The Universal Genève Swiss watch brand was founded in 1894. Present on European markets from its early days, the company was originally known as Descombes & Perret.
In the course of its long and eventful history, Universal Genève developed a considerable quantity of movements to equip its collections, each representing a further step on the path to innovation. Within the space of a few years, several models that are still highly sought-after among collectors to this day were introduced: the Uni-Compax, the Compax, the MedicoCompax, the Aero-Compax and the Tri-Compax (also referred to as “le glorieux”), as well as the famous Polerouter. Nicknamed the “watch couturier”, Universal Genève also designed subtle and refined ladies’ collections featuring uniquely personalised models.
Much in favour in the literary and artistic “salons” of post-war Paris, Universal Genève timepieces established themselves as a watchmaking reference. After revolutionising the chronograph by introducing a second push-button and a chronograph hour counter, the Universal Genève design-engineers presented a patented automatic winding system with 360° oscillating weight, integrated within the movement and significantly enhancing its precision: the Microtor. This invention resulted in the world’s thinnest (a mere 2.5 mm) self-winding movement, Calibre UG 66, which was to equip the Golden Shadow launched in 1966.
1894 January 18th: Creation in Le Locle of the Descombes & Perret watch company headed by Numa Emile Descombes (1863-1897) and Ulysse Georges Perret (1868-1933).
1925: Two international patents (nos 91051 and 91463) are registered for the Auto-Rem, the first self-winding wristwatch by Universal (a mechanism equipped with buffers).
1927-1929: Presentation of the Cabriolet model and of watches endowed with an 8-day power reserve.
1934: Creation of the double push-button Compur chronograph wristwatch (a trademark registered under patent n°83340); the first movement used is equipped with two column wheels.
1935: Launch of the Compax chronograph wristwatch with 12-hour and 30-minute counters.
1936: Presentation of the Uni Compax chronograph wristwatch with 45-minute counter.
1937: Universal Watch Co. Ltd is renamed Universal Genève. Creation of the smallest ladies’ chronograph wristwatch of the era, equipped with a 19 ½’’’ movement.
1940: Launch of the Aero-Compax (patent n° 235608). This is a Compax chronograph equipped with a fourth subdial featuring hour and minute hands at 12 o’clock and enabling the user to memorise the start of an operation by means of an additional crown at 9 o’clock.
1943: Universal Genève presents the calendar watch, with or without moon-phase display, showing the small seconds at 9 o’clock, the date at 3 o’clock, the day at 12 o’clock and the months and moon phases at 6 o’clock.
1944: Manufacture des Montres Universal, Perret et Berthoud SA à Genève. To commemorate its 50th anniversary, the company presents its latest launch: the TriCompax. This hour-counter chronograph with triple-date calendar and moon-phase display is to become one of watchmaking’s greatest 20th century commercial successes.
1948: UG launches Calibre 138, a 12 ½’’’ self-winding movement with small seconds and subsequently central seconds.
1954-1955: Launch of the Polerouter or Polarouter. SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) makes the inaugural flight along the first air route between Europe and the United States to cross the North Pole. The crew is equipped with a high-precision self-winding watch (Cal. 138) capable of withstanding the powerful magnetic fields around the Pole.
1955: Creation of the Microrotor (patent n°329805), a new type of self-winding movement with oscillating weight integrated within the movement (Calibre 215).
1963: Presentation at the Basel Fair of the Universal Genève Railrouter and Polerouter Electric models.
1966: Launch of the Golden Shadow, “the world’s thinnest self-winding watch”, driven by Calibre 66 and Calibre 67 with date display (2.5 mm thick).
1968: Introduction of the Tuning Unisonic, a watch with a tuning-fork type frequency regulator.
1975: At the Basel Fair the brand presents Calibre 74, the world’s thinnest analog-display quartz driven movement (just 3.45 mm).1994 To celebrate its centenary year, Universal launches a world first (UG Calibre 42-83/4’’): the Janus watch, inspired by the Cabriolet model. Its reversible dial features a single movement allowing one to read off the time on two dials, including one with jumping hours.
2005: Universal Genève launches two new collections, Okeanos (for men) and Anthea (for ladies).
2006: Presentation at Baselworld of four new models: the Microtor UG 100, the Okeanos Compax, the Okeanos Aero-Compax and the Okeanos Moon Chronograph.
2007: Presentation at Baselworld of three new steel men’s watches: the Microtor UG 101 (self-winding proprietary movement), now produced in series; the Uni-Timer, with two-counter chronograph Calibre UG 71.5; and the Timer Chronograph, with three-counter Calibre UG 71.6, the two latter being equipped with an open-worked oscillating weight. For ladies, the Anthea steel watch is available in two new jewellery versions: one set with 46 brilliant-cut diamonds and the other with 132 brilliant-cut diamonds.
2008: Universal Genève presents the Microtor Cabriolet, a new timepiece inspired by the Cabriolet, the first reversible watch launched by the brand in 1928. A daringly shaped model in a decidedly masculine spirit and a marvel of mechanical ingenuity, the Microtor Cabriolet is driven by the signature Microtor UG 101 movement, and is distinguished by its impressively understated design. Meanwhile, another new release sees the Microtor UG 101 welcoming a new dial and an exclusive steel bracelet.