Gold Universal Genève retailed by Hermès Paris, “Prince”, vintage wristwatch, circa 1935
A sensational and very rare 18ct gold mid-sized vintage wristwatch with black dial, concealed lugs, manually wound movement and original gold buckle
This beautiful vintage wristwatch is a sensational model from the early period of wristwatch development. The watch’s rich and deep tones of gold and black have a dramatic visual impact. The perfect disc shape of the gold case is made possible by the recessed winding crown and concealed lugs, whilst the black gloss dial is wonderfully punctuated by gold disc shaped numerals and a golden minute track. Manufactured by Universal in the mid 1930s, this model was contemporaneously advertised as the watchmaker’s ‘Prince’ model. The present example was made especially for Hermès, Paris, whose name is displayed on the watch’s dial. As the watch was exported from Switzerland and sold in France, it also carries French import hallmarks in addition to the standard Swiss hallmarks. The dial is signed ‘Fab. Suisse’ to the base, beneath the minute track. Customs in France required imported watches to clearly state the country of manufacture in French (Fab. Suisse being an abbreviation of ‘Fabrique en Suisse’). Interestingly, in 1936, it was stipulated that ‘Fab. Suisse’ should henceforth be placed as close as possible to the watchmaker’s signature (brand) rather than being placed at the traditional position at the very edge of the dial by 6 o’clock. This change in convention, combined with the serial number of the watch, suggest that the year of production of this wristwatch was almost certainly 1935, exactly 80 years ago.
It is interesting to compare the present wristwatch with a steel version of the same model which Black Bough sold in 2014. A photograph of the steel Universal ‘Prince’ can be found here: Black Bough vintage watch update 12 September 2014. In the mid 1930s, this unusual wristwatch design was employed by a small number of the finest Swiss makers including Vacheron Constantin and Rolex. An archival image of a very similar wristwatch by Vacheron Constantin, dated 1936, is illustrated in Lambelet & Coen, The World of Vacheron Constantin, Editions Scriptar, 1992, p.404. A similar model by Rolex, dated to circa 1938, was sold at Christie’s, Hong Kong, 3rd December 2008, lot 3539.
Universal was originally founded in 1894 in Le Locle, Switzeland, by Ulysse Georges Perret (1868-1933) and Numa Emile Descombes (1863-1897). The firm’s head office was moved to Geneva between 1918 & 1919. Universal is best known for its complication wristwatches, notably its Compax models with combinations of chronographs and calendars.
We have fitted the watch with a Hirsch crocodile strap. The original gold buckle is still retained with the watch and remains stitched onto a fragment of the original strap. A copy of an original advertisement showing the Universal ‘Prince’ model is also included with this watch.
Universal calibre 246 manually wound, jewelled movement with decorative stripes, lever escapement, bi-metallic compensation balance, 18,000 BPH; black gloss dial with gold coloured disc numerals, outer minute track, gold feuille hands; 18ct gold polished case, stepped flat bezel, recessed crown, snap-on back, concealed lugs with fixed bars; case and movement signed Universal, dial signed Hermès, with original rectangular shaped gold buckle.
Depth to centre of crystal: 7.5mm
Strap width/lug gauge: 16mm
All Black Bough watches have been fully serviced and overhauled and are sold with a one year guarantee, Black Bough fitted presentation box and detailed Black Bough certificate.