02/05/2015
 5 minutes

Legendary Watches: Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

By Christopher Beccan
Jaeger-Lecoultre Grande Reverso Ultra-Thin Tribute to 1931, Image: FratelloWatches

Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the most renowned watch manufacturers worldwide. This Swiss brand has been creating works of watchmaking art for nearly 200 years. They craft both high-quality movements and intricate cases at their Le Sentier location. The legendary Reverso is undoubtedly Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most famous model. Producing a single Reverso requires a countless number of steps, including precise handwork and machine finishing. All the effort is worth it, however, because the Reverso is one exceptional timepiece. The reversible case essentially combines two unique designs in one watch. This feature is made possible by an elaborate mechanism that allows the case to flip over seamlessly. Moreover, it’s easy to use: Simply press lightly in a sideways motion to reveal the watch’s reverse side.

How the Reverso Came to Be

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Vintage
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Vintage Original

The original Reversowas first produced in 1931. While this timepiece is considered the epitome of classic elegance today, it was actually initially conceived of as a sports watch. Legend has it that the reversible case was developed as a practical solution for polo players in India. The young men were seeking a fine luxury watch befitting their standing but needed something that could withstand the impacts and jolts inherent in polo matches. Back then, watch glass was much more delicate then than it is now, meaning most luxury watches were at risk on the polo field – until the Reverso came along, that is.

Its reversible case enabled players to protect the sensitive mineral glass during matches by simply flipping their watches to “polo mode.” The reverse side in those days was made of solid metal, giving the delicate glass front ample protection.

Behind Every Reverso Is a Long History of Big Ideas

Jaeger-Lecoultre Grande Reverso Ultra-Thin 1931
Jaeger-Lecoultre Grande Reverso Ultra-Thin 1931Image: FratelloWatches

The Reverso has now been around for more than 80 years. The reversing mechanism has naturally evolved over time, but the basic principle has remained unchanged since 1931. In 2011, Jaeger-LeCoultre marked the 80th anniversary of this legendary timepiece with the release of several new models and limited editions. While each of the new models has a unique touch, the purity of the classic Reverso still shines through. The former director of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Jérôme Lambert, aptly described the evolution of the Reverso in musical terms, “Over the years, we’ve experimented with a range of melodic variations, but the melody remains unchanged.” It is precisely these fine-tuned variations, however, that make each edition of the Reverso a one-of-a-kind experience. You never get the impression that Jaeger-LeCoultre is simply turning out another imitation without any imagination, or that the Swiss brand is running out of ideas. Every new Reverso model features an emotionally inspired design that transcends a purely theoretical idea. Behind each and every Reverso watch lies the utmost care and a long history of big ideas.

Complications: The Reverso’s Technical Highlights

Jaeger-LeCoultre reached new heights with the models in the Complication collection. Models such as the Grande Reverso Duo and the Ultra Thin Duoface feature reverse sides that aren’t simply made of metal. Jaeger-LeCoultre sought to take the sophisticated technology of the Reverso one step further with these watches: Why not use the reversing function to integrate additional watch complications? And thus the Duo models were born, featuring a dial on both their front and back sides. Each dial can be set to a different time, making it easy to keep track of two time zones with the simple flip function. This feature is particularly useful for frequent travelers. The Grande Reverso Duo ups the ante with its two different dial colors. One is black and the other white, making this watch an appealing option for those who appreciate versatility. In addition to models with two dials, the Complication collection also features watches such as the Grand Reverso Calender, which displays the day, month, and current moon phase in addition to the time. The other watches in the Complication collection likewise embody the principle of bringing together multiple mechanisms in one timepiece. With these watches, Jaeger-LeCoultre masterfully demonstrates the highest level of luxury watchmaking.

The Reverso: Making Time Unforgettable

Models that are closer to the original Reverso with metal case backs offer ample opportunity for individualization. The case back provides plenty of room for personalized engravings, which can link the timepiece to a remarkable event or phase in your life, for example. Personalized touches only strengthen the connection between wearer and wristwatch. During the Reverso’s 80th anniversary celebrations, Jaeger-LeCoultre invited Reverso owners to photograph their timepieces and upload them to a virtual museum. Gestures such as these indicate that the manufacturer sees the Reverso’s history as going far beyond their house alone. The opportunity to individualize timepieces allows the wearer’s personal history to meld with the history of the manufacturer itself. One of the most prominent Reverso owners was King Edward VIII. His timepiece features an engraving of the royal crown. Another famous Reverso belonged to Amelia Earhart. In 1928, Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She had the route of her very first flight from New York to Mexico engraved on the back of her Reverso.

Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso Duoface
Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso DuofaceImage: Auctionata

Timeless Elegance Never Goes out of Fashion

The Reverso is a unisex watch. Both men and women value its technical sophistication, clever reversible case, and elegant design. The Reverso comes in several different shapes and sizes. High-end models, such as the Gyrotourbillon II and the Repetition, are the most opulent and complicated of the series. If you’re looking for a particularly delicate timepiece, the Grand Reverse Ultra Thin is an excellent choice. While the Reverso is known for its classic elegance, the watches in the Squadra collection offer sporty alternatives. As the name suggests, these timepieces are square rather than rectangular. There are also beautiful and delicate versions available that are more in line with a feminine aesthetic. Regardless of size or style, every Reverso watch has one thing in common: an irresistibly classic look. Whether you’re at the office, traveling, or attending an exclusive event, a Reverso makes a stunning wrist companion.

The understated elegance of this watch is never out of place. Those who are lucky enough to acquire one of these legendary classic watches will enjoy it for life. You cannot beat the quality and classic elegance of the luxury watches from this Swiss watchmaker. For more than 80 years, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso has been a beloved timepiece, and it won’t be going out of fashion any time soon.


About the Author

Christopher Beccan

Christopher Beccan is the founder of the online magazine "Bexsonn," where he regularly writes about his two passions: extraordinary timepieces and whiskey. His work …

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