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.

Published

May 2021

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