Everything that Jaeger-LeCoultre is today, it owes it all to the Reverso. Why you ask? Read on and find out.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso is undoubtedly one of the most popular and well-known watches of all time. The inception of this timepiece marks the beginning of Jaeger-LeCoultre as the brand we know today. A classic for any collector, the iconic Reverso is one of the most exciting and inventive watch designs.
Keeping these factors in mind, today, we will talk about the history and evolution of this iconic timepiece.
The story of the Reverso began in the 1930s when British Army officers in India were facing the challenge of broken watches during their polo matches. To avoid this common mishap of breaking watches while playing polo, the officers approached a local watch dealer named César De Trey. Their brief to the man was to develop a timepiece that would be safe while playing polo. Trey discussed this with Jacques-David Coultre, the then owner of LeCoultre manufacture. Coultre appointed the firm Jaeger S.A (then owned by Edmond Jaeger) to help him out. Both these gentlemen teamed up to develop the world’s first sports watch – the Reverso.
The Reverso was an elegant watch that featured a unique function. It contained a dial that could flip, which would help protect it from shocks (especially while playing polo) and offer a wide canvas for customisation.
French designer Réne-Alfred Chauvot first conceptualised the actual design of the Reverso. He designed the rectilinear case, which could completely turn over with the help of grooves, pins and a locking mechanism. This movement ensured complete protection of the dial when not in use or while playing.
The reversible watch, called the Reverso, was designed keeping in mind the Art Deco aesthetics. It featured baton-shaped hands, dart-type indices and Arabic numerals. These features made the Reverso an instant hit when it hit the market. The watch quickly garnered immense interest outside the world of polo and sports. The reversible caseback not just added a protective shield but also allowed wearers to customise personal dedications using techniques like engraving and lacquer.
Once the popularity of the Reverso spread far and wide, LeCoultre developed a dedicated movement for the watch called the Calibre 410, two years after the debut of the initial model. There were some notable personalised Reverso watches during this time, like the one made to commemorate Amelia Earhart’s flight from Mexico to New York in 1935 and the “Maharani” Reverso of 1936.
However, by the time the world fell into the grips of World War II, the upward growing popularity of the Reverso had reached a standstill. The square-shaped Reverso moved away from the spotlight with the rising popularity of round face watches. By the early 1970s, the model had fallen out of production. During this time, the watch industry was also witnessing the dawn of the Quartz crisis. The following two decades were lost to the immense popularity and monopoly of the Japanese Quartz watches.
In 1982, the Reverso made a comeback with a quartz Calibre 601 movement. With time and new management at Jaeger-LeCoultre, the glory days of the Reverso gained momentum in the 1990s. The brand introduced its first-ever water-resistant Reverso case in 1985. By the 1990s, the Reverso had regained its status as the flagship model of Jaeger-LeCoultre. The collection further expanded with its 60th-anniversary editions in 1991. To commemorate the special occasion, the brand unveiled a series of Reverso watches featuring elaborate movement, complicated complications and bigger case sizes. It was followed by the brand’s many first-of-its-kind Reverso watches featuring different complications. Starting from the first tourbillon wristwatch in 1993, first minute-repeater in 1994 to the first retrograde chronograph in 1996 and first perpetual calendar in 2000.
As the world moved into the new millennium, Jaeger-LeCoultre has constantly reinvented the wheel to introduce innovations and technical mastery for the Reverso. The technical masterwork of Jaeger-LeCoultre is spread across timepieces like the Reverso Tryptique of 2006, Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 of 2008, and Reverso Quadriptyque of 2021. Jaeger-LeCoultre has also stuck with the Art Deco aesthetics of the Reverso. It has unveiled pieces like the Duoface and the Ultra Thin Tribute to keep up with the charm of the original.
Ninety-one years after the first Reverso made its way limelight, this reversible watch still holds a special place in the hearts of collectors and watch enthusiasts alike.
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Image Courtesy: Jaeger-LeCoultre