Many Swiss watch manufactures have historically sourced or produced part of their watches outside of Switzerland, and still do so even today. As markets increased and became more competitive over the 19th and 20th centuries, some countries began to impose specific taxes, restrictions, or quality controls on goods produced abroad, in order to protect their local industries.
We have briefly described one such occurrence in an article about US-market Polerouters here, however, the USA was not alone in producing or modifying significant parts of Swiss manufactured watches for their local markets.
France was also well known to have imposed heavy restrictions on imported precious metal items such as Swiss watches, mostly under the guise of maintaining standards and guaranteeing high quality products. Specifically, in this case it was a restriction on finished gold watch cases (this is seperate from the “Fab. Suisse” law). In some instances, watch companies would find a local casemaker to house their watch calibers inside, such as the US-market cases in the above-mentioned article. For France, all gold watchcases were hallmarked by the assaying office by law, to confirm the gold content, and its origin (from within or outside of France). Imported watch cases from a “non-treaty” country or an unknown origin were assayed and stamped with an owl (below, left) if they met the standards, whereas an eagles head has been used since 1838 as the official hallmark for French 18 karat gold (below, middle and right). This hallmark is typically double-stamped on the main case (the side of the case, and one of the lugs), as well as on the outside of the caseback. The casemakers mark was stamped inside the caseback.
We have unearthed three different 18 karat gold UG Polerouter references which all have these characteristics, and all seem to have been cased in France for sale to the domestic market. They are the references 10244; the 10361; and the 104501. All examples of these references found so far bear the French gold hallmarks above, though unlike the US-cased gold Polerouters, they still use the same reference and serial numbering system as the Swiss-cased Polerouters. The only difference is that none of them have sub-reference numbers, most likely because there were not enough variants to warrant it.
There were two time-only references, the 10244 (early, 138ss bumper caliber, “automatic” dial, available with and without lume) and the 10361 (later, 215 microtor caliber, “automatic microtor” dial, with lume). Both were housed in 18kt gold cases, with gold dials and handsets, and a steel outer dial ring. Its also worth mentioning that the lume and non-lume versions of the 10244 were not differentiated with any sub-reference numbers.
There was also a time-date reference (104501) powered by a 215-2 microtor caliber, in what seems to be two different dial versions. As with the 10244, there were no sub-references to differentiate between the two dial styles. The two-tone version (left, below) appears with earlier serials, and the single tone version (right, below) appears with later serials, and this is consistent with the early and late dial logos. However, it is worth noting that this observation is based on only a few examples that have appeared on the market so far.
The 10361 has appeared in a vintage UG advertisement in the early 1960s – as expected, the text is in French and directly translates to:
“Rare… are the privileged who can dream at home in front of the original of a masterpiece; they constitute the elite of connoisseurs. Also privileged are those who this year own a Universal Geneve watch, a marvel of technicality and elegance“.
The advertisement shows sufficient detail to help to confirm the correct characteristics if the 10361, whereas for now we have to simply rely on data for the characteristics of both the 10244 and 104501 references.
Another small detail we can also pick up from the advertisement is in regards to the date, as well as confirmation of the origin country. The pricing for the 18 kt gold 10361 reference is 1320 NF (new franc, nouveau franc) which was introduced in France in 1960. This tells us that the advertisement originates from France specifically, and not just another French-speaking country. From these details and the serial numbers of the examples that have been found so far (1.99-2.05x.xxx), it gives us an indication that the 10361 reference was likely produced in the very early 1960s. It further indicates that the 104501 was produced during the same time period (serials 1.99-2.05x.xxx) and that the 10244 was produced earlier, in the late 1950s (serials 1.75-1.88x.xxx). The total production numbers of these references are not known as yet, but they only seldom seem to appear on the market to date.