Universal Geneve Bumper Polarouter


Introduction

The aircrew who flew Helge Viking on the first commercial SAS Douglas DC-6B flight over the pole from Copenhagen to Los Angeles on November 15, 1954 were each presented with a commemorative Universal Geneve Polarouter watch in 1954 (Ref 1).

Polarouter first model universal geneve 1954

 Image courtesy Omega Forum user : Fidjeland

At the same time the Leif Viking took off from Los Angeles and carried out the reverse journey, with the planes passing one another near the North Pole.  

Commemorative letters were posted to celebrate the occasion, post marking the cities where the planes landed on the journey.

postcard polarouter

Image courtesy : www.wristchronology.com

Also, at the same time, Carlsberg also produced a commemorative Polar Beer.  The beer label is rare, and harder to find than the Polarouter watch, but one recently sold to a collector for USD 2.  The watch is much more sought after, and more valuable.

Carlsberg polar beer 1954 

Image courtesy : Tripadvisor

SAS had been experimenting with a polar route since November 1952, and needed to develop reliable navigational aids capable of operating near the North Pole, including antimagnetic chronographs.   Universal Geneve collaborated with SAS, and the Polarouter watch was developed in this period, some models of which were certified as chronometres.

This article deals with the initial calibre 138SS Polarouter, which was the forerunner of many models of Polerouter watches.

The Polarouter

The Polarouter was partly designed by Gerald Genta at the age of 23.  It is reminiscent of the Grand Seiko with double curved lugs, and the images in this article show the classic lines of the model.

It was powered by the caliber 138 SS movement.

The movement used in the early Polarouter and Polerouter models was the caliber 138 SS. It was introduced by Universal Genève in 1948, first as caliber 138 with a subsidiary second and then with a central second as caliber 138 SS.  The caliber 138 SS measures 28.2 mm in diameter and 5.55 mm in thickness. Its balance makes 18,000 vibrations per hour. The self-winding weight oscillates 315 degrees between two springs acting as shock absorbers, the so-called bumpers. This mechanism only winds the mainspring during one motion, and this inefficiency meant the watch often needed hand winding. The caliber 138 SS has 17 jewels, a plain surface finish and is rhodium-plated. It is shock-proof and anti-magnetic. Despite the precision and reliability that was proven on duty for SAS, the movement was replaced by the Microtor movement after approximately one year of production, as this was a more efficient movement.  

For an article on servicing the caliber 138SS see ref 2.

The name changed to Polerouter after a few months, and at the same time the screw in case back opening mechanism changed from 6 keys to a dodecagon.

The watch is 50m waterproof. The waterproof construction is achieved by a tension ring, and the tension ring variations are a feature of the many dial combinations.

polerouter assembly

Image courtesy Kronos Forum user : Cendrars

The Polerouter was assembled in a case with a screw back, with the movement, the curved dial, the tension ring, and the crystal.   There was plenty of opportunity to vary the combinations of dials and bezels.   There were also three case types, stainless steel, 300 micron 18k gold cap, and 18k gold.

The dials came with or without cross hairs, and with or without chapter rings.   The chapter rings were ticks, dots, or dots with lume at the 5 minute markers.  The bezels had raised indexes at the 5 minute markers, and were plain metal, fluted between the indexes, or with fluted indexes, or coloured with bakelite applied between the indexes.   The hands were folded Dauphine, fluted Dauphine, Dauphine with triangular lumed inserts, or broad arrow.

Consequently, either during official production, or unofficial production, or in a watchmakers studio, the number of actual case, dial, hand and bezel combinations was huge.

The advertisement below shows some of the range of Polarouters.

Polarouter models

Image courtesy Omega Forum user : Severin

The Stainless Steel cased Polarouters were the 20217 series, the 300 micron gold capped the 20214 series and the gold models the 10234 series, the 10234 models using different lugs on the case.

Polarouter 20217-1

The first model was 20217-1, released in 1954.

The 20217 series were in stainless steel cases.

This dial is black, with cross hairs, and no chapter ring.  The tension ring has raised broad index markers, with radial fluting between.  The crown is either signed U, or unsigned.

Original model Polarouter dial below. 

Polarouter Universal Geneve 20217-1

 

Polarouter 20217-1 adam

Image courtesy Omega Forum user : Adam2941

The movement was the Caliber 138SS, the so called bumper model.   The bumper weight can be seen below between the two springs, and this can rotate about 315 degrees.

Universal Geneve Bumper 138SS Polarouter
The case back was a screw back with 6 keys, with the Universal Geneve logo, WATERPROOF, serial number, and model number 20717-1

Polarouter 20217-1 case back 

The advertisement for this model is below. 

 polerouter advert

Image courtesy : www.polerouter.de

Polarouter 20217-2

This model has a white dial with a radial fluted tension ring.  The chapter ring has one tritium lume dot every 5 minutes.  Fluted dauphine hands with central groove are fitted.  

The model below is a Polarouter, with a 6 key case back.

 

20217-2 Polarouter

The name then changed to Polerouter.

Polerouter 20217-2

Photo courtesy Omega Forums user : Severin 

Now with dodecagon screwback case.

20217-2 Polerouter

Image courtesy :  Kaplans Auctioneers

 

20217-2 Polerouter

The model above has a chapter ring with minute tick marks, but no lume dots at the 5 minute markers.

Polarouter 20217-3

This model is all stainless, with a white dial and no chapter ring.  Narrow indices are used at 1, 2, 4, 5 7, 8, 10 and 11 o'clock.  Broader indices at 3, 6 and 9 and double index at 12 o'clock.   Dial signed Polarouter.

20217-3 Polarouter 

Image courtesy : www.blackbough.co.uk

The dial changed later to Polerouter, as below, with broader more uniform index markers.

20217-3 polerouter

 Image courtesy Omega Forum user : citizenrich

Dials tropicalise, and this model has a chapter ring with ticks.

20217-3 polerouter

watchuseek : bubba48

20217-3 polerouter

http://www.montresanciennes.fr/

Then with a revised chapter ring, with dots at the 5 minute markers, and ticks elsewhere. Some models had one dot at 12, and others 2 dots at 12 and dodecagon sided case back.

20217-3 Polerouter

Dodecagon case back, now without model and serial number, marked SWISS and with the Universal Geneve logo.

20217-3 polerouter

Polarouter 20217-4

Radial fluting on tension ring, dial slightly tropicalised. Tritium dots at 5 minute markers on chapter ring, tick marks between.   Polarouter model below with narrow indices away from the crosshairs..

20217-4 Polarouter

Image courtesy : Marturx.com

This then changed to Polerouter, with thicker index markers on tension ring and open dots on dial, and dodecagon screw back.

20217-4 polerouter
Now thicker index markers on tension ring and Polerouter on dial with closed dots.

20217-4 polerouter

Image courtesy :  www.christopherward.forum

 Now with 2 dots at 12 on chapter ring.

20217-4 polerouter

Image courtesy  : www.watchesofknightsbridge.com

Triangular lumed hands, and dodecagon case back.

20214-4 dodecagon polerouter

Image courtesy Omega forum user : kentlinardi

 

Polarouter 20217-5

A white dialled version of 20217-4.  Narrow indices away from the crosshairs.
20217-5 Polarouter
Image courtesy Omega Forums user : Adam2941
When changed to Polerouter now with 2 lume dots at 12 and broader indexes on the tension ring.
20217-5 Polerouter
Image courtesy :  www.blackbough.co.uk
20217-5 polerouter
The gold capped version of this stainless steel model is model number 20214-6.
There was a chronometre version of this model, the watch below with CHRONOMETRE on the dial, and movement marked 2193.
20217-5 Chronometre polerouter
Image courtesy Omega Forums user : Bill Sohne

Polarouter 20217-6  SAS 

As mentioned in the introduction, the SAS aircrew were excited to be given Polarouter watches to commemorate their journey.  This model again has a tension ring with narrow markings at 5 minutes, wider at 3, 6 , 9 and 12 o'clock.   Dauphine hands.  Domed crown, not marked.

SAS Aircrew with Polarouter watches

 Image courtesy Omega Forum user : Fidjeland

sas 20217-6 polerouter

 

Photo credit : jose carlos saldanha

Later models exist with tritium dots at 5 minute markers on chapter ring, and tick marks between.

 Below is a gold Polarouter Deluxe version with the SAS logo applied.

Polarouter 10234

 Image courtesy Omega Forums user : Fidjeland 

Polarouter 20217-7

This model has a stainless steel dial, and tick marks on the chapter ring.   Dodecagon case back.

20217-7 polerouter

20217-7 case back polerouter

20217-7 polerouter

 

Polarouter 20217-8  Broad Arrow

Broad arrow hands with lume (Luminova?) on hands and between indices on tension ring are a feature of this model.    The chapter ring has just tick marks, and the dial has cross hairs.

 

20217-8 Broad Arrow

Image courtesy : www.polerouter.de

20217-8 broad arrow

Image courtesy : oredelmondo.org

Below is a later version with dodecagon back, and radial fluting rather than tritium lume on the tension ring.  The lume was applied over the radial fluting.

20217-8

Polarouter 20214-1

The 20214 models are gold cap 300 micron stainless steel.  The grooves in the tension ring run uniquely in a circular pattern in the 20214-1 model.  Folded Dauphine hands.

20214-1 Polarouter

6 key screw back case, marked WATERPROOF.

20214-1 polarouter caseback

Credit 2 images above Omega Forums user : Selbo

Polarouter 20214-4

300 micron gold cap and with chapter ring with open dots at the 5 minute markers, and one dot at 12.  Radial grooves in tension ring.  Dauphine hands with central spine.

20214-4

Image courtesy Kronos forum : CalVa

Version with dodecagon case back and WATERPROOF and Universal Geneve logo only, no serial number or model number.   2 dots on chapter ring at 12.

20214-4 kent Polerouter

Image courtesy Omega Forums user : kentlinardi

Polerouter 20214-6 

The gold capped version of 20217-5 with white face, solid lume dots and one dot at 12 on the chapter ring.

20214-6 polerouter

 

The gold capped version of 20217-5 with white face, solid dots and 2 dots at 12 on the chapter ring.

20214-6 polerouter

Image courtesy : www.classicdriver.com

 

Polerouter 20214-12

14K yellow gold-filled case with steel screwdown back, champagne and bronze dial, yellow gold Dauphine hands and sweep second hand.   Painted tension ring between indexes.

17 Jewel bumper automatic movement

20214-12 polerouter

Image courtesy : www.tempvsfvgit.com

Polerouter 20214-11 Broad Arrow

Broad arrow hands with triangular lume, and painted lume between indexes.
20214-11 polerouter broad arrow
gold polerouter broad arrow
Image courtesy Omega Forums user : LouS

 Polerouter 20214-14

Broad arrow hands with triangular lume, and radial fluted tension ring between indexes.

 Image credit : www.polerouter.de

Lume missing from the broad arrow hands below.

20214-14 polerouter broad arrow

Polerouter 20214-?

This is an all gold chronometre Polerouter.

Movement stamped 2106, and no marking "unadjusted" on movement.

polerouter chronometer bumper

Image courtesy Omega Forums user : Bill Sohne

Chapter ring has uniform dots.

Polarouter 10234-1 De-luxe

The 10234 series are all gold models with square, curved lugs.  Radially fluted indices.   18k gold.  A gold dial was featured in the 10234-1 model.   This model did not have a chapter ring or indices on the dial, just having the indices on the tension ring.   The model below has cross hairs.

10234-1 Polerouter

Image courtesy : www.austinkaye.co.uk  

10234-1

The chronometre wristwatch below was made around 1955. This watch is very rare as a chronometer.  The gold dial shows gold hands.  Watch case and crown are made of 18K gold. The watch has an original, black leather strap with a gold plated pin buckle. The watch case number is B10234-1; the movement number is 2548. 

10234-1 chronometer

Sometimes these were not marked Chronometre on the dial.

10234-1 chronometre polerouter

The 138SS movement for the chronometres was stamped with the chronometere number, and UNADJUSTED was not used.

10234-1 chronometre movement

The advertising referred to the chronometre certificate.

chronometre polerouter advert

Above 3 images courtesy Omega Forums user : Bill Sohne

Below is model 10234 1TL,  produced in 1958.  This is a rare model with a gold bracelet in shape of a belt with buckle (special patent).  This has a solid case, polished, screwed-down case back, and straight concave lugs.  Two-tone pink gold in two parts (special patent) bearing the effigy of King Faysal of Saudi Arabia, with fluted indexes on a polished outer ring.  Dauphine pink gold hands. 


In April 1958, the Minister of Finance of Saudi Arabia, Mr. Srurl El Sabban, visited the Universal 
Genève stand at the "Foire de Bâle" and subsequently ordered approximately 50 examples of this watch bearing the effigy of King Faysal. This model represents Universal Genève's most advanced technology at the time, embodying 3 patented innovations.

10234-1 Polerouter

The 10234-1 commemorative SAS version below is a Polarouter. 

SAS 10234 polerouter

Polarouter 10234-2  De-luxe

This model had a 750 micron gold case, and triangular index markers on the dial at 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes.  

It featured a 6 notch screw in case back with only model 10234-2 and the serial number.

It had a beige dial, with and without crosshairs.

 

10234-2 polerouter deluxe 

Omega Forum user : citizenrich

10234-2 polerouter inside

Omega Forum user : citizenrich

Below is a version with crosshairs.

10234-2 polerouter

Polarouter 10234-3  De-luxe

This was an 18K 750 micron pink gold version, marked inside case.   6 notch screw in case back with only model 10234-3 and serial number.   Black, now often tropicalised dial, but white dials perhaps existed.

Below is the gold version 18k gold with tropicalised dial.  The dial has cross hairs, and triangular fluted indices at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock.  There is no applied U logo.  The lugs are square sided but curved.  The tension ring has radially fluted indices.

Polerouter 10234 solid gold

Image courtesy : www.juwelier-leopold.de 

10234-3 polerouter

Image courtesy www.austinkaye.co.uk

10234-3 polerouter white dial

Image courtesy Omega Forums user :  Fost

Polerouter 10234-21   De-luxe

Black dial, with applied logo, but no markers at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock.

10234-21 polerouter

Personal engraving on 10234-21 screw in case back.

10234-21 back

Polerouter 10244 

18K 750 micron pink gold version

 

10244 Polerouter pink gold

 

10244 polerouter 

 

6 notch screw in case back with only model 10244 and serial number.

10244 caseback polerouter

inside case 10244 Polerouter

 

Recommendations

The Polerouter with the 138SS bumper movement was only produced for about 1 year. Hence the models are relatively rare, as about 2500 units only were produced.  In addition to the relationship with SAS, some customised production for other clients was also carried out.  Bearing this in mind we have the following recommendations.

The Beater

Almost any of the Gerald Genta influenced watches are desirable, but perhaps something with Polarouter on the dial indicates the early intent of this watch.  The early Polarouters often have narrow indices on the tension ring away from the cross hairs.

 

The Keeper

A broad arrow version would be the keeper.   These are rare and currently fetch several thousand dollars.   Below is a later version with lume on the hands but radial fluting on the tension ring.

Polerouter broad arrow

The Grail

Although not a Gerald Genta influenced design, the grail would be the gold SAS Polarouter issued as a commemorative piece for the SAS commencement flight from Copenhagen to and from Los Angeles.   This is close to a unique watch, and the price would be USD 10,000 plus.

Polerouter SAS 20214

  Image courtesy Omega Forums user : Fidjeland 

References

1.  https://scandinaviantraveler.com/en/aviation/1950s-over-the-north-pole

 2. http://watchguy.co.uk/service-universal-geneve-calibre-138ss/


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