Chronographs of Universal Geneve Compax series - Part 1 Credit to: Noodia

The lover of vintage chronographs when began his collection soon confronted by terminology such as Bi-Compax, Tri-Compax, Dato-Compax, ... who will appoint a chronograph with 2 counters, another 3 for a final . chronograph with one or more of date indication So what does the term Compax? Some seasoned collectors think that term is derived from the word "compass" which is defined as: " A compass is a geometric construction instrument used to compare and refer to distances. The Latin verb compassare meant "measure his steps . "" An interesting hypothesis primarily by combining a chronograph with tachymeter scale, this scale besides the fact that it allows the gear to measure the distances too. One thing is sure, Universal is that the paternity of the Compax term, the factory lays in fact the brand and introduced from mid-30s a new line of eponymous chronographs. All chronographs Universal will then be articulated around the name Compax creating the term Generic who would unite a full range of chronographs and particularly consistent. Here, a 1947 booklet published by Henry Stern agency to understand this newly successful range.


It must be said that the legitimacy of Universal in chronographs is strong, key dates for 3 illustrate this 1894 trademarking "Universal Watch Extra" that defines a chronograph with 30-minute and push 6 H ,


1917 by Universal introduction of the first wrist chronograph push the crown , 1934, that is his first exhibition in Basel Universal presents the Compur, a pioneer of the chronograph pushers 2


In 1936 introduced the Universal Compax which is presented as the very first chronograph with total timer on a third counter. This calls for very serious about showing the house Hermes and surely represents one of the earliest copies marketed.

Another superb with its black dial


A few years later, three other copies also primitive but this time wearing a characteristic style chronographs Universal, a stylistic coherence began to form

Universal first distinguish its historical range to 2 meters "Compur" its innovation to 3 meters "Compax"

before renaming the Compur some time later in Uni-Compax. It is interesting to note that Compur and Uni-Compax are identical, they have the same functions and are animated by the same movements. Universal nevertheless deliver the 2 series concomitantly t for another few years it seems, we must empty the dials stocks shelves and boxes. Uni-Compax is ultimately a new Christian name for these chronographs 2 meters, this new name actually serves primarily to give birth to the great range of chronographs complicated Universal that was then set in working order before giving birth to the Aero-Compax, the Compax Dato-and finally to the Tri- Compax in 1944. Mechanical Coté, the Compax are led by different movements that are rooted in the 2 founders of Universal gauges the 281


and 285


These movements entirely designed and assembled by Universal is a high quality design and manufacturing, unless they have special finishes like chamfering, odds Geneva ... they are deemed to be very precise, they show finishes . alternatively rhodium or gold A strong features of these movements is their modularity , modularity that will bring them two things: -more or less complications by adding levers and wheels and animating the complete range that will emerge gradually, in -modularité size allowing a high quality integration into cans having diameters will spread of 30 to 55 mm

as can be seen, the different diameters of these templates lead them to be christened with different names, the first Compax essentially using the templates 281, 285, 287 and 292 according to the diameters of the boxes in which they are to be integrated. templates with the suffixes 3 and 4 (385 and 481 for example) often appear with greater thicknesses. A constant however, the contained amount of these sizes, 5.5 mm for the 281 and derivatives thereof, 6.05 mm for the 285 and its derivatives. This thickness contained for most of his caliber is one of the aspects that will also allow Universal to express one of its strongest features, elegance. Small return back, died in 1933 Georges Perret, co-founder of Universal, his son succeeded him Raoul

Raoul Perret will bring a number of optimizations to manufacturing, including the consolidation of all activities in Geneva


As indicated in its Pietro Sala Universal Geneve Watch book, "the genius of Raoul Perret will be to pay great attention to the aesthetics of the watch. It thus gives it a value of clothing accessory." Raoul Perret was among those who understood that wristwatches were to become the essential accessory of masculine elegance at a time when pocket watches were still beautiful, I like to think that he was a key contributor to one aspect that feeds our passion. In 1942 it was René Perret , Raoul's brother who joined the factory


This is particularly under his leadership that the export sales will accelerate their development. This is for example the same year that the agency "Henry Stern Watch Agency" New York is entrusted with the marketing of Universal watches for America. This same agency already assured since 1934 promoting Patek Philippe watches. This collaboration will be fruitful, Universal quickly emerge as a reference factory in the United States but also in South America where they can remind the strong Western presence since the 30s, many of them have a strong appeal and are eager to purchase these objects that are both modern and technology. On the communication plan, Henry Stern offers a fabulous reputation in the factory by the launch of numerous advertising campaigns.

The agency will surely play a major role when Universal will be selected in 1950 to equip the first US team participating in the Le Mans 24H

Universal already has legitimacy in the world of motorsport as shown in this brochure evoking the Mille Miglia, one of the most famous automobile races in the world in this period of 30 years, Universal enjoying particularly successful in Italy

The communication on aspects of the technical superiority of the factory is not in rest

With its range of modular movements for a large number of configurations, Universal will decline its chronographs in different types of boxes with aesthetic configurations and / or techniques to the almost infinite variations. This is another major feature of the factory production . The series of Compax obviously no exception to the rule and to make its models in gold , Universal will seek the dressers , these structures scattered in the valley of Joux and specialized in the manufacture of boxes. These dressers are artisan structures almost always small grouped in the Swiss Union for the Dress Watch (USH), they realized the boxes based on drawings provided by the factory. The combination of these two factors will allow Universal to offer a very diversity of gold models and satisfy any special order from specific demands of its customers worldwide. The production of small series being thus made ​​easy. If the use of these dressers for the production of gold boxes was common, Universal has exploited the model with a special dynamism, likely due to the design of its movements which brought him an advantage Industrial undeniable. This will be another key factor in the worldwide success of Universal. This picture to understand some of the astonishing diversity of gold models of Compax

Diversity that we find also in the productions of steel boxes, this view showing 30 years of steel Compax

END OF FIRST REVIEW
Sources: Universal Geneve Watch - chronographs and watches with complications - Pietro Giuliano Sala - Publisher Vallardi , the reference work on the factory, I posted a number of scans from this book. Number of historical information used for the realization of this review are based. Universal Genève, 100 years of watchmaking tradition - Italo Bonifacio & Laura Rivolta - Sothis Editrice Orologi Passioni - the famous Italian forum full of interesting information about Universal, I cite in particular the contributions of Nicola1960 which are numerous and particularly precise and documented. The selection of the aspects to be covered and those he had neglected for this review to be affordable was not simple Omega Forum - Australia forum focused on the manufacture of Biel opened some additional sections of which Universal covering specifically, the section is moderated by Lous WatchUseek - this forum has long been the home base of anglophone amateurs Universal Antiquorum A number of documents are unfortunately not credited, they are from much research here and there and stored on my hard drive for a few years. This review aims to present the series of fairly exhaustively Compax by placing the player in a broader context (history, technical ...). Despite the care that I wanted to bring to his writing, errors and / or omissions may have slipped if you see be nice, contribute by contacting us here.