|Year of production (circa)||
Gold / steel
23 x 38 mm
Original steel folding clasp
Jaeger-Le-Coultre Service papers
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Ref. 250.5.86
Long ago, in the year 1931, in a dusty environment with the sound of galloping horses, an idea was born: a watch with a dial that could protect itself from shocks, while displaying a personal engraved background. See here, the Reverso. The fragile glass was protected during ‘rougher’ activities. The case was foldable, unique in the watch world.
The Reverso shown here is made of steel and gold from the year 1999, so not that old yet. The movement is wound by hand, serviced by Jaeger itself. The silver-colored dial is an Art Deco design with clear legibility. Fitted with a new original leather strap with original folding clasp, this watch is an outstanding classic.
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To understand the odd design of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, we have to travel to India, 1930. Watch collector and business man Oscar de Trey was watching British army officers play a game of polo. One of them broke his watch’s crystal during the match and challenged Oscar to come up with a design that would survive the rough sport.
De Trey dreamed up a watch that would be reversible and met up with Jacques-David LeCoultre to get it done. He would supply the movements for these watches. Edmond Jaeger (who would later merge with LeCoultre in 1937) was contracted to build the cases. A designer by the name of René-Alfred Chauvot was hired to develop the basic idea into a working design. His unique reversible watch case was patented in 1931. The case could slide out of its cradle and be turned over, exposing a metal backplate, rather than the delicate crystal and dial. The Reverso was born.
If you have a look at this 1931 art deco design, you will instantly recognize the modern Reverso. The case shape has hardly changed and the original was already rather substantial; the same size as the modern Reverso classique. Of course many variations were introduced, among which a 1935 update with a square sub-dial for the seconds.
The backplate of the Reverso was often used for personal engravings or enamel decorations. It took until 1994 before JLC would house two dials and sets of hands within a single Reverso, creating the duo-face. A technical challenge, since both faces are powered by the same movement in between. Most would feature a light and a dark dial, to match different outfits, moods or times of the day (Reverso Day & Night).
Several versions with different complications were produced from 1991 onwards. Multiple sizes, materials and movement types are also available. Most are fitted with manually wound or quartz calibers, although automatic versions do exist.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is arguably the world’s first specially designed sports watch. By today’s standards its looks are classically formal, but its roots are clearly in equestrian sports. Much like the Cartier Tank, its rectangular design has survived the test of time with flying colors. If it is a true design classic you are after, no need to look any further.
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