The Tri-Compax is model which has spanned decades in numerous configurations. There are varying combinations of cases, dial, hands, colors, and movements to suit any taste. Few, however, are more desirable than this: the Eric Clapton (reference 881101/01). In 1966 Hendrix and Clapton met for the first time. At that fortuitous London speakeasy where the two were introduced, paparazzi followed. A handful of casual snaps emerged from that night, with one quite clearly showing the proud Tri-Compax on Clapton’s wrist. The market for this Tri-Compax was consumed by demand and has remained that way for decades.
The man made a smart choice, as one might expect. The Tri-Compax has a wonderful symmetry with its moonphase and is understated in proportion at just 36mm. The charm here really lies in that unique look—the Clapton Tri-Compax is piece any watch snob can spot from a mile away. The four reverse-panda subdials, unguarded crown flanked by round pushers, and bright red chronograph hand lend an aesthetic like nothing else before or since.
What’s more, there’s some real watchmaking behind the scenes. The 881101 houses UG’s cal 281 which features a triple calendar, chronograph, and moonphase. The ‘Tri’ in Tri-Compax denotes the triple complication. If you’re wondering what a Compax is, have a browse here. The calendar and moonphase are set through small recessed buttons on the blank side of the case. The watch would stand firmly on its own merits, but today marks a point in history where two legends of electric guitar exchanged the baton.
This example is a winner. Most importantly, everything I can see is original. The case is strong and shows light markings. The bezel is perfect, not even faded. Its dial shows strong, un-rusted subs and matched yellowed tritium across the hands. It is difficult to tell if the case has been polished, but if it has it was not excessive. Shape is strong. The watch is legend and the kind of piece only worn by those who really know what they’re doing in this hobby. I will never be one ounce as cool as Eric Clapton. But I aspire to, one day, look down at my wrist and be reminded that we at least like the same Universal Genève above all others.
Find this Tri-Compax here from The Keystone for 20000 USD.