Universal Genève – Tri Compax – Circa 1955

Published on 2 November 2018

The Story of a complication : 

The Universal Geneve Tri-Compax

« Time itself, look at the time on the Universal watch ». 


What more beautiful tribute for a watch manufacturer could there be to have its creations worn by some of the greatest post-war artists such as the immense Jean Cocteau, or Colette and Maurice Utrillo? Universal Genève had this honour, with all these personalities wearing one of its chronographs on their wrist. 


Universal Geneve is mainly known for its chronographs and watches with complications. It has built up such a reputation that Jaeger LeCoultre commissioned the brand for many years to produce finished chronographs.

Numa Emile Descombes and Ulysse Georges Perret founded their brand in January 1894 in Le Locle (Swiss jura), where they came from. The Manufacture Locloise took a particular interest in the construction of chronographs as early as the 1930s with timepieces such as the Compur and the Aero-Compax. But it was not until 1943 that one of its most iconic watches appeared: the Tri-Compax, which we present to you here.


The Tri-Compax is what we call an astronomical triple calendar chronograph. That means it is a 3-counter chronograph with associated days, months, dates and moon phase displays. In this case, this model dates from 1955 and has the particularity of being called “Waterproof” thanks to its screwed case back and its pump pusher-buttons.

 The movement, known as “two-colours”, is mechanical with manual winding and column-wheel chronograph control. It is equipped with the calibre 281, very reliable and robust. With the 285, they are the two calibers from which all the other Universal Geneve calibers are derived.


This chronograph is considered to be the most complicated, hence its nickname of “Glorious”. It is the perfect answer to the Rolex Killy, the Valjoux 72C or 88 chronograph and the Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 or Ref. 2499 perpetual calendar chronographs.

It is a very rare watch, an icon of watchmaking history. It is the perfect synthesis of a complication watch, very well balanced, with information that is both legible and useful.

Romain Réa