By Michael Thompson
Get ready to flip for the Reverso once again as Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrates 85 years of its legendary creation.
This year, Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrates the 85th anniversary of the Reverso — the rectangular, dual-sided collection identified most with this famed Le Sentier-based watchmaker. One of the very few watch designs worthy of the overused term “iconic,” the Reverso was the result of a challenge polo players made to the brand’s distributor in India. They wanted a timepiece that could withstand the rigors of their favorite sport — which occasionally includes the whack of a wooden mallet.
Their pleas were answered in 1931 when designer René-Alfred Chauvot and company chief Jacques-David LeCoultre introduced a watch that allowed the wearer to swivel the case so the solid caseback was on top and the watch’s crystal was tucked safely underneath.
This dual-sided Art Deco design — whose name was inspired by the Latin phrase meaning “I turn around” — did more than simply protect the watch from shock. Soon, Reverso owners began to personalize their timepiece’s caseback, utilizing the unadorned flipside as a palette for self-expression and adornment. Over the years, Jaeger-LeCoultre has emblazoned Reversos with everything from family crests and lacquered paintings to gilded engravings.
For the anniversary, the brand revisits earlier styles with the Reverso Tribute collection. While it doesn’t mirror every characteristic of the original, it does fully embody its spirit by holding dear the Reverso’s sleek Art Deco case, elongated applied markers (no numerals) and dauphine hands. A clear standout from the collection is the Reverso Tribute Calendar, which is based on the brand’s “duo concept” — a single manual-wind movement driving two independent dials and a day/night indicator.
The Reverso Tribute Calendar adheres to this outline and adds a richly decorated set of calendar functions. The grained dial on the front includes a triple calendar with windows for the day and month and a hand for the date, plus a moon phase indicator. The back shows the time in a second time zone along with a spectacular day-night indication topped with a tiny triangle to enable easy reading. The anthracite-colored guilloché dial is embellished with a clous de Paris hobnail finish.
The final touch here is a technical one that helps retain the watch’s seamless Reverso case design. To adjust the watch’s second time zone, Jaeger-LeCoultre has developed a wholly new method that avoids placing a pusher or small indented button onto the side of the case. Instead, flipping the case reveals a discreet second time zone trigger that’s integrated into the case at 6 o’clock, well out of sight until needed.
The Reverso Classic — now available in small, medium and large sizes — retains the Art Deco demeanor and Golden Ratio case dimensions of the traditional Reverso, but introduces slightly thinner lugs designed to hug the wrist more comfortably.
What’s really exciting is what’s inside. Typically, the Reverso is powered by one of the maison’s stalwart hand-wound movements. Not so for the large-sized Reverso Classic (45.6 x 27.4mm). It has a self-winding movement (Caliber 965), a feature that is particularly enticing for collectors who have been craving an automatically wound edition to this time-only line.
Watches sized for feminine wrists were among the very first wave of Reversos in 1931. With this in mind, Jaeger-LeCoultre offers two marvelous creations destined to beguile modern women. First is the small-sized Reverso Classic Duetto, which comes in either rose gold or steel and can be worn on either a strap or bracelet. Interestingly, these offer a diamond-set bezel on their secondary dial for added flexibility as both a daytime and evening watch.
The second watch for women is the Reverso One Duetto Moon, a model with an elongated case that is the first Reverso ever to break the rule of the Golden Ratio. On the front, it features a distinctively retro silver-toned, sunburst guilloché dial with seemingly hand-written Arabic numerals and dauphine hands. Flipping to the second dial reveals a dreamy, blue paillonné enamel dial composed of overlapping circles and radiant beams. The star-spangled look includes a romantic moon phase with a mother-of-pearl lunar disc.
Making the Rounds
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s recent debuts, however, were not all Reversos. One that garnered a great deal of attention is the black-dialed version of the Master Ultra Thin Perpetual. Not only is it the first steel version of this popular model available through the brand’s authorized dealers, the watch also has an interesting backstory.
Cellini President Leon Adams and Jaeger-LeCoultre U.S. President Philippe Bonay collaborated on the design for a special edition meant to celebrate Cellini’s 40th anniversary in 2017. The creation was so good, however, that it became part of the brand’s collection.
“A number of us, Leon Adams and I in particular, were very fond of the original Master Perpetual Calendar black dial from the late Nineties,” Bonay recalls. “It is a watch that perfectly synthesized the blend of innovation, complication and value Jaeger-LeCoultre can offer. The idea to create a contemporary version of this model came out of one of the passionate discussions we often have.”
The Geophysic Universal Time, which debuted to great acclaim last year, is also a contemporary version of a classic design. The watch is one of two new Geophysic models to feature True Second, a sophisticated mechanism that releases the seconds hand once per second, echoing the precision of historic regulator clocks. As its name suggests, the Geophysic Universal Time enables simultaneous reading of the time in all 24 major time zones via a moving disc that displays all the corresponding cities. A traveler needs only to adjust the local time by moving the hour hand forward or backward, independently of the minutes and seconds.
The dial of this 41.6mm rose gold version depicts all of the Earth’s continents with a sunburst finish. The seas are formed by lacquered shades of blue. From the watch’s clear sapphire caseback, the wearer sees that the movement’s solid gold oscillating weight echoes the Jaeger-LeCoultre logo.
Both of these new round-cased models perfectly complement the Reverso’s flexible, rectangular profile. And in 2016, this storied brand once again offers a range of new designs other brands can only dream about.