Universal Genève is a Swiss luxury watch company founded in 1894 in Le Locle, Switzerland as Universal Watch by Numa-Emile Descombes and Ulysse Perret. The brand began as an establissage - a workshop that assembles watches with movements and parts produced by third parties before packaging them for shipment.
The company was the first to release the wrist-worn chronograph in 1917 when wristwatches were considered a novelty amongst gentlemen. In 1919, the brand moved its operations to Geneva and changed its name to Universal Genève. The brand moved to patent and produce its first automatic watch - the Auto Rem in 1925 and shift its management to Perret’s son keeping the brand a family-run enterprise for the next thirty years.
In 1936, Universal Geneve created its first Aero-Compax equipped with stopwatch functionality which eventually became a consumer favorite. The Compax became widely recognizable and was produced in several variations over the following decades, including Uni-Compax, Tri-Compax, Moon Phase, and Master Vortex. Arguably the most popular Compax is the “Nina Rindt”, a classic 1960s era chronograph made famous by racing driver Jochen Rindt’s wife, Nina.
By 1954, the brand called on then relatively unknown Gerald Genta to design a watch to commemorate Scandanavian Airlines polar flights from New York and Los Angeles directly to Europe, producing the now coveted Polerouter Chronograph.
After a decline in the 1970s primarily due to the quartz crisis and a particularly difficult period in the 1980s and 1990s, Universal Genève recently released a series of watches with a new micro-rotor caliber revisiting the company's earlier success. Although still headquartered in Geneva, the company was purchased in 1989 by Hong Kong-based investment firm Stelux Holdings International.