Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Grande Taille and Reverso Grande Ultra Thin
The Rake delves into the history of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso.
In a world obsessed with stainless steel sports watches, the Reverso has etched its place amongst the horological pantheon with its versatile and deceptively simple swiveling case. The fabled story of the Reverso started at the beginning of the 1930s far away from the green pastures of Switzerland and straight in the middle of a polo field in British-ruled India. British Army officers posted in the country would enjoy spending their down time playing polo. The 1930s was an era of change in social norms and more men were seen wearing wristwatches. A problem arose when the aforementioned polo players would experience the struggle of having their watch crystals shattered while playing the game. This issue was brought to the attention of Swiss businessman and watch trader César de Trey while he was visiting India. Players wanted a timepiece they could wear which was strong enough to withstand the numerous beatings given out by the gentlemen’s mallets. Upon his return to Switzerland, he reached out to his good friend Jacques-David LeCoultre to task him with coming up with a solution. LeCoultre partnered with Edmond Jaeger and his company to create the case design that would solve the issue. René-Alfred Chauvot was the French engineer in charge of the development of this new watch case and on March 4th, 1931 the patent n.712.868 was submitted to the Paris patent office for a watch whose case could reverse and flip 180 degrees so as to protect the fragile front glass of the timepiece. De Trey, who made a good fortune selling gold and porcelain dentures in Switzerland, set up a watch distribution company called Spécialités Horlogères and bought the rights to the Reverso name. Between 1931 and 1933, de Trey and Jacques-David LeCoultre supplied the Reverso cases to brands like Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Cartier. By the late 1930s, Jaeger-LeCoultre had created no less than 11 different movements for the Reverso.
However, the charm of all things Art Deco started to fade after World War II. The Reverso’s popularity also took a hit, and by the late 1960s, the production was completely ceased. The next two decades were dominated by the Japanese quartz watches, and it wasn’t until 1982 that the Reverso could be resuscitated with the quartz Caliber 601 movement. Jaeger-LeCoultre was now making the Reverso cases in-house. In 1985, the brand unveiled a new case designed by one of its engineers, Daniel Wild. Though there was no question of playing with the aesthetics of the case, the new batch used CNC technology for the first time. Composed of 55 parts instead of the 23 in the original, the new case was waterproof, dust-proof and equipped with a new flip-over mechanism. As the revival of mechanical watches started to gain momentum in the 1990s, Günter Blümlein took the helm of Jaeger-LeCoultre and brought back the glory days of the Reverso. Together with Henry-John Belmont, the then-CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, and French designer Janek Deleskiewicz, he re-energized the Reverso with a slew of complications for the watch’s 60th anniversary. Crafted out of pink gold, the Reverso 60ème with a power reserve and date hand was introduced in 1991. The anniversary special was soon followed by the brand’s first tourbillon wristwatch in 1993, first minute repeater in 1994, first retrograde chronograph in 1996 and first perpetual calendar in 2000 — all in a Reverso.
On the Reverso’s 60th anniversary, Jaeger-LeCoultre decided to use the watch’s flip side to introduce complications on both the front and the caseback. This novelty needed a larger case, and the “Grande Taille'' was born. The Grande Taille features a steel case with characteristic Art Deco striping and is sized perfectly for small to medium sized wrists at 26x42mm. The dial has silver satin and guilloche textured elements with a subsidiary seconds register at 6:00, Arabic numerals, and shiny blued steel hands. The present example of the Grand Taille at our shop is from 2003 and is in an outstanding condition. The watch comes with its original papers and a two-year warranty from Watchfinder. Despite the added challenge that rectangular movements dictate an entirely different architecture from that of the round movements traditionally used for complications, Jaeger-LeCoultre has continued to enrich the Reverso with a variety of complications and artistic decorations. Better than any other watch, the Reverso presents the finest available blank canvas, upon which the owner and artisan alike may demonstrate their appreciation and patronage of high craft. Besides the Grand Taille, we have also added a gorgeous Reverso Grande Ultra Thin model to our shop. After featuring the Grande Reverso Ultra Thin 1931 with a variety of dial colors, which included black and red, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced a delectable chocolate dial to the collection in 2014. They went for a matte brown, changed the metal for the case from stainless steel to rose gold and fitted it with a more robust, sporty strap. The result is the most stunning Grande Reverso Ultra Thin 1931 to date! The matte chocolate dial gets a nice vintage touch from the Art-Deco styled, yellowish numeral and hour markers, and of course greatly compliments the rose gold case, with its warm glow. With an overall height of 7.3mm it is slender, especially when you take into account that this includes the swivel mechanism of the case. 46.8 x 27.4 mm as measurements for the case gives a nice presence, but is not even as Grande on most wrists as you might expect. Jaeger-LeCoultre has already established itself as the Manufacture among Manufactures a long time ago and caliber 822/2 that powers this watch is exactly one of the reasons why. A form-shaped manual wind movement, with an elegant bridge-construction, top-notch finishing and just under 3mm in height, makes it a companion that is as beautiful as it is precise and reliable.
The present example of the Grande Reverso Ultra Thin at our shop is from 2018. The leather strap on this watch is made by Casa Fagliano, the famous Argentinian polo boot maker, and adds an extra style element to the watch. The watch comes with a complete set of original box and papers.