UNIVERSAL GENEVE 1950s 18K DRESS WATCH
Item description: A beautiful 18K rose gold watch by Universal Geneve. The watch with lovely stepped lugs, and circular case. Complementing the case, is a champagne silver dial with gold applied battons, and the brand name, Universal Geneve. The watch with Universal’s calibre 264 manual movement. The inside of the case-back bears the full Universal Geneve name and logos, along with 0.750 gold content, and serial numbers. The watch has a dark tan crocodile strap, along with a non-Universal gold finished buckle.
Size: 40mm x 33mm
Condition report: Case in excellent to near mint condition. Dial original and with a pleasing patination. The gold applied battons also with a pleasing patination. Movement clean and in working condition (no warranty implied). The strap and buckle remaining in excellent condition. The timepiece may have been opened, so it should not be used near moisture or water without being checked by a qualified watchmaker.
Background to Universal Geneve: Ulysse Perret founded the Universal Watch in 1894 with classmate Numa-Emile Descombes, both of whom were horology students at the time. Although Universal began only as a manufacturer and retailer of cases, crowns, dials and movements, the company whilst under Perret and Descombes patented the brand’s first 24-hour indication watch. After Descombes’ death in 1897 at the age of 34, Perret recruited Louis Edouard Berthoud as a co-manufacturer of complications, and both briefly operated under the registered name Perret & Berthoud before switching to Universal Watch et Company (UWEC) Genève, Ltd. after relocating to Geneva. Under both trademarks, the horologists created various pocket and trench watches for both sides during World War I. By 1925, the duo created the brand’s first patented self-winding timepiece called the Auto Rem, an octagon-shaped men’s wristwatch with lozenge-styled hands and a 15-jewel movement. Perret died in 1933.
After the pocketwatch started to lose usefulness in favor of the more convenient wristwatch during the first world war, Universal seized the opportunity by creating the Compur in 1933 and the Aero Compax (“Aviator’s Compact Chronograph”) in 1936, shortly before the start of World War II. In addition to its automatic “smooth sweep” timekeeping, the Compax was also equipped with a built-in stopwatch which made it a suitable device for soldiers during training exercises and full-fledged combat operations. The Compax was produced in many variations including the Moon Phase, Medico, Tri-, Uni-, and Master Vortex.
During the same period, Universal briefly collaborated with Parisian high fashion brand Hermès and designed the Pour Hermès (“For Hermès”) chronographs, which featured square button registers, telemeters and tachometers, a movement containing a Breguet balance spring, and an Arabic-numeral dial. Hermès’ Paris headquarters would in turn act as a major sales hub for all Universal brand watches in Europe until the 1950s, while the Henri Stern Watch Agency in Manhattan, the U.S. distributorship of Patek Philippe, would be an official Universal Genève dealer in North America. For female clients, Universal distributed the art deco “Couture Diamond” watch, which featured a mother of pearl dial rimmed with diamonds and manufactured in either gold, stainless steel or platinum metals. The feminine cuff watch, which earned Universal Genève the title of “watch couturier”, was sold in affluent boutiques worldwide and was most popular among actresses, socialites and wives of world leaders.
With the start of the so-called ‘Quartz Crisis’ in the 1970s, Universal tried to remarket itself producing a large range of quartz watches. This marketing venture was catastrophic for the company, leading to an overall decline in sales and status. During the 1980s it managed to re-establish itself, bringing out ranges of mechanic watches, many with complications.
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