Affordable Vintage: Universal Genève Polerouter Super

One of my favorite vintage watches, and one that has seen an uptick in popularity in recent years among collectors, is the Universal Genève Polerouter. To be clear, the Polerouter is not a single distinct model, but rather a family of watches that began in 1954 and ended around 1969 (with a brief yet uninspired return in the ‘80s). We’ve covered this line before here on worn&wound in a series of articles: a history and overview of the Polerouter line, a close look at the Polerouter Sub, and a breakdown of the controversial Polerouter Sub Super Compressor. From these three articles alone, the variety of the Polerouter line is evident. Today, we’re going to dive even deeper into that lineage and take a closer look at a later, little-known variant—the Polerouter Super.

universal-geneve-polerouter-super-12The best-known Polerouters are the earliest references based on Gerald Genta’s initial design. The first watch to bear his aesthetic, the Polarouter, was commissioned by the Scandinavian Airlines Systems (SAS) to be given to their pilots upon the completion of the historic Copenhagen-Los Angeles polar flight—an endeavor that effectively cut hours off flight times by opening routes over the North Pole. Officially released in 1954, the Polarouter—named after said polar flights, though the line was later rebadged Polerouter—would become the springboard for most future references within the collection.

Universal Genève Polerouter Date; ca. 1957
Universal Genève Polerouter Super; ca. mid-1960s.

That initial design featured a 34.5mm case boasting gorgeous bombé lugs and a dateless dial with a textured inner index ring. Powering the watch was the firm’s cal. 138 SS bumper automatic. As the years went by, Universal Genève grew the line, which eventually included models like the Polerouter Jet, Polerouter de luxe, Polerouter Super, Polerouter Genève, Polerouter Compact, Polerouter Day-Date, Polerouter NS, Polerouter III and the Polerouter Sub. It was a mixed bag of sorts—some watches definitely had remnants of Genta’s DNA, while others looked like they were something else entirely. In that time, Universal Genève also grew its stable of movements, eventually replacing the 138 SS with the 215 micro-rotor, one of the first of its kind. The 215 was then followed by the 218, which itself was replaced by the 218-2.

Two-tone Polerouter Supers are relatively rare. More common are stainless steel and gold models.

Sometime in the mid-1960s, Universal Genève came out with the Polerouter Super. It’s unclear exactly what the first Super series looked like. I’ve seen dials marked “Super” inside earlier Polerouter cases, and I’ve also seen dials marked “Polerouter Date” inside later Super cases. The legitimacy of such pieces is difficult to determine, but it does appear that there may have been quite a bit of mixing and matching within the Polerouter family, with parts flowing freely across different references. That said, the example shown here features a case typically found among the Super line, and the dial is a later, post-Genta design.

The case measures roughly 35.2mm wide and 43.3mm lug-to-lug. In terms of thickness, its 10.5mm, but a decent bit of that comes from the tall top hat crystal which gives the watch its gorgeous profile. Sitting within a cutout in the mid-case is a separate beveled bezel, hanging ever-so-slightly over the width of the case and further contributing to the unique profile of the watch.

Fine, nearly pearlescent brushing along the mid-case. Note the razor-sharp angles.

Eschewing the bombé lugs of earlier Polerouters, the Super case instead opts for sharp lugs that curve down to hug the wrist. The fit and finish here is really impressive. My example is completely untouched, and all angles and lines are razor-sharp. Furthermore, the fine brushing along the tops of the lugs and the sides of the case is incredibly well done. It’s slightly pearlescent and offers a nice contrast to the polished underside of the lugs as well as the unadorned case back.

The prominent crown—measuring approximately 5.6mm by 4.3mm—screws down into the case. When the crown is unscrewed, it can only be pulled out to one position (time setting). The date is not quick-set. Once you have the correct time, the crown needs to be pressed back against the case, and a half-turn locks it in. The crown featured here is not the only type of crown I have seen paired with a Super case. Other examples feature an even more prominent crown with an elongated, stepped end.

Universal Genève’s plating is 300 microns thick, which is significantly higher than most gold-plated watches today.

Compared to earlier Polerouters, the dial of the Super is simplified. The example here is white with gold hands and applied markers at each hour, a printed minutes/seconds scale, and a date window a three. Tritium lume dots accent each hour marker, and the date window is trimmed in gold. Below twelve is an applied logo—a golden “U” badge—as well as the brand and model name, and above six is “AUTOMATIC.” Despite its simpler form, the dial is not without nuance. The printing is precise even under magnification. The faceted markers are finely polished and feature black center fill. The trapezoidal date window—one of my favorite dial details–is the same shape as the magnifier on top of the crystal, and together the two really give emphasis to the distinct (and playful) aesthetic of the typeface. Original crystals are rare, so if you find one consider yourself lucky. (Besides having the correct magnifier, Universal Genève crystals are also signed in the middle much like the way Omega crystals are).

Powering the watch is the famous Universal Genève cal.69 micro-rotor movement. First introduced in 1962 alongside the cal. 68, together these two movements are the two best-known iterations of Universal Genève’s micro-rotor system, featuring a “stop oil” chemical treatment to prevent oil from shifting–ultimately reducing service intervals–and a 55-hour power reserve. It’s an impressive, high-grade caliber with a proven track record of performance.

On the wrist, the Polerouter Super is a great blend of ’60s dress and sport. Paired here with our Emerald Shell Cordovan Model 2 strap. The lug width is 20mm.

As far as pricing goes, the Supers are a bit all over the place. I’ve seen some examples go for as low as $300 and some as high as $2,500, depending on the case and dial combination as well as the overall condition. Generally speaking, the Supers on the higher end of the pricing scale tend to be stainless steel with earlier Genta dials, though the two-tone featured here is relatively rare as most Supers came in gold or stainless steel. Most examples that I’ve seen have hovered somewhere around the $1,000 mark, so there are definitely some deals to be had here.

Throughout its run, the Polerouter was positioned as a high-end watch in Universal Genève’s catalogue. For perspective, in the late 1950s a steel Polerouter was priced the same as a Rolex Explorer. For my money, the Super is a great alternative to a vintage Rolex Datejust, and it’s got quite a bit more personality to boot.

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Ilya is Worn & Wound's Managing Editor and Video Producer. He believes that when it comes to watches, quality, simplicity and functionality are king. This may very well explain his love for German and military-inspired watches. In addition to watches, Ilya brings an encyclopedic knowledge of leather, denim and all things related to menswear.