Bonhams, Paris, 8 February 2018
Sold for €12,500
Universal Geneve made its first chronograph precisely 101 years ago but until relatively recently, the true collectability of the superb Tri-Compax model that was introduced in 1944 (and later dubbed the’ Glorious’) has been largely overlooked by all but hardcore Universal connoisseurs.
The use of the designations “Uni-Compax,” “Bi-Compax” and “Tri-Compax” is sometimes misinterpreted as relating to the number of subdials which appear on a watch – in fact, the names were introduced by Universal and Zenith to describe the functions provided by the movement over and above standard timekeeping. The ‘Universal Tri-Compax,’ therefore, offers three extra functions in the form of a chronograph, a triple-calendar display and a moonphase display.
The Tri-Compax arrangement was available on various references of Universal from the 1940s to the 1960s, all of which had subtle design differences, such as round or square pushpieces, simple hour markers or Arabic numerals and gold or steel cases.
This example from 1966 is one of the later models and, if one didn’t know better, it could almost be looked upon as a pastiche of various popular chronographs of the era, such as the Omega Speedmaster, Heuer Autavia and Rolex Cosmograph. In reality, the Tri-Compax preceded all of those and, if anything, it is the watch that inspired other makers to create watches that eclipsed Universal’s effort – many going on to become landmark models.
But now, it seems, the Tri-Compax is finally having its day.