There’s a small group of Polerouter references which have been given the nickname “Broad Arrow” by collectors, coming from the shape of their hour and minute hands. Similar handset designs are found on the famous early Omega Speedmaster, Seamaster, Railmaster, and Ranchero references from the late 1950s, which also carry the same nickname.
Interestingly, the earliest Polerouter Broad Arrow references (1955) seem to pre-date their Omega counterparts, which were only produced from 1957.
So how many different Polerouter Broad Arrow references are there?
We can break them down into 2 main groups, based on movement calibers: (1) Bumper (caliber 138ss) models; and (2) Microtor (caliber 215) models.
Bumper (Caliber 138ss) models
The first group is the Bumper Broad Arrows (or “BA”s for short) which were powered by the caliber 138ss “bumper” automatic movements – these are shown in the 1956 advertisement below. We can see there was one reference offered with a black dial in a steel case (S20217-8, later superceeded by the H20217-8), and an additional two references offered with either a black dial or gold dial in a gold-capped case (S20214-13 and S20214-14).
All of these references are described within the advertisement as having a “Nitelite Marker Ring”, in reference to the radium-containing luminous material that was applied generously around the marker ring. Additionally, they had matching radium luminous material on the hour and minute hands. Often this radium material was removed or replaced during servicing or repair over the 60+ years since their manufacture. As these BA references had lume on the hands and the marker ring, there was no need to have lume pips where we often seem them on the hour markers of Polerouter dials. As such, all BA dials were constructed with “non-lume” dials.
Oddly enough, the advertisement also refers to the watches as “PolArouters”, even though it is clear that by this time Universal Geneve had changed the name to “PolErouter” – further evident on the dials in the advertisement. This crossover of names seems to have occasionally occurred in marketing material up until at least 1957.
Microtor (Caliber 215) models
The second group is the Microtor Broad Arrows, which were powered by the caliber 215 microtor automatic movements.
So far, we have been able to document 3 further model references from examples that have surfaced in auctions and collections:(1) Steel case with black dial (20360-3), (2) Gold-capped case with black dial (20363-4), and (3) Gold-capped case with gold dial (20363-5).
From the serial number records, we can see that these references were available right from the start of when the microtor models were introduced into the Polerouter lineup. All were powered by a caliber 215 Microtor, and kept the same pattern of luminous material on the marker ring and hands as appeared on the earlier 138ss Broad Arrows.
Are there any other differences between the BA references?
Putting aside the obvious differences of dial colour, and case material, and movement, the main difference is that the bumper cases are inherently thicker to accommodate the thicker movement, and so sit slightly higher on the wrist. Though they are the same case diameter, this makes them feel like a slightly larger watch.
You can see this more clearly from the image above, which shows the Bumper case (S20217-8, left) compared to the Microtor case (20360-3, right).
The other obvious difference is the mounting of the plexiglass, where the Microtor 20360 utilises a taller, rounded-edge plexi, and the S20217 plexi is flatter and the edge sits almost flush with the case (read this short article for a summary of the early plexi mounting differences).
They also give different feel on the wrist. Some prefer the smooth wind of the microtor, whereas others prefer to occasionally feel the thud of the rotor hitting bumper springs – it definitely reminds you that you’re wearing a mechanical wristwatch!
It more or less comes down to personal preference.
Although since the Broad Arrow references are scarce in general, a collector without ample patience (or luck) may not always have the choice…