For over 180 years, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been making what collectors have deemed some of the most exceptional luxury timepieces in Switzerland.
One of their most remarkable watches is their flagship Reverso, which we’ll discuss in this article as we look at its history, its models and what makes it such an interesting timepiece to own. To learn all about the history of this renowned brand, click here to read our in-depth coverage on Jaeger-LeCoultre.
How Polo Inspired The Reverso
India, 1931. British soldiers begin to adopt the sport of polo as a gentleman’s sport. The crystal of their watches would often shatter during the rush of the game.
In the first winter of the thirties, a watch collector and businessman from Switzerland named César de Trey was traveling through India and stopped to take in a polo match played by British officers. During the game, one of the officers broke his watch. As they discussed it, the officer suggested perhaps de Trey could make a watch that would hold up to the rigors of the game.
Upon his return, de Trey spoke about the game and the issues players had with their watches with Jacques-David LeCoultre, who owned the eponymous watch manufacturer. In this discussion, it was decided LeCoultre would be able to create the movement for such a timepiece and LeCoultre appointed his friends at Jaeger S.A. to design a reversible case. Unsure of how to craft such a design, Jaeger subcontracted a French watch designer named René-Alfred Chauvot and on March 4, 1931, at precisely 1:15 pm local time, Chauvot patented his invention of a “wristwatch which can slide on its base and flip over on itself” at the National Industrial Property Institute in Paris, France.
From there, the design team set out to create a timepiece that was formal enough for the officers to wear with their dress uniforms, yet robust enough to withstand a game of polo. The timepiece was an elegant dress watch that could slide and flip to protect the crystal and dial from any impact by displaying the solid case back. They devised that the case could be personalized for each buyer.
The watch was a success. Officers began acquiring these timepieces for their polo matches but also for a daily wear dress watch for all occasions. For a few years, the timepiece was a single model the same size as today’s Reverso Classique with just hour and minute hands.
It wasn’t for another three years until LeCoultre opted to launch a new model with the – now iconic – seconds counter that is visible on many of the timepieces at the 6 o’clock marker.
With the incredible success of their partnership, Jaeger S.A. and LeCoultre opted to merge and became known as Jaeger-LeCoultre, a leading, luxury Swiss watch manufacturer.
Chronological Timeline of the JLC Reverso
1931 – Jaeger launches the Reverso, an elegant art deco dress watch with the unique ability to slide and flip, protecting the crystal from damage and exposing a hard case back that could be personalized.
1933 – A special model, called the Balbo Reverso celebrates the explorer’s trip across the Atlantic.
1934 – A second model is introduced with a small seconds counter located at the 6 o’clock marker.
1943 – With the war and economic decline, the interest in luxury watches and Art Deco tumbles, resulting in the Reverso being locked in the vault of history with the intention of never being seen again.
1972 – Even though quartz movements were now the norm, a brilliant Italian watch dealer named Giorgio Corvo visits JLC and is shown approximately 200 empty Reverso cases that were sitting amongst some stock. He asked to purchase them all and had movements placed in each case. Upon his return to Italy, he quickly sold every piece, which showed JLC that a rebirth of their art deco timepiece was worth investing in. Despite hesitation, Corvo convinced JLC’s top brass not to cheapen the brand with quartz movements, but to instead focus on its rich history and sell them as luxury timepieces with mechanical movements.
1982 – JLC relaunches the Reverso with a special line of quartz watches despite Corvo’s plea. It’s a success, and the Reverso II is born.
1985 – After significant sales, JLC enlists a team that re-invents the Reverso to offer water resistance even while the timepiece slides and flips. It also provided the ability to pivot at any point during the slide rather than having to be pushed to the far end of its cradle.
1991 – The magnificent Reverso 60ème is launched, which becomes the first limited edition Reverso complication. Initially designed with a larger 18 karat rose gold case, it featured a manual Calibre 824 movement with a date hand and power reserve under a solid silver guilloché dial.
1993 – A tourbillon edition is launched.
1994 – JLC produces a minute repeater for its Reverso line. They also begin production on the DuoFace Reverso, which allows the owner to purchase a Reverso with two dials that run off the same movement. Instead of the hard protective case back, the back of the watch is the second dial, so a simple flip results in a second timepiece. This becomes ideal for those who want two distinctive timepieces for the price of one. We highly recommend this for those with smaller budgets, and we suggest considering a lighter dial for daytime wear at the office with a dark dial for evening wear at the symphony or a gala.
1996 – Another special edition with a retrograde chronograph is launched.
1998 – The JLC Reverso is outfitted with dual time zones for traveling executives.
2000 – JLC produces an exquisite Reverso featuring a perpetual calendar.
2001 – Reverso launches a limited 500 piece edition in celebration of its 70th birthday. The special edition uses an 8-day double barrel with a high-frequency balance wheel to give it better accuracy, with the ability to continue running unwound for a full week.
They also launch the anniversary model called the Reverso 70ème, which was the birth of the Grande Reverso line.
2004 – The Reverso Grande GMT is born with the same design concept as the iconic Reverso, but with more features available to the consumer.
2006 – JLC introduces the Triptyque, which becomes the world’s first watch with three dials that are all operated via a single movement. The grand complication measures three separate dimensions of time: sidereal, perpetual and civil.
2008 – The Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 is released, making it the first watch to run on a cylindrical hairspring. Another grand complication, it features a three-dimensional, spherical tourbillon with the inner carriage completing a single rotation in 18.75 seconds and the outer carriage completing a single turn each minute. It also sports a perpetual calendar with double retrograde indicators and solar time with the equation of time.
2011 – JLC launches the Grande Reverso Ultra Thin with a contemporary version of the classic art deco design of the 1931 model in celebration of its 80th birthday. To showcase the brand’s ingenuity, JLC also launches the Reverso Repetition Minutes a Rideau.
Today – Jaeger-LeCoultre continues to impress and redesign this iconic timepiece with a unique strategy of always remaining true to its original design. Few watches do this, some examples being the Cartier Tank, the Patek Philippe Calatrava, the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony and the Rolex Submariner and Daytona lines. It is a mark of excellence for those that do, as undeniable proof that the value of their new models is based on what’s inside the watch and classic designs rather than trends.
Recommended Reverso Watches
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duoface
This exquisite Reverso features dual dials on a steel case wrapped by a rich brown alligator strap. One dial is a matte design that’s perfect for evening wear while the other is a creamy white dial that is perfect for a day of board meetings. Click here to buy it for under $10,000.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Calendar
This Grande Reverso features a stainless steel case with a black alligator leather strap. The silver dial is marked with blue hands and Arabic numerals representing the hours with the minute markers around the inner ring. There is a day/date complication as well as moon phase sub-dial powered by the manual wind movement with 45-hour power reserve. Click here to get it for just over $10,000.
JLC Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Duoface
This stunning DuoFace features a silver dial on the front and a black dial on the back with the GMT second timezone complication nestled perfectly into its solid 18k rose gold case. The manual-wind movement has the 45-hour power reserve, and the bracelet is a beautiful chocolate brown leather alligator strap. Click here to make it yours for just under $17,000.
Who The Reverso Is Best For
The Reverso is a great option for a daily wear dress watch. It is ideal for men who work in a corporate environment wearing a suit during the day, who enjoy dressing up to go out at night, but are active at play on the weekends. For those who plan to wear it during athletics, the hard case back is ideal, whereas the DuoFace is perfect for men who want two wristwatches for the price of one.
What To Wear A Reverso With
The benefit of the Reverso is that it is one of the most versatile timepieces in the world. It can elegantly pair with a business suit or even a tuxedo and yet can blend in with a pair of chinos and a polo shirt or even jeans and a t-shirt. The only thing we don’t recommend wearing it with is swimming or beach attire. Many of the timepieces are water resistant but not enough that they will survive if exposed to water on purpose. Sand and other debris can also impact its performance and lifespan. Remember, this is a robust watch, but it’s still one worth thousands of dollars.
If you haven’t already, be sure to read our in-depth primer on the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacturer and stay tuned for more features on watches worthy of your attention. What do you think of the Reverso? Do you prefer the Cartier Tank?