Even within the fairly niche realm of vintage Universal Genève watches, there's a particular model that stands out for its uniqueness and flaunting of the typical horological design codes: the Uni-Compax. With its unique "big eye" counter — larger and out of proportion with the remainder of the dial — it was a watch that stood out from amongst the sea of more subdued chronograph designs in the early to mid-60s. Unfortunately, the Uni-Compax was only produced for a few short years (1963-1965), and this limited production run means quality examples are extremely rare, and extremely expensive these days. (Like, $30-$40k-expensive. Though if you're interested, here are a few.)
Thankfully, we have William Massena, watch world veteran, watch designer, and all-around nice dude. His watchmaking project, Massena LAB, frequently collaborates with other brands or designs on its own some of the funkiest modern timepieces on the market, and his latest product is aimed squarely at fans of the Uni-Compax. Called the Uni-Racer, it's a faithful recreation of Universal Genève's masterpiece, albeit updated slightly for the modern wearer.
The Uni-Racer is a gorgeous tribute to the original Uni-Compax, available in two colors and limited to 400 pieces total (200 per color). In development for over three years, the project began with Massena's own obsession with the original watch — he was unable to source an example he truly loved, and didn't love the smaller case size, however. So, naturally, he decided to build his own, and replicate The Big Eye's features down to the smallest detail.
After speaking with several ex-Universal Genève employees, Massena decided to polish the Uni-Racer's case vertically, which is how the originals were executed. He upsized the steel case itself slightly to 39mm for the modern wearer, and fitted it with the manually wound Sellita SW510 chronograph movement with a 58-hour power reserve, a reliable Swiss caliber that provides hours, minutes, a central chronograph, a 30-minute counter at 3 o'clock (in place of the original Uni-Compax's 45-minute counter) and a small seconds counter at 9 o'clock.
The Uni-Racer's two available dials make only slight deviations from the originals in order to accommodate the modern wearer: the 45-minute "big eye" counter is now a 30-minute counter, the lume used is Super-LumiNova (in a color developed specifically for the watch), and the markers have been changed slightly for better visibility in low light. The unique sub-register handset has been preserved, and is executed on the black dial model in a special blue color that took Massena LAB over a year to perfect.
Ever the perfectionist, Massena sourced acrylic for the crystals and had them engraved with a small "M," similar to how certain vintage acrylic crystals feature a faintly visible logo. The watch case was specially adapted to offer 50m of water resistance, and the whole shebang is presented with either a "bleu de France" Saffiano leather strap (white "panda" dial) or a cement gray textured leather strap (black "reverse panda" dial). Both watches will be available from The HODINKEE Shop and at Massenalab.com for $3,495.