The beauty and desirability of this early Universal Compur chronograph is simply arresting, a watch lovers’ dream piece by any standards. Only in production for a very short time and with so many rare attributes the present watch is certainly one of the most stunning vintage steel Universal wristwatches ever to be offered at auction. The large 38 mm. diameter “Staybrite” steel case with concave bezel which catches the light to great effect is stamped inside with the early Universal Geneve logo - “Universal Genève” in a circle with “UW” in the center only in use until 1937. Beautifully preserved and completely original, the superb dial is not only the most desirable colour - black, but it is also a sector dial, extremely rare on any watch and the most sought after dial type. Usually featuring either a tachometer or a telemeter scale, this watch is further enhanced by the presence of both scales. However what makes this watch an even greater rarity is the unusual form of chronograph mechanism equipped with two column wheels. The mechanism can be considered a transitional system between the single-button chronograph and the fully developed two-button chronograph. Of course visually this watch appears to have a standard two-button chronograph, however, in fact the button at 2 o’clock performs the start, stop and return-to-zero functions in the same manner as a single-button chronograph. The button at 4 o’clock allows the chronograph hand to be stopped and restarted during operation without it having to return to zero. This is achieved by a second column wheel mounted on the frontplate beneath the dial.
The Compur model was registered on 9th June 1934 and launched the same year at the Basel Fair. It followed the first Universal chronographs starting in 1927 and helped to establish the company as being famous for their chronographs.
The present watch is prominently described and illustrated in the book Fero, an illustration of the Universal Compur two column wheel chronograph see: Universal Watch Geneve, Pietro Giuliano Sala, 2010, p. 48.
Curated by Franco Basile and Andrea Mattioli
Text and pictures by Paolo Gobbi
Pucci Papaleo Editore
FERO is not the « usual » horological publication: it is not a reference manual, not a technical or photographic compendium. FERO is a different animal altogether.
It is a collection of emotions, of passion, of love toward the most technical of all the timepieces: the steel chronograph.
The “object of desire” for at least two, possibly three generations of collectors, steel chronos manage to transcend the importance of the brand and reveal themselves in their pure aesthetic and functional essence.
To the true vintage chronograph connoisseur, the high- or ultra-high-end collector, brands are of secondary importance. What truly matters is the emotions a watch conveys and, under this point of view, steel chronographs convey many unusual feelings.
Having a steel chronograph on one’s wrist is an unmistakable declaration of independence. It is pure freedom interpreted as a responsibility to oneself, a statement of appreciation for what is both beautiful and at the same time utilitarian. Wearing a steel chrono manufactured between 1930 and 1950 is a time travel to an age when finishing was rare and hand-executed; when, first and foremost, dials needed to be readable, their innate beauty a consequence of this need; when movements needed to be reliable, not to be a canvas on which to show the manufacturer’s proficiency for show’s sake.
This is why this book is called FERO (Roman dialect for “iron”): because it tells a story of strength, independence, maybe at times even a hint of healthy arrogance. But not only this. We called it FERO, the Roman way instead of the Italian “ferro”, because in Rome this word is full of suggestions and unsual sensations. In Rome a “fero” is a gun, but also many other though, uncompromising items. A fist can be “de fero”, an expression can be “de fero”, a motorcycle can become a “fero” if used in competitions. The emotions, sensations and feelings which we find in vintage steel chronographs are the true heart and reason behind FERO.
Let other people wear their watches. We wear our “fero”.