History of Universal Geneve Polerouter

When it comes to watch design, perhaps none are more famous than those of Gerald Genta, and there's a reason for that.
This Swiss-born designer is responsible for some of the most popular and enduring designs in the watch industry.

Among the most famous are the Royal Oak, Nautilus, and Ingenieur SL.

But even aside from these famous designs, Genta has built an illustrious career contributing to the product lines of countless companies, injecting his distinctive designs into watches from Rolex to Omega, Seiko, Benrus, Hamilton and even Timex.

Universal Watches

Some of Genta's most notable contributions to watch design are his early works.
The design was created nearly 20 years before he worked with both Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe.

In 1954, Universal Genève appointed the then 23-year-old Genta to design a watch to celebrate SAS's inaugural polar service from New York/Los Angeles to Europe.

This watch became known as the Polarouter (later renamed Polerouter) and would go on to become the basis for a series of highly successful watches made by Universal Genève.

Let's take a closer look at the origins and history of the Paul Router.

Universal Geneva

In 1947 the three airlines merged to form Scandinavian Airlines.
In the history of aviation, the airline can be considered a pioneer in many ways.

In 1952, Scandinavian Airlines launched the Douglas DC-6B "Arild Viking" from Los Angeles to Copenhagen in 28 hours, becoming the first commercial airline to fly over the Arctic.

A year later, the airline conducted a test flight from Norway to Alaska, becoming the first airline to fly over the North Pole.

A year later, on November 14, Scandinavian Airlines successfully launched a flight from Copenhagen to Los Angeles using a shortcut across the polar circle, reducing the flight time from 36 hours to 22 hours.

A Swiss newspaper hailed the feat as "a once-in-a-millennium new commercial route."

Universal Geneva

However, flying over the North Pole introduced a new and serious problem: magnetic forces.

First, SAS had to develop an entirely new navigation system to overcome the strong magnetic fields found at the poles.

There was also the added problem of timekeeping: flying over the North Pole disrupted the instruments worn by the pilots and crew.

Therefore, Universal Genève, official supplier to Scandinavian Airlines, was chosen as it specializes in making anti-magnetic watches.

And to commemorate the historic flight between Copenhagen and Los Angeles, Universal Geneve enlisted the then-little-known Gérald Genta to design a watch that was given to Scandinavian Airlines as its official pilot's watch.

With Genta on board, the device is aptly named Polarouter.

The watches were first distributed to flight crew members when they landed at Los Angeles International Airport. They feature the Scandinavian Airlines logo on the dial, and only a few hundred have been issued to date.

Universal Geneve Watches

The Polarouter was officially released in 1954.

The original design, featuring a 34.5mm case with ornate rounded lugs, a subtle dial, and a textured index ring, served as the foundation for the series, although later models have made some modifications to the original design.

A year later it was renamed Polerouter, but the name change barely changed its appearance.

Until around 1969, Universal Genève continued to produce similar products without changing the Polerouter concept.

Some of the most famous ones are the Paulouter Jet, Paulouter Deluxe, Paulouter Super, Paulouter Geneva, Paulouter Compact, Paulouter Day Date, Paulouter 'NS', Paulouter Third and Paulouter Sub.

Universal Geneve Watch Case

The Polarouters (as well as some of the early Polarouters) were fitted with the same Cal 138 SS bumper movement found in early Scandinavian Airlines watches (introduced in 1948).

In 1955, Universal Genève fitted the Polerouter with the new 215 micro-rotor movement, the first of its kind.

The groundbreaking 215 was first introduced in 1955, but due to a legal dispute with Buren, Universal Genève was not able to patent the movement until 1958.

As a result, early 215s had the words "Patent Pending" engraved under the rotor.

The 215 was followed by the 218, which featured some fundamental improvements over the 215, especially when it came to fine-tuning.

The 218-2 is widely used in the Polerouter Date range.

Universal Geneve Watch Case

In 1962, Universal Genève introduced perhaps the two most famous versions of the micro-rotor system: the cal.68 and the cal.69.

Both versions featured many improvements, including a chemical treatment to prevent oil leakage and ultimately reduce the need for overhauls.

Another feature is its impressive power storage of 55 hours.

The cal.69 was often seen in the Polerouter Sub and Supermodels .

Universal Geneve Watch Movement

With the exception of some of the early Paula (Paul) routers, variations on the date section have remained popular among collectors.

The trapezoidal decorative windows are beautiful and the touch is original.

The same can be said for the playful font used for the date section.

The unconventional glass cover features a magnifying glass that matches the shape of the display window, making this a rare piece that anyone who comes across it should consider themselves lucky.

Universal Geneve Watch Case

The Polerouter Sub is another popular version among collectors and was produced by Universal Geneve between 1961 and 1968.

There are two official versions of this model.

These are the early (and rare) EPSA dual crown super compressors and the later single crown model (as shown here).

While single crowns are relatively common today, Super Compressors are incredibly rare.

It is virtually impossible to find one in good condition, and even if you do, unfortunately it is most likely a fake.

The Super Compressor is available in two versions.

Early versions were characterized by a case with curved lugs, intricate lettering on the bezel, and small dots of light lined up inside the hour hand.

Later versions feature cases with straight, bevelled lugs, extra-bold lettering, and luminous dials.

The early version is one of the rarest Polerouter watches.

Universal Geneve Watches

For many years, the Polerouter has been one of the most expensive watches in the Universal Geneva Catalogue.

To put it in perspective, in the late 1950s, a steel Polerouter sold for about the same price as a Rolex Explorer.

After its initial popularity waned in 1969, the Polerouter attempted a comeback in the late '80s and early '90s, but the quartz models were poorly received and the attempt was a failure.

Today, vintage pieces are still quite easy to find, although perhaps not in the numbers that they were a few years ago.

However, the Universal Genève Polerouter remains Genta's most sought-after design.