Much is made of the set of decorative skills that can transform
the Reverso from an ordinary watch into a piece of art. Indeed, the
Reverso, better than any other watch, presents the finest available
blank canvas, upon which the owner and artisan alike may
demonstrate their appreciation and patronage of high craft.
Some collectors ascribe great value to the narrative that may
flow from a simple monogram (for example, on The Duke of Windsor’s
watch), others can go so far as to have portraits of their favorite
pet engraved. The counter to this is that it renders the watch so
permanently “yours”. The case back is virtually begging to be
personalised. Which makes it a perfect watch to give to a family
member or a loved one, but also to mark special events in one's
life such as weddings.
As vivid as the personalisation can be, the beauty is there’s no
need to have it permanently on display – unlike the flames painted
down the side of your car, or that rather prominent tattoo. Render
it visible to admirers with a mere press of a fingertip, and then
flip it round again, safely and securely secreted away within an
impenetrable metal sandwich.
Two Watches for One
The Reverso is all about flipping the watch around so as to
protect one side or the other. As originally, conceived, it was the
glass front that was meant to be protected. Now, we’ve discovered
that the back of the Reverso is a fun place to put all sorts of
interesting things. But if miniature enamels and engraving aren’t
your bag, then what about a whole other watch?
The Reverso Duo, and the smaller Duetto, are among the model’s
most popular-ever iterations. Not quite “business at the front,
party at the back”, it is nevertheless alluring because of the
ability to have two entirely different watch dials in one package.
The larger version of the watch also has the ability to switch the
time display in one-hour increments. This is perfect for
travellers, because you can simultaneously track two time zones
without the added clutter of a dedicated GMT hand.
The Duo is but one of a long line of inventive and successful
Reverso watches that has included ladies’ models such as the
Reverso Cordonnet from 1938, the astonishing Grande Complication à
Triptyque, which presented a concerted perpetual calendar display
spanning all three available surfaces of the watch, and the
Gyrotourbillon 2 with its JLC calibre 174, which in 2009 won the
precision timekeeping contest, Concours International de
With all these wonderful associations, it may be easy to lose
sight of just what a superb product the Reverso actually is. In
engineering terms, that swivelling case utterly outstrips anything
in its class, and requires quite staggering amounts of technical
input. It is also a design that is unrivaled to this day and
cements its almost 90 years reign as one of the most iconic
During the burgeoning period of wristwatch development that was
the 1930s, the nascent watch-case industry had very little to go on
when it came to style and technique. Most manufacturers scaled down
pocket watches and added wire lugs onto them. When most other
wristwatches were cased in what amounted to little more than
elaborate sweethearts’ lockets, the Reverso case was a pinnacle of
Ever since, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been sensitive to the design
cues laid down by the man who originally commissioned the Reverso,
César De Trey. The grooved bands at the head and tail of the case
have remained extant in just about every edition of the Reverso.
People love to recall the Art Deco aspect of these rectilinear
details. With such powerful design cues and associations, the
Reverso’s guardians have had to weigh their responsibility
carefully, so as to preserve the spirit of the thing without
transforming it into a pastiche.
This is one of the reasons why the Reverso has remained a
reliable and rewarding watch, not only in its style, but especially
in its value. The Reverso is all things to all men – and women.
It’s the epitome of Art Deco style, and yet not obnoxiously so. It
is at once a high-precision instrument and a diverting toy, capable
of captivating its owner and all whom he or she meets. I am not at
all surprised that almost 90 years on, the love affair collectors
have with the Reverso is as strong as ever.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique is one of the least
expensive ways to wear a watch from this grande maison. Although
you could consider it the entry-level Reverso, no corners were cut
to create this watch.
The Classique is as pure as you can get for a Reverso. Its
dimensions may sound modest, at 23.1mm wide and 38.5mm long, yet
that is also part of its strength. It oozes the style of decades
long gone, but obviously not forgotten.
The dial engages in a subtle play with light, revealing textures
and colors you didn’t think were in the dial. This really gives the
watch depth and amplifies that Art Deco style so closely associated
with the timepiece.
Chocolate dials have become something of a niche lately, with
more and more brands adopting them. The results of this vary per
watch, and that makes the approach that Jaeger-LeCoultre has
selected all the more interesting. They went for a matte brown,
changed the metal for the case from stainless steel to pink gold
and fitted it with a more robust, and may I say even, sporty
The result is a stunning version of the Grande Reverso Ultra
Thin 1931. 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 pink gold case, with its warm glow.
Pink gold can be a bit in your face when used on a more robust,
larger watch, and that is why it works so well on the Grande
Reverso Ultra Thin 1931. 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. Measurements for the watch are
46.8 x 27.4 mm which gives the case a nice presence, but is not
even as Grande on most wrists as you might expect.
Inside the watch is caliber 822/2 responsible for the
timekeeping of this Reverso. About this movement there is not much
to say. Jaeger-LeCoultre has already established itself as the
Manufacture among Manufactures a long time ago and caliber 822/2 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.
With the strap, Jaeger-LeCoultre is showing once again it’s
polo-heritage, since it is made by none other than Casa Fagliano,
Argentina’s premier manufacturer for polo equipment, mainly leather
boots and knee-pads. Although already a beautiful brown-red color,
one can expect that its patina will only deepen over time.
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