It is a big 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 has been highly respected for producing complete watches with in-house movements, which is most unusual because many bought in parts and complete movements. Throughout most of the 20th century, Universal Geneve delivered many important ‘firsts’ in watchmaking. Along with neighbours Audemars Piguet, Girard Perregaux, Patek Philippe and Rolex, Universal is world renown, not only for its innovation, craftsmanship and quality, but for its true ‘Swiss ‘manufacture’ status. This is impressive in itself, but when one considers the company mainly produced advanced chronograph movements, this makes Universal almost unique.
Some Universal Geneve firsts include: The first 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 it 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 presented 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.
Universal also became famous in the latter half of the century for its ‘Polerouter’. Initially created for Scandinavian Air Services, this watch was created by the famous watch designer Gerald Genta. It was worn by airline pilots making flights to California via the Arctic Circle for the first time. The Polerouter Cal.215 micro-rotor movement was another first, taking up much less space than an external rotor. This design has been adopted by many high-end manufacturers such as Patek Philippe and Lange & Söhne.
Universal is sometimes referred to as the poor man’s Patek Philippe, such is the quality of its movements. Although this is an entry-level piece, it was still produced to the same exacting standards as its higher-end pieces, therefore it will remain just as accurate and reliable. Although originally designed and produced as a gent’s dress watch, this watch will be equally suitable as a ladies watch today.
The Champagne Dial is very simple and elegant with applied baton hour indices, and ‘Index’ hands. This is the original unrestored dial which is in tip-top condition and is far too nice to restore.
The original Universal Geneve Cal.820, 17 Jewel movement is in pristine condition and 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 only the correct lubricants to manufacturer’s specification, before final testing and careful calibration. This watch is therefore now running perfectly having been calibrated, tested and timed at +8 seconds per day! The power reserve is also excellent at 43 hours when fully wound. The watch movement is signed Universal Geneve, Swiss, and carries the Calibre number 820.
The Watch Case
The original very high quality 9ct solid gold watch case measures 27mm square, excluding the Universal signed crown. This may seem a little small until one considers the diagonal is 38mm. This was a typical sized gent’s watch in the 1960s, however, this is not a large watch by modern standards and so this watch is equally suited as a ladies watch today.
The watch case has been exceptionally well cared for and so the case has simply required a clean and gentle polish to bring it back to its current ‘as new’ condition. The outside of the case-back has a high polish and has its full thickness, meaning it has never carried an inscription. There are no scratches, dings or other marks visible to the naked eye. The case-back is of full thickness and has never been engraved.
The watch case was made for Universal Geneve by U.K. case-makers, D. Shackman and Son. The case is properly signed ‘DS & S’ and it carries London UK 9ct hallmarks, which dates this watch to 1964. The case also carries the case reference number 03669.
The Strap and Buckle
The watch is fitted with is a new dark blue Hirsch leather strap with gold plated buckle. We feel this suits the watch well and matches the very dark blue hands and batons.
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 no original papers with this watch, the reference numbers, markings, signatures and hallmarks are all correct, dating the watch to 1964.
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 until recently. With an enormous rise in the interest of vintage watches in the past five years, this disparity is becoming more evident and it is 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
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.