In 1991, Jaeger-LeCoultre re-established itself as a high-end watchmaker, adding a complication to the iconic Reverso range as a signature piece. The resulting Reverso 60eme showed what could be done in the tiny reversible Reverso case, adding a power reserve indicator and date by pointer to a larger “Grande Taille” case with a display caseback. These elements were taken to a new level with the Reverso Tourbillon and Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Répétition Minutes that followed.
Although conceived as a sports model, the Reverso range fell out of favor before chronograph movements became commonplace. Even then, chronograph models of existing watches were quite rare (see the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph for example. So the 1996 introduction of a custom in-house column wheel chronograph movement shaped to fit the Reverso Grande Taille case complete with a retrograde hand was no letdown after the previous Reverso Complications models. And the view of this movement through a transparent caseback was impressive, with partial skeletonization, blued screws, and gold plating.
It reportedly took years for Jaeger-LeCoultre to perfect this movement, with shipments delayed to buyers. But the Chronographe Rétrograde served its purpose, casting a halo over the Reverso range and demonstrating Jaeger-LeCoultre's capabilities. The front is traditional Reverso, with a guilloche dial, date aperture at 6 00, and simple power reserve indicator at 5 00. This indicator shows “Marche” and “Arret” (“go” and “stop”) rather than hours or days. The reverse side is partially skeletonized, with a large dial for chronograph seconds above a retrograde scale from 0 to 30 for chronograph minutes. The column wheel and balance are visible between these.
Once again a limited edition of 500, the Chronographe Rétrograde features a pink gold case in the Grande Taille size, 42 mm tall by 26 mm wide. The movement, Cal. 829, was only used in this model. A similar movement was created for the follow-on Reverso Gran'Sport Chronograph which was offered beginning in 2001.
This haute horology watch helped set the standard for the modern Jaeger-LeCoultre, linking it to the Hybris Mechanica line thanks to its custom complicated movement. The next offering in the Reverso Complications series would follow in 1998, the Reverso Géographique.