UG was founded in 1894 as “Universal Watch” by Numa-Emile Descombes and Ulysse Georges Perret for the “production of watch-cases, domes, watch dials, movement, fitted boxes and packaging for watches”. Descombes died at age 34 in 1897, and Louis-Edouard Berthoud joined Perret, briefly trading as Perret & Berthoud until Perret died in 1933. The name of “Universal Watch Co. was registered in 1934 and “Universal”, in 1935.
Shortly after the inauguration of the new factory in Geneva in 1954, the model “Polarouter” (with a Cal.138SS Bumper movement), later on renamed to “Polerouter” in 1958, was launched. The watch became renowned for being used by the SAS pilots during their polar flights. The Polarouter/ Polerouter was designed by the late Gérald Genta at the youthful age of 24.
The movement used in the early Polarouter model was the cal.138 SS. It was introduced by UG in 1948, first as cal.138 with a subsidiary seconds and then with a central second as cal.138SS. The cal. 138 SS measures 28.2 mm in diameter and is 5.55 mm thick.
On the second of March 1955 Universal Genève patented the calibre 215 “Microtor”, a new form of an automatic calibre with the rotor mass incorporated in the movement.
UG first introduced the micro-rotor movement in 1955 in the guise of cal.215 in the renamed “Polerouter“. This innovation was to create an automatic movement with a thinner profile. Interestingly, the Buren watch company was working on a similar concept around the same period.
The cal.215 was superseded by the cal.218 in 1960. As the winding mass is off axis, winding efficiency is decreased. This necessitated using a heavier winding mass and more efficient winding system.
The “Polerouter” and the “Golden Shadow”, also designed by Genta, garnered Universal the “New York Diamond Award”, the “Golden Rose” in Baden-Baden, the Grand Prix of the “Ville de Genève”, the “Città di Basilea” prize and the 1st price in the “Exposition Nationale Suisse” in 1964. The Polerouter became their most well-known post-war watch and one which has become quite popular amongst vintage watch enthusiasts.
The cal.69 found in this Polerouter is the successor to the cal.215 and cal.218. It was introduced in 1962 and produced until late 1969 in various iterations including the Polerouter de luxe, Polerouter Jet, Polerouter Super, Polerouter Genève, Polerouter Compact, Polerourer “NS”, Polerouter III, and the Polerouter Sub diver’s watch. It became the preferred timepiece among SAS pilots.
This calibre was the last representative of UG’s micromotor movements which originated with the cal.215. The cal.69’s rotor had a new shape and several parts are also given the “stop oil” treatment, in order to reduce their need for lubrication.
The 1-69 version is 17J, runs at 21,600 and has no micrometric adjustment for balance spring.
These days, the micro-rotor innovation can be found in various high-end watches including those from Chopard and Patek.