Universal Geneve Tri-Compax 881101/02 “Evil Clapton”

A rare beast, especially in this condition. Probably came from a dealer or a foreign auction, right? Wrong. Craigslist. That’s right. The sketchy classifieds site where you use only a first name and meet people in very public places in order to prevent them from being the second coming of the Zodiac killer and kidnapping you. Was that nightmare too personal? Anyways, ya know, that Craigslist. The watch was listed with awful pictures taken at night and an even more awful description. But through the grime and mediocrity of its presentation, I could tell that it was potentially a special one. The reference itself is very rare anyways, but to find it in this condition on top of that? About as rare as it gets.

I emailed the seller and asked for a few pictures in daylight and said that if they checked out, I’d be able to pay immediately. I also probed for the story a bit more and learned that it was a son who had inherited the watch from his father some years before. He worked an active job, however, and was forbidden from wearing watches during the day, which essentially relegated the watch to drawer duty the entire time it was under the son’s guardianship. The decision to sell wasn’t an easy one, but ultimately came down to two things: a desire to sell it to someone who would service it and wear it, and the obvious desire to add a few extra dollars to his bank account. Both of those things were no problem for me, and after “buying the seller,” we moved forward with the deal.

I’ll never forget holding it in my hands for the first time. I had never seen a Tri-Compax in-person before, and I was utterly shocked by the combination of complications packed into a sporty 36mm watch. It was like a funhouse of horology – at one moment a sleek chronograph that could be timing laps in a vintage Porsche, and in another moment, a refined triple-date with moonphase that would look at home under the sleeve of a nice jacket. It was the most exciting Craigslist find that I’ll ever have, most likely, and was also one of the last that it’s produced for me. The hit rate is extremely low, but with enough persistance and creativity, who knows – it could work out for you as well.

The Nitty Gritty

One of the best condition Tri-Compaxes that I’ve seen, which is doubled by my link to the original owner’s son. It’s honest and all-original, which when paired with condition is the holy trinity. The twisted lug case is extremely sharp and almost certainly a stranger to the polishing wheel. The lume is fully intact on every plot (somewhat of a rarity for many Tri-Compaxes) and the hands perfectly match the very desirable creamy yellow hue. A real bonus was the original bracelet arriving in great shape also. It’s missing one of the original end-links, unfortunately, but these Gay Freres bracelets are highly sought after in their own right and this one helps to complete the original look of the Tri-Compax. After a close look at this example, it’s not hard to understand why UG has become so hot in the past couple years.