The Reverso story began in winter 1930-31, when Swiss businessman César de Trey was travelling in India. He traded in watches and other items, and the colonies were an excellent market for him. On that particular occasion, he was watching a polo match played by British army officers. One of them was wearing his watch during the game, and at a certain point the watchglass was smashed by a direct hit from the ball or a mallet. During conversation after the match, he suggested that de Trey, with all his contacts in the watch industry, could try to devise a watch that would be robust enough to stand up to a match of polo.
César de Trey talked about the idea with his business associate Jacques-David LeCoultre, owner of the LeCoultre manufacture. Jacques-David LeCoultre turned to Jaeger, a watchmaking company based in Paris, which designed watches and with whom LeCoultre had been working from 1903. Jaeger in turn commissioned the slide-and-flip case from French designer René-Alfred Chauvot, who registered the patent for “a watch capable of sliding into its base and of turning completely on its axis” in March 1931.
De Trey purchased the patent from Chauvot in July 1931, even before the registration process had been completed. He also invented the name, which comes from the Latin “I turn.” And the rest, as they say, is history, 85 years of history this year in 2016. The Reverso Classic is very close to the original concept, with the reverse of the swivelling case providing space for personalized engravings.
Differently to the original, the new Reverso Classic has an automatic movement, a feature that responds to the contemporary need for user-friendly operation. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 965 has 197 components and runs at 28,800 vibrations per hour, 4 Hertz, with 30 jewels and a 38-hour power reserve. The calibre shown below is not the 965, but possibly something like it, showing how Jaeger-LeCoultre have been able to keep thickness down by recessing the oscillating weight into the mainplate. Of course the user never gets to see the movement, but nonetheless it is finely decorated.
Jaeger-LeCoultre have had 85 years in which to perfect the aesthetics of this watch, and for this anniversary edition they have retained its principal features, such as the Art Deco-inspired case with proportions derived from the Golden Mean, and the circular-grained decoration of the carrier. The dial has a guilloché centre and a vertical-brushed exterior, outlined with delicate lines of clous de Paris. New features comprise slimmer lugs designed to improve wearer comfort.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic is made in three sizes:
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic, small, quartz
The small version has a stainless steel case, 34 mm by 21 mm, 7.4 mm thick, with a water resistance of 3 bar. This version has a quartz movement, and the choice of a black alligator strap with stainless steel folding clasp, or a stainless steel bracelet. Reference Q2618430 (leather strap), Q2618130 (steel bracelet), price €4,250, US$ 4,500 plus sales tax.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic, medium, automatic
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic in medium size is 40 mm by 24.4 mm, 9 mm thick, water resistance 3 bar. Inside is the Calibre 965 self-winding movement. The watch has a black alligator strap with stainless steel folding clasp. Reference Q2538420, price €8,150, US$8,500 plus sales tax.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic, large, automatic
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Classic in large size is 45.6 mm by 27.4 mm, 8.5 mm thick, water resistance 3 bar. Inside is the Calibre 965 self-winding movement. The watch has a black alligator strap with stainless steel folding clasp. Reference Q3828420, price €8,400, US$8,850 plus sales tax.
Personalization of the caseback can be performed directly by Jaeger-LeCoultre at their manufacture, at prices starting from €200, with an 8-week delivery time.