Universal - Double Signed: A Celebration of the Finest Partnerships of Manufacturers and Retailers Geneva Friday, November 8, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Universal
    Year: 1940
    Reference No: 12515
    Case No: 775'073
    Model Name: Compax "Ettore Cattaneo"
    Material: 18K yellow gold
    Calibre: Manual, cal. 292, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Gilt pin buckle stamped with the Verga crown
    Dimensions: 46mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed, dial and pin buckle further signed Verga
    Accessories: Accompanied by an Universal Genève Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch in 1940 and that the dial is signed Verga, a presentation box and a green crocodile pouch. Furthermore accompanied by photocopy of a picture of young Ettore Cattaneo in uniform with eulogical sonnet, photocopy of picture of older Ettore Cattaneo in front of glider and photocopy of handwritten note by Massimo Agnetti - Cattaneo's grand nephew- detailing the property passages of the watch.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Few timepieces can reunite under one case the same aesthetics, rarity, condition and historical interest as this oversize Verga-retailed Universal chronograph. A passing glance is sufficient to realise the supreme aesthetic impact of the watch, featuring an incredibly oversize case measuring 46 mm. Such a large diameter is beyond unusual for the time, and it points to a professional or military intended destination of the piece. Fortunately, this is one of the rare instances when the history of the watch is as transparent as it is impressive, and it confirms in fact the previous speculation. The watch was most likely made for Italian aviation pioneer Ettore Cattaneo. It was gifted by him to his nephew Giorgio Agnetti, and eventually inherited by his son Massimo Agnetti who sold it to an important Italian collector. A handwritten note by Mr. Agnetti precisely details all this passages, leaving no doubt about the watch history.

    Born on December 6, 1898 in Milan, Ettore Cattaneo was a truly eclectic figure, whose interests spaced across many fields: medicine, aviation, engineering and politics. His passion for aviation is apparent since his youth, so much that he secretly enrolled at the Milan Polytechnic University against his father's wishes for him to continue the medical dynasty of the family. Once discovered, he was locked at home to study medicine, which he successfully did, achieved a medical degree and began to work as a dentist. His true passion was however not forgotten, and he obtained the military pilot licence in 1918. From this point on, he took part in many historical events. In 1921 he participated in the occupation of Fiume together with Italian patriot and poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, who will describe Cattaneo as “The Blonde Apostle of Aviation”. In 1926 he became world champion of long distance gliding flight. Inspired by this achievement, he subsequently designed his own gliders in collaboration with Italian company Caproni. In 1931 he approached rocket propulsion, piloting a plane of his own design (Avio Razzo Cattaneo/Magni RR) on June, 28. This is the very first rocket-propelled flight in history, and the King of Italy recognised this accomplishment by elevating him to the rank of Count.

    During WWII he was a medical officer and earned a Medal to the Valour when he saved many patients of his hospital by carrying them out of the flaming and crumbling building after a bombing. After the war, he went back to dentistry.

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1894

    Universal Genève was founded in Le Locle, Switzerland in 1894 and was originally known as "Universal Watch." Since its inception, Universal Genève has produced watches with unusually high quality for their price point. Universal was among the first brands to introduce a chronograph wristwatch.

    Today, the firm's vintage models are highly sought-after and desired for their oversized cases and interesting dial designs. Key models include a variety of "Compax" models such as the "Nina Rindt" or "Evil Nina," the Uni-Compax, the Space-Compax, the Aero-Compax and the Film-Compax.

    View More Works


Ref. 12515
An extremely rare oversized yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with box

46mm Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed, dial and pin buckle further signed Verga

CHF50,000 - 100,000 

Contact Specialist
Virginie Liatard-Roessli
Specialist, Head of Sale
+41 76 338 91 03

Double Signed: A Celebration of the Finest Partnerships of Manufacturers and Retailers

Geneva Auction 9 November 2019