The inside of the case-back is all correctly signed Universal Geneve with the Universal brand, along with 18ct hallmarks. Externally, the case-back carries the case serial number 2152615 and the reference number 104603 1.
The Strap and Buckle
The strap fitted is a new brown ‘Croc’ leather strap with gold plated buckle. Please note if a different colour or style of strap is preferred, please let us know and we will do our best to oblige, free of charge. We carry tan, conker, dark brown burgundy and black straps in stock, in plain, padded leather, alligator, crocodile or lizard skin.
The Box and Papers
Although there are are no original papers with this watch, the reference numbers, markings, signatures and hallmarks are all correct, dating the watch to c1961.
Detailed particulars will be included with the receipt, along with our 12 months Warranty*. A separate insurance valuation for the replacement value of this watch will be provided at the time of sale along with our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ which states: “If this watch proves to be anything less than totally authentic, or not as described, Vintage Gold Watches of London will offer you a full refund at any time”.
The watch also comes complete with a presentation box as shown in the photographs.
This is a very impressive and very rare vintage Universal gent’s dress watch, with a very high quality movement, which is ready to wear and very practical for everyday use. If treated with care, this watch will make an excellent investment or heirloom piece. Universal has always benefitted from a first class reputation for the superb quality of their watch movements, just as in the case of Longines, which have been undervalued in the past. With an enormous rise in the interest of vintage watches in the past five years, this disparity is becoming more evident and beginning to result in a well deserved increasing value of Universal watches.
A word on our prices… We always try our hardest to acquire the very highest quality watches we can find, before we then restore them to the highest possible standards. We then offer our watches at the fairest prices we can, taking into account our pre and post sales care and service. This approach means we will never be the cheapest, but nor will we be the most expensive. Indeed there are some well-known stores in West London which are highly successful charging between two to three times the price you see here. We therefore consider our prices to be fair, given the quality of watches we have to offer.
We are happy to accept payment via Paypal as this is the quickest method of payment. However, if you would like to pay by UK cheque or by bank transfer, we will be pleased to assist you with this and pass on a 3% saving in transaction charges to you.
*Note – 12 Month warranty only included if the list price is paid.
If you have any questions please call on Landline 0207 727 7095 or Mobile 07515 949250
Or if calling from overseas on Landline +44 207 727 7095 or Mobile +44 7515 949250
Please note we welcome part exchanges.
Please take a look at our other vintage gold watches.