The Universal Geneve brand is as storied an institution as any in the watchmaking world. They date their history back to January 18th, 1894 and through various names have been producing some of the finest watches in the world ever since. There is too much history behind the brand to cover in this piece so we will focus specifically on the time period surrounding this watches creation. If you are interested in diving deeper into the world of Universal Geneve then we highly recommend the Universal Geneve chronographs and complicated wristwatches book by Pietro Giuliano Sala.
The most recognizable of the Universal Geneve chronograph lines is undoubtedly the Compax and Tri-Compax line, but before those existed there was the Compur family of Chronographs. The Compur line was developed at an interesting time for the brand. They had recently moved to a cutting edge production facility in 1934 and in 1937 they trademarked the “Universal Geneve” name along with a new logo featuring a shield with a helf wheel and half dial in its center. More interestingly though was the fact that World War II was just over the horizon, which would challenge the watch industry tremendously. Universal, however, continued to see demand for their watches increase throughout the war and their watches were issued by militaries on all sides of the conflict as well as being distributed in the US via the Henry Stern Watch Agency who had been responsible for Patek Philippe distribution since 1934.
As Pietro Sala notes in his book, during World War II production of watches at Universal Geneve “was gradually moving away from the traditional three gold dials and 10 to 12 ligne movements, towards more robust wartime models with steel cases, black dials and large tritium digits”. This shift almost perfectly defines the reference 22422 chronograph that is seen here. The reference number itself is telling of the watch’s features. The first number denotes the case material, number 2 referring to steel, and the second indicates the type of movement, a chronograph. The third digit refers to the movement family that the watch has the and last two numbers indicate the case design. Various dial configurations of the 22422 are known to exist but the black dial is particularly sought after.
The example for auction shows what we believe to be one of the least seen dial variants— a quasi-bullseye design with black ‘gilt’ center and white outer tachymeter track. Universal came to champion the panda chronograph dial design later on in the 1960s but here we see the brand designing along a similar ethos much earlier. With a contrasting, easier to read outer track, the wearer can find just a bit more usability and practicality out of their chronograph.
The 35mm case is made of steel with a domed crystal and release case back. The case is in good condition with scratches and wear appropriate for a watch of this age with some mild pitting on the case back. The watch wears the appropriate crown and lower chronograph pusher, but the top chronograph pusher is a later replacement item. The case back is stamped with the reference number and serial number.
The Dial and Hands
The dial is in good but not great or excellent condition. Most importantly, we believe it to be original and never refinished. Signs pointing towards originality are the font of “UNIVERSAL GENEVE” at 12 o’clock matching many compurs of the period in Sala’s work as well as seen previously at auction and for sale privately. All 3’s across the dial are correctly flat topped. At 3 and 6 o’clock, the subdial text and minute track overlap, this has also been seen on other correct examples of the period.
At 6 o’clock, the “COMPUR” text has faded and is the main flaw of this dial. Looking at examples in Sala and previously sold, the “UNIVERSAL GENEVE” text and “COMPUR” text appear to be printed using a different process and/or different materials. These two text blocks show different finishes, the 12 o’clock text much thicker and whiter than that at 6 o’clock. We believe this example’s text fading to be natural rather than damage done by a watchmaker or previous owner.
The “silver” or “steel” matching handset is correct for the period and believed to be original to this watch. Hand style matches well-vetted compur examples of the period and reference with straight point tipped hour and minute hands and a teardrop chronograph sweep hand. Furthermore, all hands are the correct length, the hour hand ending slightly before the Arabic hour numerals, the minute hand ending perfectly at the minute track, the chronograph sweep seconds hand extending through the tachymeter track, and the subdial hands matching while ending directly at the subdial chapter rings.
This watch is powered by a caliber 386 manual wound chronograph movement which is evident by the caliber number that is stamped on the movement itself. The watch is currently keeping good time with all chronograph functions operating properly. The service history for this watch is unknown.
|Location||New York City|
|Movement||Manualy wound caliber 386|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Band Material||Leather Strap|