19th January 2015
Sold for £600
As a huge fan of vintage Universal tri-compax and bi-compax chronographs, I was interested to spot this self-winding Polerouter three-hander in the bargain basement at Fellows. Although a relatively nondescript watch, the model has an interesting story which almost (but not quite) rivals that of the creation of the Rolex GMT Master for the first PanAm pilots.
According to Fellows’ catalogue note, the SAS airline became the first to fly from Europe to California via the North Pole, cutting a considerable chunk off the previously used routes but introducing the problem of the powerful magnetic fields found in Polar regions. As we’re always being told today, magnetism can play havoc with a mechanical watch mechanism, so SAS commissioned Universal Geneve to supply some suitably well-protected timepieces to wear in the cockpit during training in advance of the regular flights.
To mark the appointment, Universal created the “Polarouter” in 1954, but quickly changed the name to the snappier “Polerouter” and replaced the original “bumper” self-winding movement with its celebrated micro rotor – as found in this example. It certainly seemed like a bargain but, at 33mm in diameter, the watch itself might just have been a little too micro for the modern age.
Simon de Burton