Exotic 181102 Universal Genève Tri-Compax
No one needed convincing that the depth of Universal Genève’s archives rival the Mariana Trench. And yet, like hearing a 911 guy repeatedly drone on to you about how a rear engined platform actually gives you more weight over the rear axle, I’m going to reiterate the point anyway. This is not one of the headline-act UGs: it’s no Nina, no Clapton, and not a Big-Eye. And yet, this uncommon exotic 181102 Tri-Compax is no less significant. In fact, it might be one of the most attractive complicated gold chronographs ever. Despite this, most people will still mistake it for a Zenith El Primero (this last point comes from experience).
Yes, many years ago I was the steward of one of these and, god damn, I regret letting it go. For all intents and purposes, Universal’s Tri-Compax was the business as watches went post WWII. Introduced at Baselworld 1944, the triple-complication (it’s often mistakenly assumed that “tri-compax” refers to the triple chronograph sub dial configuration) aviator’s offering was every bit as stylish as it was complicated. Derived from a pilot’s chronograph that helped win the war, the Tri-Compax incorporated a full calendar, moonphase, and chronograph within a vertically and horizontally symmetric dial configuration. It has been a true classic and lauded reference since inception, one which still feels perfectly designed nearly a century on.
This particuar Tri-Compax, the 181102, was the end of line; the very last Tri-Compax Universal released (early 70s). It is exceedingly rare compared to most any other Tri-Compax reference. By this time, UG had perfected each detail. The design of this dial is magnificent, taupe subdials set against a gold plate with applied indices all contrasted by a raised white tachymetre scale. Full calendar, moonphase, chronograph, and running seconds are present, yet nothing is cluttered. And the dial tone blends beautifully with 38mm 18k gold case, making the whole thing cohesive. All models featured a signed crown and UG’s now legendary calibre 281, a fully in-house, manually-wound, column-wheel calibre that was one of the most technically sophisticated movements from the post-war era until the quartz crisis. What a shame it is they didn’t survive. If any watch can be said to prove outright its manufacture’s competence, this must be it.
Simply put, this example is stronger than most. These cases were relatively soft. Yet, this one displays proud bevels and razor edges. The dial is undamaged, all original. Its tritium indices are prefect, all pips present in an even cream tone echoed in the handset. It comes recently serviced from a well-regarded Japanese retailer.
Find this Exotic 181102 Tri-Compax here from Eguchi Japan for ~24000 USD.