Editor’s Note: We’re starting a new series here on the Everest Journal, favorite watches of our staff of writers. Note that some of us have more than one favorite, and the articles that follow will demonstrate the fact.
I’ve long admired the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso – as much for the backstory as for the watch itself.
And the watch itself is damn cool. It’s an Art Deco icon that hasn’t changed all that much from 1931 to today, although JLC has stuffed all manner of guts into the thing. Two dials, even three. And complications from the lowly date display to their spherical tourbillon, and most touch points in between.
But the real thing everybody loves about the Reverso, yours truly included, is the namesake reversing nature of the case itself. This, of course, is why the watch was invented in the first place. Those polo-playing Brits in Roaring Twenties India were breaking watches right and left (I’ve still never figured out why they didn’t just leave the watches in the locker room – or with their female admirers in the gallery).
An enterprising watchmaking executive by the name of César De Trey consulted with his buddies, Jacques-David LeCoultre and René-Alfred Chauvot. Chauvot came up with the solution – a watch that could be flipped to protect the crystal. Basically, the Reverso we can still buy today.
Indeed, though the watch has seen ups and downs – and even consideration of a quartz engine under the hood – even as I type these words, JLC publicists are presenting new models of the Reverso to the world at SIHH (the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) in Geneva, Switzerland.
A little background is warranted here. Yes, the design is definitely Art Deco. The rectangular case dimensions follow the “golden ratio,” roughly 1.618:1 – a height to width ratio that is supposedly particularly pleasing to the eye (I don’t know why I typed ‘supposedly’ … it most certainly is pleasing to the eye).
And the history of the Reverso is not without controversy. For a brief time in the 1930s, Hamilton produced the Otis, a spitting image of the Reverso that you’ll still find on vintage watch sites from time to time. No one’s talking about that particular situation.
Patek Philippe purchased eight cases from JLC in the early 1930s and signed them Patek Philippe. Two are in the PP Museum today. Movado produced a two-sided chronograph prototype in 1939, although it never went into production.
And the stories of the Reverso go on and on.
As of a few years ago, all four case sizes that had ever been in production were still in production – another piece of evidence that the Reverso is a… er… timeless timepiece.
All of these elements, and more, make up the backstory of the watch. They’re a big part of why the piece is one of my grails.