Sitting in my workroom at 2 ante meridiem, trolling and searching for a vintage watch in the Asian classifieds, I had run into something beautiful, and exceedingly more rare than I could have imagined at the time.
It was a 1951 37mm Oversize Universal Genève with the Automatic Bumper Caliber 138. At the time of the swift purchase from Philippines, I did not care too much about what was signed right below the maker on the dial.
It was a Universal Genève manufactured for the retailer Estrella Del Norte , which translated to “The Star of the North”. Which was a high end jewelry store in Philippines. What made it special to me more than just the rare retailer signature was when I learned about how Estrella Del Norte started and it’s direct impact on the society in Manila and Philippines , but before we jump on to it , I would like to go over the watch a little bit more.
Two-tone dial with rose gold applied arrow markers for the hour. Notice how the outer non luminous round markers are a bit bigger for the hours.
Where the case and the long curved lugs meet there are no sharp angles, but a nice seamless slope at the top.
Going back to the Estrella del Norte story , it was started by the Levy family, three Jewish brothers that left France due to the increased tensions against the Jewish people after the Franco-Prussian War and made home in the Philippines. They were the main agent for Patek Phillipe , Vacheron Consantin and Omega.
They became successful and branched out. They were the first to introduce the automobile and movie camera to the Philippines. The family and the business integrated very well with the community , and they enriched each other.
(Retailer name on the right)
I would like to thank Universal Genève to confirm what we know as the first Estrella signed UG on the internet. Mathias Garcia at the archives department of UG , confirming that this watch was indeed manufactured for Estrella del Norte and sold to in the 1950's. Lou Gopal for letting me use the old Estrella Del Norte store photographs.
On a site note : All though Universal Genève did unsigned crowns in the early 1950's , this one has a replaced crown.