The Polarouter was introduced in late 1954 following the historic SAS Polar flights but it was most likely renamed as the Polerouter within just a few months. Polarouters are therefore scarce as they were produced for just a short period and in small numbers.
I’ve tried to list and illustrate some of the distinguishing features of Polarouters below.
Although the 20217-6 SAS Polarouters are thought to be the first Polarouters, there are examples with earlier serial numbers. Known Polarouter serial numbers range from 1’647’xxx to 1’691,xxx. Polerouter serial numbers don’t start until 1’7xx’xxx.
Case reference number
The Polarouter case reference numbers do not have an S or H prefix; they start with 20214 for the gold-capped cases and 20217 for the stainless steel cases.
There are known to be six variants of the 20214 i.e. 20214-1, 20214-2 etc. Similarly, there are six known variants of the 20217. Advertising suggests more variants might have been produced but I ‘m not aware of any examples.
There are a few known examples of watches with Polarouter case references and 1’6xx’xxx serial numbers but Polerouter dials. More are needed to reach a firm conclusion but it does seem feasible that these are transitional models with Polarouter cases and Polerouter dials.
The dial should of course have “POLAROUTER” printed on the dial. It is typically found in the upper half of the dial printed below “UNIVERSAL GENÈVE”.
The text is oblique and the typeface is relatively plain without serifs or with modest serifs. The colour of the “POLAROUTER” text can be different to the other text printed on the dial. Close study of the text under a loupe reveals that that the “POLAROUTER” text was added after the other text and cross hair.
The letter “A” in “POLAROUTER” is typically pointed unlike the letter “A” in “UNIVERSAL” or “AUTOMATIC”. Seemingly, the only exception to this rule is the SAS Polarouter with case reference 20217-6, which has a flat-topped letter “A” in “POLAROUTER”.
Polarouters have screw off case backs with six square notches. The case reference number and serial number are stamped on the outside of the case back, as is the Universal Geneve logo and the word “WATERPROOF”.
On the inside, the case backs are all stamped with the HF logo of the case maker Huguenin Frères. The gold capped watches have additional text in French describing that the cases are capped in 14 carat gold 250 microns thick and that the case backs are stainless steel.
The Polarouters with 20214 and 20217 case references actually had slightly different case designs to the later bumper Polerouters; the way in which the crystals are mounted is different and the required crystals are of a slightly different size. The later bumper Polerouters will have S20214 and S20217 case references and polygonal screw off case backs.
Of course, many crystals have been changed however I have seen enough Polarouters with signed crystals with the etched Universal Geneve logo to believe that all Polarouters left the factory with a signed crystal. You can just make out the etched logo on the close-up of the 20214-5 dial above.
There are two styles of marker ring that I believe were unique to Polarouters.
Firstly, there is a ring with narrow hour markers. It has a double hour marker at 12, wide markers at 3, 6 and 9 but narrow markers in between. This style of ring is seen in gold on the 20214 references and in silver on the 20217 references. It is the style of ring used on the 20217-6 SAS Polarouter.
There is another style of marker ring seen on 20214 references that I think is unique to Polarouters. It is gold coloured but rather than the usual radial markings between the hour markers, the lines are concentric circles. I’m only aware of this style of ring being used on 20214-1 and 20214-2 case references.
Although I believe the marker rings described above were unique to Polarouters, there are lots of Polarouter examples with standard marker rings and therefore it seems likely that these are also original and that not all Polarouters left the factory with one of the ring types described above.
It is very difficult to draw any conclusions regarding crowns because they have very often been changed.
I do think that there is at least one type of crown that was unique to Polarouters. The crown was signed and domed like the crown seen on later bumper models but the grooves on the crown were wider and there were fewer of them. These crowns were produced for both the gold-capped and steel Polarouters. The 20214-2 shown above has a crown of this type, although like many gold crowns, it is fairly worn.
There may have been other crown types that were unique to Polarouters although I personally believe that all Polarouter crowns would have been signed.
These should not be viewed as hard and fast rules. It is not always easy to establish what is factory original, since watches have been repaired or restored over the last 65 years. They are my conclusions based on the small sample set that has survived and that is available to study. As is often the case with Universal Geneve, few records exist leaving us the gift of unexplained inconsistencies to ponder and debate.