Universal Genève Compax 1950
Why We Love it
Why We Love it–
As the name suggests, Universal Genève was a company that was founded on a principle of universality. While a horology student, co-founder Ulysse Perret envisioned a future where his Swiss-made watches would have an appeal that far surpassed the bounds of the valley in which he lived. That dream was made manifest in 1894, when he founded a company with his friend and schoolmate Numa-Emile Descombes and named it Universal Watch.
It wasn’t until 1919, twenty-five years after the company's inception, that the company moved to Geneva and acquired the appellation Universal Genève. Despite this move, the company’s products never lost their universal appeal, particularly as the dawning of World War II meant that the manufacture would find a market in the military sector. Increased demand for wristwatches suited for combat prompted Universal to release specially-designed military chronographs like the Aero-Compax (dubbed “Aviator’s Compact Chronograph”), which were used by various militaries of the world, including the Netherlands.
Switzerland’s neutrality during World War II also ensured that Swiss goods were exported to international buyers with no basis on their country’s alliance, reputation, or political standing. In Europe, Universal Genève struck a deal with Hermès, creating a major sales hub for all Universal brand watches in Europe until the 1950s. Across the Atlantic, the Henry Stern Agency—the U.S. distributor for Patek Philippe—became an official Universal Genève importer for North America.
Universal Genève watches found their way onto the wrists of persons as varied and far-flung as the Royal Family of the Netherlands, President Harry S Truman, and even Hermann Göring, the second-in-command to Adolf Hitler. The night before Göring's scheduled execution, he presented his Universal Genève Compax to his guard during the Nuremberg Trials, Lt. Jack Wheelis. Though this gesture could be interpreted as a sign of the prisoner's gratitude for humane treatment, perhaps it's no coincidence that Göring would die, not by the hanging to which he had been sentenced, but by ingesting cyanide.
If the first half of the 20th century was marked by Universal’s emergence into a global market, then the 1950s and 1960s were when Universal sustained their reputation—sometimes even surpassing it. Luminaries like Nina Rindt and Eric Clapton proudly displayed their Universal Genève chronographs, which in recent years has incited a fervor for collectors as they race to acquire the “Nina” or “Clapton” Compaxes.
But the encroaching Quartz Crisis in the 1970s caused the wheels of Universal’s progress to grind to a shuddering halt. In this decade, the company decided to introduce a quartz movement and phase out automatics, which was met with derision in Europe. Universal instead attempted to focus their efforts on the Japanese market, where the innovation of quartz technology had originated.
After a number of tough years, Universal Genève was eventually purchased in 1989 by investment firm Stelux Holdings International; this later allowed the manufacture to release watches with automatic movements in them, and even a chronograph or two.
This model, the Compax 1950 (Reference 884.480), took for its inpsiration the acclaimed Compax of the 1960s. Its sharp, twisted lugs and bezel give it a silhouette that’s similar to the Omega Speedmaster. The dial, too, is familiar, with the "panda" color-way that characterized some of the more exotic dial versions of the "Nina Rindt."
In light of the Compax's popularity in recent years, this reissue—with its unflagging faithfulness to the original of the 1960s—poses a unique value proposition, tirelessly enjoyable in its own right.
Analog:Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.
Since our pieces are vintage or pre-owned, please expect wear & patina from usage and age. Please read each item description and examine all product images.
We back each Analog:Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.
Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.
Shipping & Returns
Shipping & Returns+
All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states.
Most of our products are on hand and will ship directly from our headquarters in New York City. In some cases, watches will be shipped directly from one of our authorized partners.
We generally ship our products via FedEx, fully insured, within 5 business days of purchase. An adult signature is required for receipt of all packages for insurance purposes. Expedited shipping is available at an additional cost. We are also happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.
Returns must be sent overnight or by priority international delivery, fully insured and paid for by the customer. A restocking fee may apply. Watches must be returned in the same condition as initially shipped.
We welcome international buyers, please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.
Universal Genève Compax 1950