The Polerouter Sub was first released in 1961 on an expanding stainless steel bracelet, and was an instant success. Manufacture of various Polerouter Sub models continued until about 1968.
FIRST GENERATION, 20369/1, CURVED LUGS.
The first execution of the Polerouter Sub was model number 20369/1 and is pictured in the advertisement above and below, and has several distinctive features :
Curved lugs. The first model has gently curved and tapered lugs, with a case very similar to the Longines 7150-1.
Asymmetric crowns. Not always present on the curved lug model, but often so.
Lume dots on the outside of the hour markers. The first execution is recognized by tiny lume dots on each of the larger white painted hour markers
It had a Microtor Cal 215 movement (28 jewels no date), but Cal 218-9 (28 jewels) and 218-97 (17 jewels) versions existed.
The model below is on a Gay Freres bracelet.
The asymmetric crowns are obvious above, and are shown below from the side, together with the distinctive curve of the lugs. The top crown is signed Universal Genève and rotates the internal bezel; the bottom crown is cross-hatched, characteristic of a Super Compressor case, and winds and sets the watch.
However, some versions of the curved lug model have symmetric cross hatched crowns.
The Microtor 215 movement is shown below.
The Super Compressor had a 14 sided screw back, engraved 20369/1 on the outside edge.
SUPER COMPRESSOR CASES
The Super Compressor case holds a special place within the history of dive watches. It was used by over 50 watch manufacturers for their dive watches. Screw in case backs are generally used, except for the Enicar bayonet models.
Super Compressor is a trademarked name for specific case designs made by the case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez S.A. (EPSA). They designed a patented case sealing method that actually became more water tight the deeper the watch went. The deeper you went, the more pressure was applied to the case-back, pressing it against the O-ring gasket.
The patent extract is shown below.
The 2 crown Super Compressor case has crowns at 11 and 19 minutes, and the screw in version was covered by patents Brevet #317537 and Brevet #337462. The EPSA logo is a dive helmet featured below on the inside of an Aquatimer case back. The IWC Probus Scafusia motto also features on the case back.
Super Compressor watches typically have a depth rating of 600 ft. EPSA designed three different types of case ranging from the Compressor through the Compressor 2 to the Super Compressor.
Super Compressor cases supplied by EPSA came in single or dual crown models, the latter with internal rotating bezels. However, a dual crown dive watch with an internal rotating bezel is not necessarily a Super Compressor.
The dual crown case came in two case sizes, 36mm and 42mm. Usually the inside case back has an engraved helmet, the Trade Mark, and the Brevet or Patent numbers for the case, as shown below. The Brevet numbers are 317537 and 337642. This is not so in the Polerouter Sub.
Super Compressor cases also have cross hatched crowns. The crowns are at 11, and 19 minutes, and the crown at 11 minutes operates the bezel.
Below is a model with two crowns of same size.
So, the first curved lug model has a solid stainless steel Super Compressor case with curved lugs and screw-down back, approximately 42mm excluding the crowns; the top crown is sometimes larger, signed Universal Genève and rotates the internal bezel; the bottom cross-hatched crown winds and sets the watch; model number 20369/1 isvisible on the outer edge of the caseback.
The Polerouter Sub above demonstrates all the characteristics of a first execution, starting with the small dots inside the painted indexes.
Some minor variations occured, and in 1994 Antiquorum sold a model with Dauphine hands.
And a Tiffany version with different lume dots, without the wording Polerouter Sub, with a later Cal 218 movement.
The 20396/1 model is generally classified into two distinct variants: the first execution, and the second execution. Both are housed in a dual-crown case; both have broad, flat steel hands; and both have black dials with an internal rotating elapsed time bezel.
The second iteration is shown below on the left, together with the first iteration on the right.
FIRST GENERATION, BEVELLED LUGS.
A comparison between the second iteration shown below on the left, and the first iteration on the right show minor differences.
Image courtesy Omega Forum user : styggpyggeno1
The second execution has hour markers fully covered with lume. The most notable difference between the executions has to do with the shape of the lugs, as the second execution features angled lugs with a prominent bevel. The numbers on the bezel appear thicker, and finally, the crowns are larger.
Below are the crowns, compared with the bevelled lugs.
Inside case back is engraved HF.
Some variants of this execution have poor quality metal cases, and an apparent gap in GENE VE on the dial, and are generally acknowledged to be fakes.
On 27 May 1955, Universal filed Swiss Patent No. 329805 for a ‘Microrotor’, or as they called it a “Microtor”, and the patent was published on 30 June 1958. This was based a satellite rotor that could be recessed into the backplate of the watch movement, without the need to accommodate and mount a traditional rotor above the backplate. It was then possible to create a much slimmer automatic movement and hence a thinner watch case. At the time of its inception, the Microtor was revolutionary. The small size of the rotor and its off-centre position meant that the rotor itself had to be made of a heavy metal in order to move and hence wind efficiently. The rotor was also designed to wind in both a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction.
In 1955 Universal Genève released the Cal 215 Microtor movement in the second generation Polarouters, which were now called the ‘Polerouter’.
Image : Ranfft
Humming at 18,000 bph and with a power reserve of almost forty-eight hours, the Cal 215 had only hour and minute functions, with centre seconds and was 28mm in diameter, and 4.10mm thick.
Throughout the 1950s Universal Genève continued their focus on the development of the Microtor. On January 30, 1957 they filed patent Number 330900, published on August 15, 1958, for a self-winding movement with central seconds wheel and pinion, and a micro oscillating weight integrated into the movement. The Calibre UG 215.1, was 5.15mm thick with hour/ minutes/ seconds, and with the addition of a date disc. Calibre UG 215.2 had the same functions as Calibre UG 215.1, but was 0.45mm slimmer, at 4.70mm.
The Calibre UG 215.2 would be replaced by the Calibre UG 218.2, 4.70mm thick, measuring 28mm in diameter, and with a date function. Its primary improvement of note was the ability to make fine adjustments via an adjustment screw on the balance cock. This calibre would also find its way into Polerouter Date models.
On the 26 March 26 1956, under patent Number 336013 (published on March 4, 1959) Universal Genève filed an additional patent Number 329805. The new Calibre UG 68 was 4.10mm thick, and had a centre hour, minute, and seconds hands.
Below is the patent on a Cal 69 movement.
This was then followed by the Calibre UG 69, which was the Calibre UG 68 with the addition of a date disc, with a thickness of 4.70mm. The development of UG 6x Calibres continued through the 1960s in various iterations.
SECOND GENERATION, 204615/1
The second generation of the Polerouter Sub was released in about 1964, initially as model 204615/1. This model below has a countdown bezel. Some have elapsed time bezels.
The numbers 6,9 and 12 are stylised on white background, and the dial is cross marked in red.
The dial had white UNIVERSAL above red GENEVE.
The hands are long trapezoid shaped with large lume filled centers. The acrylic crystal is domed with a trapezoid shaped internal date magnifier and may or may not be signed in signed in the middle of the underside with a tiny UG “U” logo.
The crown is large, some 7mm high with a domed surface.
The model below has a Cal 218-2 movement, with a date window.
Image courtesy : MentaWatches
The Cal 218-2 movement.
Image : Ranfft
The model below has a Gay Freres bracelet, and has an elapsed time bezel.
Image courtesy : Roy and Sacha Davidoff
The image below shows the cyclops window clearly. This watch is fitted with a Cal 69 movement.
Image courtesy : Roy and Sacha Davidoff
The case back is a screw in, engraved with model number 204615/1 and 2364227. This dates the watch to about 1964.
This case is beautifully designed and is shared amongst a few other models such as the Titus Calypsomatic and the Technos Sky Diver. It has pointed downward bending lugs that wrap nicely over the wrist. The domed crystal can be seen below.
Then, Universal Geneve changed the numbering system commencing an 8691xx series with the Polerouter Date, 869101/01.
SECOND GENERATION 869109/01
This model is identical to the model above, but has a new reference 869109/01, dating it to about 1965, still with a symmetrical stainless steel 40mm case.
The movement is Cal. 69, and it would appear that there are more of this edition than the earlier 204615/1 edition.
At its widest point it measures 48mm and has a 20mm lug width. It has a very large 6.70mm crown, with a rounded top. The crown screws down onto a rubber gasket for water resistance.
Calibre 69. Inside the Super Compressor caseback reads BREVET 238872, BREVDEM.
Image courtesy : Joseph Bonnie
Outside case now marked 869109/01 and 240xxxx, dating watch to 1965.
THIRD GENERATION 869116/01
The third generation of the Polerouter Sub had an asymmetrical case, with a less curved case with case guard shoulders to protect the crown, and dates to 1966.
The dial continued the 869109/01 dial features with large art deco numerals at 6, 9 and 12, and a countdown bezel available. A red line from 3 to 9 featured on the dial. The dial had white UNIVERSAL above red GENEVE.
There is a screw-down crown protected by case-guard shoulders, and a solid screw-down case back. The inner case is antimagnetic and is signed with hallmarks. The 38mm diameter solid two-body case, straight lugs, and external rotating unidirectional bezel are polished/brushed. The bezel has 60-min ute Arabic numerals every five minutes with an luminous indicator dot at 60. The dial is black, steel trapezoidal hands with luminous inserts, and luminous baton hour markers. There is a center sweep seconds hand and a perimeter minute/seconds chapter ring. The trapezoid date aperture window is at the 3 o’clock position. It has a 57-hour power reserve at full wind, and it was originally water resistant to 654 feet. The 12.5mm thick case, dial, and movement are all signed.
This Universal Geneve Polerouter Sub 869116/01 has a mechanical automatic self-winding Universal Geneve Cal 69 movement. It’s rhodium-plated with fausses cotes embellishment, and it’s constructed with 28 jewels, an Incabloc shock absorber, and a straight-line lever escapement. It includes a monometallic balance, a self-compensating flat balance spring, and a gold microrotor. The mechanism oscillates at a frequency of 18,000 vph (2.5Hz).
Image courtesy : Christies
The auction catalogue reads : Signed Universal Genève, Polerouter Sub, Automatic, model 869116/01, case no. 2,503,083, manufactured in 1966, with movement Cal. 69, 28 jewels, automatic.
The 869116/01 model is shown in the middle of the advertisement below.
A crossover 869116/01 model with a version of the later model revised blue bakelite bezel, with elapsed time marked 15, 30, 45, together with the soon to be released flatter crown, is shown below.
Picture courtesy : polerouter.de
Another crossover 869116/01 model with large art deco numerals at 6, 9 and 12, and a countdown bezel but with the next generation white UNIVERSAL GENEVE in one line.
Image courtesy Rolex Forums user : Craft & Tailored
THIRD GENERATION 869116/02
This is the 869116/02 model with the words UNIVERSAL GENEVE in one line. The bezel is always elapsed time, and the movement is Cal 1-69.
Later model 869116/02 was produced with a next generation dial with an elapsed time bezel, still Cal 1-69. There are probably more model 869116/02 of this dial than the previous art deco dial.
Image : Matthew Bain
The 1-69 movement on a model with a Gay Freres bracelet is shown below.
In November 2016 Philips auctioned a rare crossover model, case number 2,504,248 , with the next generation green bezel, and a unique second hand.
It was accompanied by 3 spare bezels in blue, black and red, and an Extract from the UG Archives
And a later prototype bezel has been seen on a 869116/02 model as well.
Image courtesy watchuseek user : capela
THIRD GENERATION 869120/02
The 869120/02 models have a varied numbering system. The inside case back is stamped 869120 but it is then sometimes overprinted. Different numbers 869121, 869123 and 869124 are referenced.
The blue and brown crossover bezels illustrated above are replaced by a bakelite bezel, marked 1 to 11, with tick marks to 5 and triangles elsewhere. Various colours were available, but mostly black is seen. The acrylic bezel has a luminous GMT style number 1 through 11, with a lume triangle at 12. It is bi-directional with a light ratchet. There are 3-D hashmarks inside the insert, giving the bezel real depth and beauty.
The 869120/02 model is shown below.
The dial has no numerals, with rectangular lume hour markers bracketed by an U.
The movement is now a Cal 1-69.
The crown is flatter.
Red bakelite bezel model and blue bezel model is shown below. Green and grey bezels have also been produced.
Right hand image courtesy Omega forum user : Chron
An advertisement for the 869120/02 is shown below.
The revised crown differences are shown below. From above this new 869120 generation crown is flatter, and bigger.
Image courtesy Omega Forum user : bristnj
And from the side the difference is obvious.
Image courtesy Omega Forum user : bristnj
Some other bezels are seen on the 869120/02 model. A Pepsi bezel is shown below with hands similar to the ladies model discussed below.
Image courtesy : Kaplans Auctioneers.
The catalogue note reads : UNIVERSAL, Geneve, Polerouter Sub, Cal 1-69, Ref no. 869120/02, Case no. 2668624, men´s wristwatch, 40 mm, steel, self winding (microrotor), plastic crystal, date, leather strap, approx 1967-8.
Another Pepsi bezel with more commonly seen hands is below.
Image courtesy : www.polerouter.de
Several other models were produced, but the numbering system is not completely understood. The 869121 model has a red bakelite dial, dated about 1969 with a Cal. 1-69 movement.
Image courtesy : Watches of Knightsbridge
The inside case is stamped 869120 with 1 added over the 0
Image courtesy : Watches of Knightsbridge
A blue bezel model 869122 was also produced.
Inside case stamped 869120 with 2 added before and 2 over the 0
There was also an 869123/02 model with a countdown bezel
Inside case stamped 869120 with 2 added before and 3 over the 0
The same case number modification is also found as below.
Image courtesy timezone.com user : stophmaster
And, finally, there was an 869124 model.
LADIES POLEROUTER SUB
The ladies Polerouter Sub was model 825604/01 left, and right 825605/01 both with movement Cal 1-25.
The watch was 27mm diameter and took a 14mm wide strap.
Left image @danhenrycollection : Right image courtesy : Mentawatches
The watch came with a rubber bracelet, or a bracelet for street wear.
The Cal 1-25 is shown below.
The beater wold be a symmetric second series watch with art deco numerals. There are not many of these available.
An elapsed time version, with Gay Freres bracelet is currently for sale for over $8,000.
The keeper would be a third generation asymmetric watch of the 869120 series, with a coloured bezel. The red bezel on a Gay Freres bracelet would be very desirable. The bakelite bezels are prone to cracking, and a good one is rare.
Image courtesy : ray916mn’s Bucket
The grail watch would be the original, first generation, Super Compressor 20369/1 with the curved lugs, the watch which started the series.
Open the box
And discover the grail watch on a Gay Freres bracelet.
Images courtesy WatchProSite user : nilomis