What is a Polarouter?
The Polerouter was initially introduced and marketed as a Polarouter in 1954. This can be seen quite clearly within a lot of the early marketing and reference material shown in the Vintage Advertising section. Along with the name being changed to Polerouter in 1955, the case construction was also changed. The original Polarouter case construction had the plexi fitted from outside, tensioned by the inner marker ring/rehaut, and the dial/movement finally pressing everything together for a tight fit (below). The new Polerouter case construction used a plexi that was press-fitted from the inside, and held in place against the case by a screw-in metal ring.
The Polerouters retained the use of same 138SS caliber bumper movements as their Polarouter predecessors. To reflect the changes, the model reference codes received an S in front of the old ones, changing from, for example, 20217-1 (Polarouter) to S20217-1 (Polerouter). Later in the production period an H-case was also made available (e.g. H20217-1), though the differences between these and S-cases are up for debate. Polarouters can most easily distinguished from later S- and H- Polerouters by the dial, plexi diameter, and the 6-notches in the caseback as opposed to the 12-sided polygonal shape that replaced it on the Polerouter.
ABOVE: Polarouter 20217-x front and back (left) and Polerouter S20217-x front and back (right).
Polarouter changes: 1st and 2nd executions
Polarouter serial numbers have been found to range from 1,64x,xxx to 1,69x,xxx, and appear in two distinct serial range batches: (1) 1,64x,xxx; and (2) 1,67x,xxx-1,69x,xxx (nearly all within 1,68x,xxx).
There are also two variants in Polarouter dial types, which correspond with these serial batches. The dial text remains unchanged between the two, however the vertical crosshair line is what distinguishes one type from the other. The First Execution (1,64x,xxx serials) has the vertical crosshair cutting right through the dial text (LEFT, below). The second execution (1,67x,xxx-1,69x,xxx serials) sees the vertical crosshair line still cut through “Polarouter”, but no longer cut “Universal Geneve”, or “Automatic” (RIGHT, below).
How many Polarouters were made?
We have managed to compile over 100 serial numbers from collectors and old auction databases, for both 1st and 2nd execution Polarouters. From this we can see a few things:
- 1st execution Polarouters were made sequentially in batches. I.e. First came the 20217-1 (lowest serial numbers), then the 20214-1 (second lowest serial numbers)… and so on;
- 2nd execution Polarouters do not show the same pattern. So far, serial numbers of the subreferences seem to generally overlap between 167 and 169xxxx, though most are 168xxxx serials. A larger sample size with more serials may shed more light on the production orders; and
- If we make a few plausible assumptions, we can calculate the number of 1st execution Polarouters produced…
The assumptions are that (1) all subreferences were made in equal amounts; and (2) there are no gaps in serial number between subreferences.
By substituting in our known serial number ranges for each reference, we can calculate an approximate number. For this, between 167 and 174 fit the criteria. Adding one final assumption (that UG would order a nice round number for each), we can narrow the possibilities down further.
Finally, we end up with figures that show 170 of each subreference were made, for 1st execution Polarouters. It is of course important to take this calculation within the context of its assumptions, and unfortunately we cannot use the same methods for 2nd execution Polarouters yet.
Collectability: 1st Vs 2nd Execution
As Polarouters were only in production for less than a year, the number of both 1st and 2nd executions that we have seen in collections are extremely low. They are rightly amongst the most collectable references in the entire Polarouter/Polerouter model range. For now, that means there does not seem to be any preference for one execution over another, though that may well change in the future as more examples surface, and collectors tastes and preferences mature.