The Reverso is so synonymous with the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture, that is has throughout the years, become a direct embodiment and integral part of the brand’s identity. With approximately 40 percent of all Jaeger-LeCoultre watches coming out of Le Sentier, being Reversos, it is hard not to see why this is the case. This week, we pay tribute to an iconic watch, as it celebrates its 85th birthday next year with some exciting upcoming releases at SIHH.
Introduced in 1931, the Reverso came about from a purely functional standpoint. It all stemmed from polo playing British officers stationed in India, who complained to the watch importer, César de Trey, that during games, the glass of their wristwatches were often damaged or broken. Realising that this was a genuine problem, he conveyed the message to his supplier Jacques-David LeCoultre who subsequently developed a solution in the form of a wristwatch that had a swivelling face, allowing the case to be flipped over in order to protect the glass. Classified unofficially as the ‘first sports watch’, it is certainly a far cry from how we see the Reverso today as an elegant dress watch.
While today, the Reverso stands tall as a true icon of Jaeger-LeCoultre, its checkered past has not always been one of success. By 1939, when World War II had started, Jaeger-LeCoultre stopped producing Reversos and focused on its military obligations, and it certainly seemed the curtains were closing on the model. It wasn’t until 30 years later, in 1972, when Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Italian distributor found unused Reverso cases in the factory and became enamoured with them, that a rebirth ensured. He requested that Jaeger-LeCoultre recommence production, but it took a further 10 years before the Reverso was officially reintroduced into the market.
After a long and forgotten hiatus, the Reverso returned and in 1991, a special 60th anniversary edition, inadvertently paved the way for dozens of variations in the styling of the watch. What Jaeger-LeCoultre realised, was that the nature and design of the watch allowed a myriad of variations, from simple one faced Reversos to double faced, highly complicated models, all the way to artistic enamelling and engraving on the solid surfaces. The Reverso, acted as a blank canvas that allowed for creativity in design, bound only by a collector's imagination. Next year, in 2016, this iconic model will celebrate 85 years since its inception and Jaeger-LeCoultre are marking it with a number of releases.
Starting with the simplest standard Reverso, Jaeger-LeCoultre has reassembled the collection, offering a small, medium and large version, allowing its customers more flexibility when it comes to matching watch sizes with wrist sizes. A very simple, one face, time-only watch, the new models it epitomise the spirit of the Reverso, with a twist. The medium and large sized models are powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre automatic calibre 965 (which traditionally would have been manual-winding) and the smallest size, will use a quartz calibre 657. All are offered in stainless steel.
Moving on, and a step up from the base Reverso, Jaeger-LeCoultre is releasing a new version of their dual time watch, aptly named the Classic Duo. With one side showing the home time and the other face with the local time and 24 hour clock, it is a very useful complication and very elegantly executed. Powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 969, I feel while the Reverso was intended to have a solid side to protect it from knocks, its swivelling design, naturally lends itself to being a two time-zone watch, and this creation by Jaeger-LeCoultre, which has been around for quite a while, is certainly one that feels intuitive and right.
In line with the Classic Duo comes the Classic Duetto. Smaller in size, with the same complication and offered in stainless steel and pink gold- it is certainly more feminine, with one face sporting diamonds on the top and bottom.
Finally, Jaeger-LeCoultre has also revamped its Tribute collection, with another dual time-zone watch, The Tribute Duo. In stainless steel combining a white dial with blue accents on one face and inversely on the other face, it is a great looking watch with a truly useful complication. The guilloché typically seen on Reverso dials have always been well executed, and this is no exception - if anything, the blue dial really accentuates this subtle detail tastefully.
Next to the Tribute Duo is the last of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s teasers - the Tribute Calendar. Certainly the most complicated of the watches we have seen today, it is a triple-calendar moon phase watch on one face, and offers a second time-zone with a day/night indicator on the other face. A perfect modern watch in terms of complications, it will be offered only in pink gold.
Through these offerings, Jaeger-LeCoultre has continued to emphasise the role that Reversos play in their brand history and we think that this is a fitting tribute to the 85th birthday of this iconic model. That being said, with SIHH around the corner, we have a sneaking suspicion that Jaeger-LeCoultre has saved the best for last and we wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Reverso they have not yet revealed.