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Universal Geneve FS, the "other” railway watch

  1. Rman Mar 31, 2017

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    Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 6.43.55 PM.png

    It’s not “for sale” and it doesn’t stand for “fuori serie” or “outside the series,” so often marked on limited edition cars to signify custom built. Italian government administrators enjoy ordering special editions of timepieces for their state employees and military, and in this case the FS stands for Ferrovie dello Stato— The State Railways.

    fullsizeoutput_19aa.jpeg

    As early as the 1800’s the FS issued pocket watches from brands such as Longines and Zenith. In 1927, the fascist administration granted the Italian company Perseo a monopoly, and Perseo really dominated the pocketwatch scene on the FS up until wristwatches came into popularity.

    Towards the end of the 50s, the FS give the choice between pocket watches and wristwatches. They granted access to a few other suppliers at this time. Some brands would be allocated directly, such as Universal and Perseo, but others could comply with specifications and sell to railway workers for replacement. These approved wristwatches could be bought by the ferroviere through withholdings on their paychecks.

    The requirements were that the wristwatch measure 35-36 mm in diameter, have a white dial, a sub-seconds dial at 6 o'clock, arabic numerals and a threaded caseback.

    These Universal Geneve FS watches were in production from 1960 to 1970. The UG FS were not chronometers like the Railrouter and non-hacking, but the caliber 64 movements were nicely made, hand-wound movement with oversized balance wheels.

    fullsizeoutput_19a6.jpeg

    As far as I can understand the numbers on the case backs are non-consecutive and unassigned to a particular employee or conductor. The FS engraving is really a treat.

    fullsizeoutput_19a5.jpeg

    The first Ferrovie dello Stato with this enamel dial came in a slimmer 34mm case with faceted lugs:

    Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 10.57.10 PM.png

    The second iteration is a cushion case measuring in at 36mm. The only real difference on the dial is the subdial on the earlier reference has the wide open 6, while the latter looks closed until you look through a loop:

    fullsizeoutput_19a4.jpeg

    They both have a beautiful die-stamped dial with exceptionally subtle snailing and glossy enamel paint. The dial is quite characterful with the numbers in relief and the open 9. Combine the dial with the high polish case and a nice strap and you have a simple little timepiece with a lot of panache.

    fullsizeoutput_19b1.jpeg

    The watches are found with slightly different crowns, however almost all of the examples I’ve observed have the simple rounded U mark without the badge outline. The two in my possession have identical crowns.

    fullsizeoutput_19a8.jpeg

    I’ve really enjoyed my FS, purchased directly from a cheerful Italian seller. So much so that I've found another for my father-in-law, it's a great gateway watch into the world of vintage.

    The watch is handsome on a variety of straps and can easily be dressed up or down.

    4UniversalFS.jpg


    Most of the information has been gathered, synthesized and translated from orologi y passioni and forumamontres so thank you to our brothers and sisters over at those forums. I invite anyone with corrections or additional information to please chime in.
     
    Edited May 5, 2017
  2. Severin Mar 31, 2017

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    Beautiful write-up and illustration - thank you for this good work.

    P.S. On a small detail, It's funny to see the seemingly asymptotic/curved number one on the caseback serial, which in my experience is very typical of a certain generation of European penmanship (perhaps it still is).
     
    yvrclimber and Florent like this.
  3. Rman Mar 31, 2017

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    Very interesting detail, thank you.
     
  4. Larry S Color Commentator for the Hyperbole. Mar 31, 2017

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    Fantastic article. I'm a sucker for enamel dials. These are beautiful. Thanks for publishing!
     
  5. Dero13 4 watches. All set to the wrong time. Mar 31, 2017

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    Learn something new ever day. Very nice write up! :thumbsup:
     
  6. aap Mar 31, 2017

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    Great write-up, @Rman I've been curious about this watch for quite some time now. I even posted a thread here asking for more info, but it seems not a lot are knowledgeable about it. So, it's cool that you did this. Thanks!

    Is the first generation version harder to find?
     
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  7. Rman Mar 31, 2017

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    Glad you enjoyed the piece, yes, the first generation is more rare, maybe 1 for sale for every 5 of the second generation since I've been watching.
     
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  8. aap Mar 31, 2017

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    Will be on the lookout then! Haha
     
  9. noelekal Mar 31, 2017

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    Makes the Forum worthwhile just to read narratives like this.

    Thank you!
     
  10. Xeer Mar 31, 2017

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    thanks for that share Rman!
     
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  11. Moahunter Mar 31, 2017

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    Very comprehensive except you missed the Incabloc version. I posted this one from a fairly recent ebay listing FSI1.jpg
    FSI2.jpg

    To complete the collection how about this
    cap.jpg
     
    Edited Mar 31, 2017
  12. Rman Mar 31, 2017

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    Nice cap;)
    Yes I'm not sure where that one fits in with the Unitas 6325 movement, perhaps one of our Italian friends can help.
     
  13. Tony C. Ωf Jury member Apr 1, 2017

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    Good post! These are regularly available, and mainly in Italy, of course.
     
  14. micampe Apr 1, 2017

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    The logo in the cap is a lot more recent, I don't know exactly but I'd say mid to late 90s, since I was there when it appeared.
     
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  15. billving Apr 1, 2017

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    Great piece, great information. Thanks
     
  16. MattF Apr 2, 2017

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    Great write up and history. I too just recently added a first generation to my collection, it is really a fun watch and a tremendous about of value. Enjoy yours in good health.
     
  17. Carlton-Browne Apr 2, 2017

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    Many thanks for posting this - I think this is now the official Universal Geneve FS thread in English.

    I have one and the first feature that everybody remarks on are the way the numbers on the dial are punched from behind; a feature that is also present on the Perseo variant. Does anybody know if (and indeed how) these design element might have been stipulated in the spec?

    In my opinion there's a good chance that this variant is somebody being a little creative.
    [​IMG]

    I think it's a Perseo where somebody has scrubbed the original logo and over-printed. God only knows where the case comes from.

    [​IMG]

    Does anybody have a link to the, presumably expired, auction?
     
    Rman likes this.
  18. Moahunter Apr 2, 2017

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    Here is the listing
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/wristwatch-Vintage-UNIVERSAL-GENEVE-Cal-6325-F-S-/351971481394?rmvSB=true&nma=true&si=UxFBKchFBT57poU4uXRfNi7jaCI%3D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
    I can't see any info. on the movement except a "U"
     
  19. Rman Apr 2, 2017

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    After reviewing some Perseo with Unitas movements thanks to @Carlton-Browne, and looking at the quality of "FS"caseback engraving on the example you posted, I think we can be certain this is a franken.
     
    Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 2.22.02 PM.png
  20. Moahunter Apr 3, 2017

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    I looked for a Perseo FS incabloc without a date window and found
    P1.jpg
    Note the distinctive "7" in the 17 JEWELS. Just like the one in the suspect franken posted by me.
    In addition, the caseback is identical.
    P2.jpg
    So the franken is a Perseo with a UG logo on the dial.
    Why bother?