In Locle, one of the most important watch centers in Switzerland, located in the mountains of the Jura on the 18th of January 1894, 8 o'clock in the morning on a Thursday, the company "Universal Watch" was founded. The two watch manufacturers Numa-Emile Descombes (born at Locle in 1863) and Ulysse Georges Perret (born at Locle in 1868) registered the name "Universal Watch" at the rue du Collège for the "production of watch-cases, domes, watch dials, movement, fitted boxes and packaging for watches". This was a classical formula at that time, which enabled the protection of the make and all related promotional material. In the same year they patented a 24 hour indication watch. Just three years later Numa-Emile Descombes died at the early age of 34. Consequently on the 22nd July 1897, all makes were transferred to the names of Ulysse Georges Perret and Louis-Edouard Berthoud.


Universal logo
of 1937

"Tri-Compax" from 1945, former property of US-President Harry Truman
  Universal Watch was amongst the first to recognize the enormous potential of wrist-watches and chronographs in particular. In 1898 superior quality wrist-watches with chronograph and 30 minutes recorder were introduced. During the following years the brand "Universal Watch" profitted from rapidly growing reputation in Europe and the two Americas. The company decided to move the headquarter to Geneva, rue de l'Arquebuse in 1919. Research on self-winding systems for wrist-watches was undertaken. In 1925 Universal created the model "Auto-Rem", a self-winding system with an oscillating weight mechanism with spring-buffers, similar to the system of John Harwood. On the 12th of August 1933 Georges Perret died. The management of the company was taken by his son Raoul. Supported by new investors the company changed to "Universal Watch Co Ltd. Genève" in 1934. During the same year the first chronograph wrist-watch with two push-buttons was presented. In 1935 the company moved to 43, Rue du Rhône with an entrance at the famous Grand Quai, next to Patek Philippe. The name "Universal" was registered. Parallel to this, a chronograph with an additional 12 hour register was presented as a world premiere.

With the registration of the brand "Universal Genève" a new logo was introduced in 1937. Despite of the world-wide economic depression, the models "Compur" and "Compax" were such a great success, that the factory in Geneva could no longer meet the demand. As a result a chronograph factory was opened in Pont-de-Martel in 1941. The famous "Tri-Compax" model was presented in 1944. Selling watches all around the world, Universal was getting a synonym for quality, reliability and good taste. Louis-Edouard Berthoud died on the 3rd March of 1947 just before the introduction of the new precision automatic calibre 138 with an oscillating mass with single direction winding. Shortly after the inauguration of the new factory in Geneva on the 28th of April 1954 the model "Polarouter", later on renamed to "Polerouter", was presented. The watch, fitted with above mentioned movement, was used by the SAS crews during their polar flights. On the 2nd of March 1955 Universal Genève patented the calibre 215 "Microtor", a new form of an automatic calibre with the rotor mass incorporated in the movement.


Universal building at the
Grand Quai in Geneva

Collection of rare "cloisonnè" enamel watches from the 1950's

  Being the thinnest automatic movement of its time it was launched in the 2nd generation of the famous "Polerouter". In the following decade enormous progress (with several registered patents) was made in developing thinner automatic movements. In April 1966 the model "Golden Shadow" was introduced. The used calibres 66 and 67 with a thickness of just 2,5 mm were designed by Gerald Genta. The first electric watches with a torsion oscillator were constructed in conjunction with Movado in 1962. The first electronic watches were presented in 1968 with the "Tuning Unisonic" system, produced in collaboration with Bulova. In 1975 the thinnest analogue quartz movement worldwide was presented, which permits Universal to resist the "Japanese invasion" for a certain time.
Since the first chronograph wrist watches, Universal's endeavour was to combine quality with good classic taste. The make had many admirer, from Harry Truman to Juan Peron. The artist Jean Cocteaux composed the dedication "Les temps lui-meme regarde l'heure à la montre Universal", which can be found on the dials of the new tourbillons. Various sheiks and arabic ministers ordered luxurious custom made watches. Golden watches with exquisite enamel dials are still very sought after. Gerald Genta, considered to be one of the most famous watch designers of the twentieth century, contributed to the success of this make by, designing two models which have subsequently become world-famous: the "Polerouter" in 1954 and the "Golden Shadow" in 1966. These two watches gained Universal the "New York Diamond Award", the "Golden Rose" in Baden-Baden, the Grand Prix of the "Ville de Genève", the "Città di Basilea" prize and the 1st price in the "Exposition Nationale Suisse" in 1964.

Universal logo of the
early 1960's

Actual Universal logo introduced in 1988

White-golden Tourbillon with Jean Cocteaux dial

After the company was managed by the heirs of the founders for generations, in 1986 Lennard Oldman was appointed as new President of Universal Genève. In 1988 the headquarter moved to 29, Rue de Jussy in Geneva-Thônex. In the same year the logo changed to its present design. After a prolonged crisis which had struck the Swiss watch industry, Universal was acquired by the Stelux holding group, Hong Kong on the 1st of April 1989. A new production unit was open at Bienne in 1993. After several relocations the head office is now located in Geneva-Acacias. Today Universal Genève is focusing on its qualities and tradition. The actual collection includes several watches in a very attractive "retro-design" with reference to some of the most fascinating models of the company history. The objective is to create new models, derived from the famous Calibre 66, which will become the new generation of Universal Genève watches. Recent highlights besides the revolving Janus models with two dials include complications like Solar-Equation and Tourbillon.