The 1990s are when things started getting seriously complex for the Reverso. The recovery in the Quartz Crisis was gaining real momentum along with the industry’s leading manufactures were keen to show what they had been capable of. For Jaeger-LeCoultre, time was of the essence. A new director had joined the business’s artistic department only three years ahead of the Reverso’s 60th anniversary. Janek Deleskiewicz was an industry leader, but the French programmer had gently observed and admired the manufacture of the collection while working on projects for auto manufacturer Citroën, along with the TGV — France’s high-speed train.
We’re pretty utilized to the Reverso now and nearly take its presence in Watchworld for granted. But imagine back in 1931 if René-Alfred Chauvot, a designer, registered that the brevet d’invention (the patent) to get a wristwatch which swivels and turns over in its own case… Most watches were round and were still evolving from the idea of a ‘trench watch’ with its military heritage and slightly ungentlemanly undertones. But nobody needed a watch that captured the basis of Deco so purely or one which so simply turned over to show its caseback. Sounding just like a dodgy type of pirate, a gadroon is actually a sort of fluted carving. On the Reverso, the gadroons are the three fluted lines across the top and bottom of the watch case. And you will find them on every Reverso. They’re part of the entire Art Deco theme that the Reverso typifies. Every time someone talks or writes about the Reverso, they explain that the reason it’s flippable is to guard the crystal clear from carelessly deployed polo mallets. Hmm. Tim explained that, with spoken to JLC’s historian, there isn’t a lot of evidence to show that the Reverso was a dedicated polo watch. Would you be checking the time when you are sat to a nervy pony with four big guys galloping towards you swinging long-handled mallets? Why wear a wristwatch at polo in any respect? But ads from the Reverso’s ancient days certainly show it being promoted as a sports opinion, and there’s no reason it should not be used like that. Regardless of the sophistication, most Reversos are not exactly delicate.
In the first winter of their thirties, a watch collector and businessman from Switzerland called César de Trey was traveling through India and stopped to take in a polo match played by British officers. Throughout the game, one of those officers broke his watch. As they discussed it, the officer indicated perhaps de Trey could make a watch that would hold up to the rigors of this match. Within this discussion, it was determined LeCoultre will be able to create the movement for this timepiece and LeCoultre made his friends at Jaeger S.A. to style a reversible case. From there, the design team set out to create a timepiece which has been formal enough for its officers to wear with their dress uniforms, yet strong enough to withstand a game of polo. The timepiece has been an elegant dress watch which could slide and turn to protect the crystal and dial from any effect by displaying the good case back. They devised that the case could be customized for each buyer.
Jacques-David LeCoultre undertook growth of the movement, and for the case design de Trey enjoyed the help of a French designer called René-Alfred Chauvot. His solution was simple: A wristwatch “which can slide on its foundation and turn over on itself,” in order to protect the front part of the situation. Chauvot submitted a patent application for his creation on March 4, 1931, in exactly 1:15 PM, in the National Industrial Property Institute (INPI) in Paris, and on July 25, 1931, de Trey purchased all rights to Chauvot’s creation — and the sports watch (read: watch made for a particular sport) has been born. However, Jaeger failed to create rectangular cases in the time — and, even if it had, LeCoultre did not yet manufacture a motion which would match. Their new venture would manufacture the revolutionary layout the old manner, using parts made by specialists. The instances were made by A.E. Wenger as well as the movements by Tavannes. In 1933, LeCoultre would introduce in-house movements intended specifically for the Reverso. Caliber 410 (with small seconds at 6:00) caliber 411 (centre seconds) debuted along with caliber 404 (a smaller motion intended for ladies’ Reversos).
(Photo: Courtesy Antiquorum). For quite a long time, Jaeger-LeCoultre has stayed faithful to the layout of these mid-century versions, together with the date around the edge of the dial, the two windows side-by-side to the month and day, and the moonphase by itself or in a sub-seconds enroll. You can see this, for instance, on the watches in the present Master collection — the latest triple calendar there being this meteorite dial version — that are currently powered by Caliber 865, a round automatic motion.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first triple calendar with moonphase was, in fact, a rectangular opinion, thought not a Reverso. It was the reference 2726, which started in 1949 to commemorate the death of the Jacques-David LeCoultre, only one year before. The opinion was powered by Caliber 486/AW, a tonneau-shaped motion that later found its way inside circular watches also, like the one picture below, which have been created in small numbers throughout the 1950s and 1960s.