Created 90 years ago, the Reverso has remained eternally modern, daring always to be itself, without compromise, through nine decades of social change, shifting tastes and advancing technology. During the last 30 years, thanks to the revival of mechanical watchmaking and the blossoming of the artistic crafts, it has fulfilled a potential that could not have been imagined at the time of its creation. As a singular example of Art Deco design, it has become an icon in the true sense of the word. In 2021, Jaeger-LeCoultre pays tribute to a timepiece of rare longevity.
THE STORY OF INNOVATION
As the launch of the Reverso Soixantième in 1991 coincided with the rebirth of mechanical watchmaking that followed the quartz crisis, the Reverso embraced its potential to be much more than a time-only watch. It became the vehicle through which the Manufacture would redevelop its expertise in high complications, despite the added challenge that rectangular movements dictate an entirely different architecture from that of the round movements that had traditionally been used for complications.
Calibre 824, developed especially for the Reverso Soixantième, incorporated a date indicated by a central hand and a power reserve indicator. This was followed in 1993 by the Reverso Tourbillon – the Manufacture’s first wristwatch tourbillon. Then came the Reverso Répétition Minutes in 1994, the first time Jaeger-LeCoultre had miniaturised a minute repeater for a wristwatch, Calibre 943 was the world’s first rectangular minute repeater movement. In 1996, La Grande Maison introduced the Reverso Chronographe Rétrograde, with an intricate display on the reverse side that solved the problem of how to arrange the chronograph counters within a rectangular frame. This was followed two years later by the Reverso Géographique and, coinciding with the Millennium, the Reverso Quantième Perpétuel. Naturally, these pink-gold limited-edition pieces are highly sought-after by collectors.
In the years since the Millennium, innovation has continued. Developed for the Reverso Septantième and released in 2002, Calibre 879 provided an 8-day power reserve – very rare at the time. Five years later, the Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque introduced Calibre 175: a single movement incorporating 18 different functions, including civil time, sidereal time and a perpetual calendar, displayed on three dials – the third dial being set into the carrier plate of the watch. The Reverso has also housed Jaeger-LeCoultre’s unique bi-axial flying tourbillon, first in the Reverso Gyrotourbillon of 2008 and again in the 2016 Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon. And in 2012, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the Reverso Répétition Minutes à Rideau, in which the chiming mechanism is activated by the movement of a pair of theatre-style curtains as they reveal and conceal the dial.
From its genesis, through 90 years of evolution and countless variations, the Reverso has continually reinvented itself without ever compromising its identity. Versatile and ageless, a chameleon that changes yet remains unchanged, it has become one of the world’s most recognisable wristwatches. But it is more than simply a watch. The Reverso has rightly become recognised as an icon of 20th- century design, in the true meaning of the term.