This Brash, Strange Chronograph Is a Rare Find From the Jet-Setting ’60s
Aero Compax sounds sort of like it should be the name of the next Christopher Nolan movie. It's not, sorry. It's a watch from the 1960s, although one that would look perfectly at home were he to make that blockbuster sci-fi flick.
Universal Genève is best known among collectors for its Compax series of watches. These cover a broad range of models produced over a few decades, but the thing they all share is the chronograph function. There are basic Compaxes that are usually three-register chronographs, Uni-Compax two-register chronos with dressier dials, and the more advanced Tri-Compaxes that are chronographs with calendar and moonphase indicators.
Then there's the Aero Compax, the strangest of the bunch.
More buttoned-up versions had a second time zone on the dial, in the form of a mini watch face at 12 o'clock. A flashier version is what we have here: a 24-hour pilot's watch bearing the same Aero Compax name, even though it looks nothing like its more sedate brother. In addition to being a lot more brash, this one is also a lot more rare.
Just like the Glycine Airman SST from a few weeks ago, this watch tells time on a 24-hour scale. This means the hour hand only goes across the dial once per day, so you have to get used to 6 o'clock actually being noon. There are alternating odd numbers and stick markers on the dial to help you keep track. The two-tone black-and-silver bezel is also marked out to 24 hours, and you can rotate it to track a second time zone (also on 24-hour time, of course).
You can forget the thin hands and delicate lugs found on dressier Universal Genève watches. This watch has a high-contrast black-and-white dial with broad luminous hands. The chronograph seconds hand has a pointed tip, while the flat, almost rectangular hands for the subregisters recall those on the Universal Genève driving chronos of the same era.
The case has twisted lugs and a cool period-style bracelet made by legendary bracelet maker J.B. Champion, too.
Alone, this watch would already be a tough find. But it includes the full complement of boxes and paperwork that the watch was originally sold with circa 1960. Everything looks to be in great shape, including the Venus caliber 178 movement inside the watch itself.
This Universal Genève Aero Compax is available from Matt Bain and price is available on request.
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