UNIVERSAL TRI-COMPAX EXOTIC
Very rare Universal Tri-Compax “Exotic Slate” from 1968-69. Ref. 81101/3. Original black tachymeter bezel, tritium dial and -hands. In addition to the normal time display, the dial also includes a chronograph and shows the current month, day of the month, day of the week and moon phases. Martel cal.281 manual wind movement. Original Universal steel bracelet. Ref. and serial number are clearly visible on the case back. No box/documents. The diameter of the case is 36mm.
The first Universal Genève Tri-Compax model made in the 1960s was ref. 881101/01 with a Panda dial, also called Eric Clapton among collectors (as the musician Eric Clapton wore this model). Its sister model with reversed dial colors was nicknamed “Evil Eric Clapton”. These models were in production between 1964 and 1965. According to estimates based on known serials numbers, a maximum of 1,000 pieces per version were ever made.
The Tri-Compax Exotic models were introduced in 1968. There were two versions of the Exotic models as well: Exotic Slate with a blue-grey dial (this one), and “Exotic Teal” with a teal dial. The total production volume is estimated to have been around 250-300 pieces/dial. It is estimated that there are less than 25 Exotic Slate models left in the world, making this piece exceptionally rare.
Universal Watch was founded by the Swiss Ulysse Georges Perret and Numa-Emile Descombes in 1894. The company moved from Le Locle to Geneva in 1919, and Universal Watch changed its name to Universal Genève in the 1960s. Universal became known as a manufacturer of high-quality chronographs. They manufactured many different kinds of chronographs with both gold and steel cases especially in the 1940s and 1950s. The most famous UG models were made in the 1960s, however. That was when UG made their most advanced Compax, Uni-Compax and Tri-Compax models. The watches were not marketed very much and they were expensive compared to similar models from other manufacturers. The watches were not a commercial success, and the production volume was low.
In the 1970s, the oil crisis and Japanese quartz watches caused major problems for the Swiss watch industry, and UG, like many other manufacturers, was left behind in the competition. Universal Genève was sold to an investment firm based in Hong Kong in the 1980s. While Universal Genève is still an active watch brand, collectors appreciate their mid-1960s watches the most by far. Features that UG models made in the 1960s share include strong design, high-quality structure and, most importantly, rarity.