22560 Universal Genève A. Cairelli Split Seconds

Universal Genève are coming back. For true vintage lovers, they never left our thoughts. And throughout all these 70 years, one reference has always remained the apex. Elusive and extremely scarce, this is the 22560 A. Cairelli Split Seconds. This 44mm oversized chronograph is wafer thin, made for the Italian Air Force/MoD, and a classic high complication: split seconds. If you ask Alexa to show you what cool looks like, odds are she’ll show you an Italian fighter pilot in the 60s wearing massively oversized UG Split Seconds. Often, I have to explain why watches are worth caring about. This one is completely obvious, it is widely considered the king of UG collecting.


There is no way to make a split seconds easily, the complication is considerably intricate. This Universal adopted the same solution Rolex did, the then-new Valjoux 55. But where the 12 examples of the Rolex 4113 with a Valjoux 55 will sell for 3.5M (as one did last month), the Universal equivalent, which is arguable more beautiful, will trouble you for just 100-200K US. This has a 24-hour dial and 16 minute subdial purely for aviation navigation. It allows the pilot to measure hour angles directly, though that’s above my paygrade here it wasn’t above UG’s. The considerations for nighttime hour angle navigation are thought to have been made at the request of anti-sub reconnaissance aircraft pilots. Interestingly, the A. Cairelli here is the only I’ve ever seen with a gold bezel and split reset button.

The Cairelli Split Seconds has been gaining slow and steady appreciation over the years, in lock step with broader UG appreciation but subject to the macro watch market. Results have been oscillating but on a general climb between 100-200K. If you want a healthy laugh, the estimate here is 15-30K US. Now, the values of this one will be on the lower side for both its sterile caseback and lack of provenance, but not that low. These were made in civilian format for those who expressed interest in small quantites. But it’s really no less exceptional and very possible that it was still and MoD watch, no one knows exactly but some suspect not all batches were engraved. It’s as special as Universal Geneve gets, one of very few chronographs I believe I’d enjoy wearing more than a 1463. Or maybe as much. Either way, praise doesn’t get higher. It’s two-tone Sub-hunting high complication. If that doesn’t get you a little turned on, you’re broken.

This example is quite clean for its age. Both in dial and case sharpness. The dial has a light patina and spotting. All print is very clear, I particularly enjoy that this gold bezeled example has raised odd-hour indices. The case has seen a light polish but is still very sharp overall. One thing worth noting, I’ve seen a few of these with what almost looks like sharpie on the very outside of the sudbdials. To this day, I have no idea what this is. I’ve seen it on the example Wind sold and two others at auction. I tsuspect some kind of light corrosion, but hard to say without louping it. It comes as part of Phillips upcoming Hong Kong sale.