Some brands seem to be flying under the radar in today’s watch landscape. But for at least some brands, that wasn’t always the case. Universal Geneve is such a brand, did not only reached fame with its Tri-Compax chronographs, but perhaps even more so with their Polerouter.
Today we live in a global village; with the push of a button we can e-mail a message almost instantly to the other side of the world, gps satellites can tell us real time not only where we are but also where to go, and world wide news is twittered faster then it can make the evening news. We can even enjoy all this while blasting through the stratosphere at 550 mph debating wither we will have another glass of champagne or switch to OJ, when a nice stewardess asks us what we wan to drink.
What a difference with the 1950’s; airliners where still mainly turboprops and they tried exciting (for then) new things with them. At least the Scandinavian Airline System did on November 15, 1954 when one of their Douglas DC-6 passenger planes traveled for the first time in history over the North Pole to North America, cutting miles and saving time. The crews on these flights had to follow a special course at SAS’s “Artic Flight School” and where issued a special watch that could handle the higher magnetic fields of the polar region.
This watch was a Universal Geneve that was called “Polarouter” when it first came out in the fall of 1954. A caliber 138 SS bumper automatic powered the watch. This movement was short lived because in spring 1955 Universal Geneve replaced it for caliber 215, Universal’s famous micro-rotor movement, and with this Universal Geneve also changed the name into “Polerouter”.
Its history and the micro-rotor movement where only two aspects on which the fame of this model is based. The third one being the fact that the Polerouter was actually a Gerald Genta design! Almost two decades before he would write watch history with legendary creations like for example the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Vacheron Constantin 222, he already created this model for Universal Geneve. This pedigree is almost obvious because the Polerouter has proofed to be a true classic in design and is even by today’s standards a very attractive watch. Talking about pedigree, it’s lug design is surprisingly similar to an even newer Genta design; the Omega Seamaster.
Universal Geneve was keen to capitalize on the success and fame of the Polerouter by introducing a whole family of Polerouter-models. These included interesting models like the Polerouter Sub, with its turnable diving bezel under the crystal, and a chronometer certified version of the regular Polerouter. With most models, customers had the option to choose between a steel case or opt for either a gold cap or one in 18K yellow or pink gold.
The Polerouter has always been a high-end watch. This thanks to its accomplishments, its design, its fabulous movement and Universal Geneve’s outstanding reputation. That it cost about the same as a Rolex Explorer in the 1950’s was nothing short of being logical. The quartz-crisis also marked the decline of the Polerouter. Universal changed its movement to quartz one and after several unsuccessful models, that had very little to do with the original, the Polerouter collection came to an end in the early 1990’s. Ironically, not long after that, Universal Geneve started up the production of the microrotor movements again, and offers them these days in a rather attractive collection. Yet, no successor of the Polerouter has been around. But since Santa frequently flies over the pole himself, it wouldn’t hurt to put it on our next Christmas list.