The Reverso is a historic wristwatch by Jaeger-LeCoultre featuring a flip-over face.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso features a rectangular inner case which can be “reversed” or flipped over inside an outer rectangular base. It is similar in appearance to other rectangular watches but tends to be thicker due to this added complexity. Most Reverso models feature rounded sides, three inset stripes above and below the dial, and a uniform slope to the integrated lugs. Early Reverso models had to be fully slid to the side before being flipped, while later models are held closed with a spring-loaded ball bearing or a latch. Although originally designed as a sports watch, the Reverso today has become a dress watch.
For the first 60 years, the reverse side of a Reverso case was plain steel, which was sometimes engraved with a decoration or monogram. The 1991 “60eme” model was the first to feature a display caseback, while the 1994 Reverso Duoface added a second dial to the reverse side. This would become a signature complication for the line. In 2006, Jaeger-LeCoultre added a third display on the inside of the base for the Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque.
The original Reverso case was quite small by modern standards, measuring 36 mm from lug to lug and 22 mm across. This approximated the “golden ratio” of 1.6 1 which has been followed by most later models. A larger "Grande Taille" (“Large Size”) model was introduced in 1991, and this term is used today for any Reverso with a case measuring between 42 and 43 mm tall by 25.5 and 26.5 mm wide. Those with a taller case, 45 to 50 mm tall by 27 to 30 mm, are referred to as "Grande" while smaller models are retroactively called "Classique". Today, these sizes are known as “Small”, “Medium”, and “Large” in the Reverso Classic range.
The Reverso, was introduced to the market in 1931 by LeCoultre, designed as a response to adversity For polo-playing British officers in India it was always a great annoyance when the delicate crystals of their wristwatches were broken during the competition. The watch importer César de Trey described the problem to his supplier Jacques-David LeCoultre, who together with his partner Edmond Jaeger and the Parisian engineer René-Alfred Chauvot developed the watch with the “twist” A case in steel, which can slide on a holder and swivel completely. This means, in dangerous moments, the delicate glass can disappear inside. On 4 March 1931 this idea was registered as a patent. Shortly afterwards, the watch went into series production. The Reverso lasted in production as the first “sports watch” until World War II.
The Reverso was a challenge for Jaeger-LeCoultre to produce at first. Designed under contract to Jaeger (then a separate firm), it was intended to use a LeCoultre movement. But no appropriate movement was available and Jaeger was unable to produce the cases in time. Therefore, the earliest Reversos feature cases by A.E. Wenger and movements by Tavannes (often signed “Lisica”), although final assembly was handled in Le Sentier by LeCoultre since the very beginning. Starting in 1933, LeCoultre brought the movements in-house with their specially-designed JLC 11 U calibre (15 jewels, 18,000 vph, 50 hour power reserve). Eventually, 11 different movements were used in pre-war Reversos.
Most early Reverso watches used a similar 36 mm tall by 22 mm wide case, reflecting the “Golden Ratio” of 1.6 1, but some variation exists, including 38 mm and 40 mm tall base components for lug-less strap attachment. Narrow ladies models were also produced from the 1930s, measuring 28 x 16 mm for a 1.75 1 case ratio. A wider 31 mm x 21 mm (1.48 1) version is also seen.
Although a popular watch in its time, the Reverso was not produced for long. It was surely remembered well but it was not included in the company's catalog for decades.
In 1972, Jaeger-LeCoultre's Italian distributor noticed many unused Reverso cases in the factory and asked for the company to restart production for him. 200 leftover cases are assembled with mechanical movements and sell quickly, proving the market for this Art Deco classic. By 1979, the Reverso was again earning mentions in the press, with Europa Star referencing “Revival of the Reverso watch” in a story on the Basle Fair. At that time, the name was used as an adjective to describe the case rather than a specific model. These quartz Reverso models were predominately aimed at women.
The Reverso was officially reintroduced in 1983 for the company's 150th anniversary.
Shortly after came the squared-off Reverso II. This model was wider than previous models, recalling a design from the 1930s and serving as inspiration for the Squadra line 25 years later. The Reverso II was available with both quartz and mechanical movements in a case measuring 32 mm tall by 23 mm wide. The Reverso II also lacked the triple line motif above and below the dial seen on nearly all other models.
Buyers preferred the classic rectangular look, so in 1985 the company re-committed to the model with a newly-designed water-resistant case. Also available with both quartz and mechanical movements, the new Reverso appealed to men and women alike. Soon the Reverso II was retired and the Reverso line was reborn.
The Reverso became the company's signature product in 1991 with a special anniversary “60eme” model with a larger “Grande Taille” case, leading to many complications and models. The Reverso Duoface, introduced in 1994, was a technical feat, with a single movement driving dials on both sides, along with the 1997 Duetto for women. Strong sales have driven the watch to become one of the company's most popular models. One of the rarest models from this period is the Reverso Art Deco with its engraved movement visible behind a display caseback.
Jaeger-LeCoultre kept pushing their capabilities forward throughout the 1990s, debuting most new complications in the Reverso every year or two. Two years after the 60ème came the Reverso Tourbillon, the company's first in modern times. The Reverso Répétition Minutes came in 1994, another first for the company, with the Reverso Chronographe Rétrograde one of their first chronograph movements. The Reverso Géographique and Reverso Quantième Calendrier Perpétuel came later in the decade.
Another development in this period was the creation of the Reverso Gran'Sport line. The Gran'Sport was intended to attract a different audience than the dressy Reverso line, with a curved and rounded case and complicated movements. The Gran'Sport introduced automatic movements to the Reverso line, included a Duoface and Duetto model, and continued the innovation of the Chronographe Rétrograde in the Gran'Sport Chronograph.
Throughout the 2000s, the Reverso lineup was enlarged and added a sportier and more masculine offering. Once again it was an anniversary model that paved the way This time, the Reverso Septantième (70ème) featured an even larger “Extra Grande Taille” (“XGT”) case. The Grande Taille case remained in production as well, as did other previous models, but the lineup became fragmented with numerous sizes and designs. Automatic movements began to proliferate, in the new Squadra and Grande cases first but eventually even in the Grande Taille case as well.
This was followed in 2006 by a square-cased Reverso line, the Squadra which recalled the Reverso II and some early square models. The Squadra replaced the Reverso Gran'Sport as the sports watch in the Reverso lineup.
Jaeger-LeCoultre also continued to develop complicated Reverso models in this era. Most notable was the 2006 Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque, the first three-dial watch ever created. Other important complicated models include the Platinum Number One and Platinum Number Two tourbillons, Reverso à Éclipses, Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 perpetual calendar, and Reverso Répétition Minutes à Rideau.
Jaeger-LeCoultre used SIHH 2016 to refresh the Reverso lineup with a new case and rationalized models. The main product was the new Reverso Classic, available in small, medium, and large sizes. The Reverso Tribute line recalls the heritage of the Reverso line in larger sizes than the Classic. Jaeger-LeCoultre also launched an all-new women's line, Reverso One, which departs from tradition with narrow 2 1 case dimensions, recalling the original ladies Reverso. The real attention-getter was the latest haute horology creation, the Tribute Gyrotourbillon. The line initially leaned heavily on quartz and automatic models, but hand winding models were introduced soon after, replacing many of the initial references.
Today, the watch with the “two sides” is produced in many variants and is regarded as a beautiful, timeless classic that embodies the Art déco style perfectly. Due to its continuing popularity it is one of the pillars of the model range of Jaeger-LeCoultre and has contributed significantly to the reputation of the brand.
The Reverso line has expanded greatly since its reintroduction, most notably with the Reverso Duoface, a model with a face on both sides and a dual timezone feature. Additional models include larger “Grande” cases, historic and special edition models, and specialist pieces like the Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 and three-faced Reverso grande complication à triptyque.
Beginning in 1991, Jaeger-LeCoultre began a limited-edition series of Reverso models with special complications.