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Transitional Polarouter/Polerouter Theory

  1. Mazoue

    Mazoue Nov 24, 2019

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    It's not uncommon to see Polarouter cases with Polerouter dials. I had initially assumed that these were Polarouters where the dials had been replaced at a later date but I am beginning to wonder whether there was one or more batches that left the factory this way.

    Firstly, I think there are too many of these watches for them all to be dial replacements. Secondly, I've found multiple examples where the watch is in good condition and has retained its original crystal and original crown and it therefore seems less likely that just the dial would have been replaced.

    The watch pictured below is a good example. It has a Polarouter case, identified by the six key case back and the 20217-5 case reference (not S20217-5 as you typically see on a later Polerouter). It also has the original signed crystal and the original signed crown that we would expect to see on the later 2nd exec Polarouters. However it has a Polerouter dial - the dial from a slightly later S20217-5 Polerouter (note that it is the dial from the equivalent reference with silver dial and lume i.e. the 20217-5 v S20217-5). The serial number is 1'684'708.

    Whilst this theory may not seem totally implausible given that Polarouters were only produced for such a short period, I should point out that there are Polarouters with later serial numbers that have Polarouter dials. If my supposition is correct, this would mean that the watches were prepared in batches and not in serial number order, which doesn't seem impossible.

    Whilst it will be difficult to prove that these 'transitional' watches are all original, if we could find a number of similar watches with serial numbers within a narrow range then I think this would make it more likely that these watches are all original having been produced in the same way at the same time. Alternatively, if we found lots of 'standard' Polarouters with Polarouter dials with very similar serial numbers then that would make the 'transitional' theory less plausible.

    If anyone owns a watch that is potentially a 'transitional' model or sees one, could you please either post pictures and the serial number here or send the details to me directly?

    IMG_1492.jpg

    IMG_1491.jpg

    IMG_1493.jpg
     
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  2. bubba48

    bubba48 Nov 24, 2019

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    I don't know if my Polerouter is transitional, but for sure is all original :)

    Clipboard01.jpg

    Clipboard011.jpg

    "Dear Mr Xxxxx,

    We refer to your above-mentioned email related to a vintage UNIVERSAL GENEVE “Polerouter” watch and would like to present you our apologies for this late reply.
    According to our files, your UNIVERSAL GENEVE “Polerouter” in steel, model S-20217-3 (serial numbered 1’711’849) has been manufactured in 1955-1956. This is all we have been able to find out about this particular watch.
    We gladly remain at your disposal for any further inquiry.
    With our best regards,

    UNIVERSAL GENEVE SA
    After Sales Service"
     
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  3. ELV web

    ELV web Nov 24, 2019

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    I think it is quite imperative to understand that UG doesn’t really have an archive. And the information they provided is general knowledge rather than from a look up of the archive.

    edit: or in some cases in the past you can pay them to issue a certificate and they will just describe the watch as per your description (as long as the description doesn’t contradict the serial number material and type of watch I.e. time, chronograph etc).
     
  4. Severin

    Severin Nov 24, 2019

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    It woudln’t Surprise me, @Mazoue (by the way, thank you for this Interesting thread).

    We already know there is some overlap between other, non-Polarouter generations of polerouter cases. For example. Here is my 215 with a large 138 case, 19mm lug width. Serial is approximately 1.84 million, ref 208360-2. (What is the movement in your example (apologies if you’ve mentioned it somewhere and i missed it)).

    I am leaving this reply now in the spirit of a quick, initial impression rather than as a piece of thoroughly researched reasoning.

    EE52DEAE-C1B8-4307-A7B1-4A6461941D14.jpeg 6BD7BA2F-4379-4DBF-9F47-C8ACB3689F00.jpeg A6023DC3-8C39-4987-81F6-EB55FAC14D33.jpeg


    For further reference, here is one of my bumpers:
    One reference value and a few serial numbers apart from yours:

    4CD452C7-5A68-4B5F-864A-C31EAADF9F6D.jpeg A360A624-E6C5-43B0-8583-44841402BAAA.jpeg
     
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  5. Mazoue

    Mazoue Nov 25, 2019

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    Definitely not a candidate for being 'transitional'. It has a Polerouter case back with polygonal case back and a Polerouter case reference of S20217-3. It's a good example of a typical bumper Polerouter.
     
  6. Mazoue

    Mazoue Nov 25, 2019

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    The watches in question are bumpers with the Cal 138ss movement. They are effectively very early Polerouters and will date to 1955. The Polarouter was first available at the end of 1954 but it is thought that the name changed to Polerouter during 1955.

    Polarouter serial numbers are found in the range 1'64x'xxx to 1'69x'xxx. These 'transitional' examples are found towards the end of that range but have Polerouter dials.

    Bumper Polerouter serial numbers typically start at 1'71x'xxx.
     
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  7. rustynuts

    rustynuts Nov 25, 2019

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    I spotted this one some time ago and thought it a redialed Polarouter as the serial was so low and it had the typical narrow indices on the chapter ring. Perhaps a "transitional" piece?
    It's a tricky situation - without any real records from UG we're all just guessing with transitional this, or service dial that.

    Polerouter138l.jpg UG138SSback.jpg
     
    Edited Nov 25, 2019
  8. Mazoue

    Mazoue Nov 25, 2019

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    I agree, we are guessing but it's possible to find evidence that makes things more or less likely even if we can't prove them.

    This watch doesn't fit the transitional theory very well and I would say that it is most likely a Polarouter with a replaced dial.

    Polarouters appear to have two distinct serial ranges:
    - 1'64x'xxx (First exec)
    - 1'67x,xxx to 1'69x,xxx (2nd exec)

    If there were transitional watches then you would expect them to be 2nd exec watches with later serials but that is not the case here. In addition, the watches that I've seen that fit the transitional theory have the standard Polerouter marker ring with wide hour markers.
     
  9. rustynuts

    rustynuts Nov 25, 2019

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    Is it sensible to expect anything? Suggesting some sort of consistency in the inconsistent assembly of these watches (I've seen "Polarouters" with wide chapter rings) might be stretching credibility and with a single figure sample size whatever results can be construed from research could never be considered reliable. Your efforts to find a path through the minefield are laudable but isn't there a danger that they'll give rise to assumptions that, repeated often enough, become gospel?
     
    Edited Nov 25, 2019
  10. Mazoue

    Mazoue Nov 25, 2019

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    Point taken although trying to piece things together and then looking for evidence that might support a theory is part of the fun for me and, in the absence of any records, seems like the only way that our understanding might progress.

    I completely agree that Polarouters can have wide chapter rings (as well as narrow) but Polerouters did not have narrow chapter rings and that was the point I was making.

    Given that the transitional theory is based on the idea that a batch of Polerouters were assembled with Polarouter cases then I think it is more likely that the serial numbers would fall towards the end of the Polarouter range and not near the beginning, so that does feel like a reasonable assumption to me.
     
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  11. rustynuts

    rustynuts Nov 25, 2019

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    I certainly agree with what you're trying to do as it can only increase the awareness of the variations that exist (and obviously helps to counter the inevitable proclamations of "redial" when one of us presents something infrequently seen).
    Perhaps @CafeRacer might eventually add to his databases a gallery of multiple samples for each reference? It might help with these transitional/atypical pieces
     
    Edited Nov 25, 2019
  12. Mazoue

    Mazoue Nov 25, 2019

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    Another example of a 20217-5 with Polerouter dial. In common with my first example, the serial number is 1'68x'xxx - sadly the remainder of the serial was not visible because it had been worn off. Same crown seen on late Polarouters.

    IMG_8604.jpg
    IMG_8577.JPG
    IMG_8589.JPG
     
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  13. Gav1967

    Gav1967 Nov 25, 2019

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    I like the theory however, in my limited experience of UG, there is only one certainty and that is nothing is certain. It reminds me of the on-going discussion about signed/unsigned crowns and their originality.

    With no real archival records and with UG being such a mercurial company then I guess any theory will only ever be precisely that but more power to your elbow in finding additional empirical data to support it (or disprove it!) and show whether it is more or less likely.

    If I spot any likely models I will pass on the info

    Gavin
     
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  14. CafeRacer

    CafeRacer Nov 25, 2019

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    In my opinion (and only opinion of course...), its completely possible for there to be some sort of transitional model.
    I'm just yet to see evidence of it.

    Ill keep it short, but my main reasons are:
    1) I have seen and recorded later serials than these potential "transitional" pieces, with polarouter dials;
    2) I estimate around half of the "polerouter dial in polarouter case" examples are shown to be incorrect (e.g. hands or dial not matching the reference number) and the lume colours very rarely match;
    3) The early 138ss with polerouter dials used a single lume dot at 12 for the first 1500-3000 serials (depends on the reference). The "polerouter dial in polarouter case" examples (including those above), all have 2 lume dots at 12 (they made a lot more of these dials, so more likely replacements would use them). If there were a transitional dial, one would think they would be a real transition... e.g. the case from the latest polarouter, with the dial from the earliest polerouter (single lume). Im yet to see one.

    So, it doesnt yet add up for me.
    But of course, that doesnt mean its wrong.
    As always, more serials, more examples of all different types surface and the patterns start to emerge, followed by the "of course!" and a slap of the forehead. Until then it remains a mystery. :)

    Just my thoughts on the topic...
    Glad there is a bigger interest forming in "Polerouter research" though...! :D
     
    Edited Nov 25, 2019
  15. CafeRacer

    CafeRacer Nov 25, 2019

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    Appendix to above, some examples of the early "Single Lume as 12" polerouter dials, in photo order:

    S20217-2 1710863
    S20217-4 1712420
    S20217-4 1712554
    S20217-4 1712753
    S20217-4 1712762
    S20217-4 1713074
    S20217-4 1713282
    S20217-4 1714796
    S20217-5 1715219


    S20217-2 1710863 front ricardo.ch copy.jpg S20217-4 1712554 front copy.jpg S20217-4 1712753 front copy.jpg S20217-4 1712762 front copy.jpg S20217-4 1713074 front copy.jpg S20217-4 1712420 front copy.png S20217-4 1714796 front  copy.jpg S20217-4 1713282 front copy.jpg S20217-5 1715219 a:s front copy.jpg
     
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  16. Mazoue

    Mazoue Nov 25, 2019

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    Thanks Adam, helpful stuff as usual.

    Interesting how much variety there is even within these early S20217-4 dials. Five of your examples have the cross hair crossing the Universal Geneve and Polerouter text and the cross hair stops on the other two.
     
  17. Mazoue

    Mazoue Nov 26, 2019

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    And this one sold at Watches of Knightsbridge in 2016. Serial number 1'691'318. Same crown as the other 2 examples.

    original.jpg
     
  18. CafeRacer

    CafeRacer Nov 26, 2019

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    But again, the stark difference between dial and hands lume raises doubts for me.
     
  19. viwa64

    viwa64 Nov 29, 2019

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  20. Mazoue

    Mazoue Nov 29, 2019

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    Fantastic.

    As much as I would love this to be another potentially 'transitional' example, it's actually exactly the same watch that sold at WoK that I posted above.
     
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