The year is 1931 and we lay our scene in colonial India… British Army Officers found themselves in a spot of bother. During their regular polo matches they found that their beloved timepieces were vulnerable to ‘bumps’, ‘back shots’ and the wild swings of mallet heads. Smashed dials and cracked cases were all too common. But how could a chap leave one’s watch on the bench when knowing the time remaining in each of the six ‘chukkas’ was so important?
Not an everyday dilemma by today’s standards, but one Jaeger-LeCoultre took seriously and solved with a stunning and simple development: the invention of the Reverso. But back to the story… These same British officers, folklore has it, whinged to a passing traveller about their dilemma. This man just happened to have long-standing business relations with the JLC manufacture in Le Sentier, Vallée de Joux. He passed their feedback on to the designers and engineers. One technician had the brilliant idea to design a stainless steel case that would slide in its base and swivel around, protecting the fragile face. One of JLC’s most recognisable watches ever was born. And its name? ‘Reverso’ is latin for “I turn around”. How perfect is that, really.
The comely rectangular piece was the perfect example of function meeting form, because it managed this technical feat – resistance to flying solid objects – without any ugly additional accessories, or other aesthetically displeasing tweaks to the everyday appearance. Thanks to its ingenious design, the Reverso is tough as steel, but it’s also an expression of the Art Deco period. Furthermore, it is a statement of the brand’s relationship with polo that endures and flourishes to this day.
THE REVERSO IN FOCUS
The range has evolved over the years, and while you can still buy a watch very similar to the 1931-original, JLC have updated the look over the years and now offer several contemporary, modern variants.
JLC Grande Reverso Ultra-Thin 1931 Chocolate Dial
Wow. The pink gold case, only 7.3mm thick. The chocolate dial, including an exact reproduction of the logo on the historical model that inspired it. And the movement, a mechanical manually wound Caliber 822/2 that is just 2.95mm thin. Delicious. The piece is crafted, assembled and decorated by hand and has an impressive, given its size, 45-hours of power reserve. Lest we forget the leather strap made by the masters of polo-boot making, Casa Fagliano in Argentina. This is the third coloured dial model to be released in three years, following on from the Rouge in 2012 and the Duoface Blue in 2013.
JLC Reverso Squadra
Australian men don’t need to be told that, despite its occasionally diminutive size, the Reverso is a strong statement on the wrist. It eschews norms of shape, usually size and it is unapologetically elegant a choice for a man to make. It cannot and does not try to be all things at all people. The Reverso is many things, but it is not a ‘one watch’, able to work with your polo shirt, Tom Ford suit and then wetsuit in turn.
Which is why the Squadra version of the Reverso continues to be so successful in Australia. Square rather than rectangular by design, it was the first-ever Reverso to deliberately turn its back on the iconic shape, presenting a case with daring square lines. The Reverso Squadra Hometime Black is marketed as a traveller’s watch, with handy second timezone; and the Reverso Squadra Chronograph GMT adds the ever-popular chrono complication to the dual time functionality.
The Reverso Squadra has become a watch that is emblematic of polo and of a horsey, muscular, masculine world . It’s important to note that it does this without losing its ‘Reversoness’. In our opinion, the change in shape does not detract from the signature characteristics of the Reverso, which include the famous swivel case, readable dial and the stylised ‘gadroons’, the ornamental band used especially in silver work, embellished with fluting, reeding or another continuous pattern. Gadroons, by the way, is also one of the best words of all time. Points to anyone who can use the word in its proper context in a conversation. Let us know how you go.
JLC Reverso Squadra – Hometime Black
The Reverso Squadra Hometime Black features the exclusive Hometime/Travel time system, developed and patented by Jaeger-LeCoultre. The reference time is displayed by a red openworked hand serving as an immediate reminder of the time in one’s place of residence. A rectangular aperture at 9 o’clock displays the am/pm indication, while the aperture opposite at 3 o’clock is dedicated to the travel time.
JLC Reverso Squadra – Chronograph GMT Black
With its distinctive black-coated crown and push-pieces, the Reverso Squadra Chronograph GMT Black is the even more masculine, sporty iteration. The hour and minutes are shown on the main dial, and the second time zone on a 24-hour display appears through an aperture at 6 o’clock. Two other square counters enable readings of the chronograph indications – minutes at 3 o’clock and hours at 9 o’clock. The large date window at 12 o’clock is linked to the first time zone. Powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 754, 65-hour power reserve, available in stainless steel or 18ct pink gold case that is water-resistant to 50m.
WHERE TO BUY THE JAEGER-LECOULTRE REVERSO IN AUSTRALIA
While we hear whispers that there could be a JLC boutique at some stage in the future, today the company relies on its network of Authorised Dealers to sell the Reverso. At the time of writing, there are 11 Jaeger-LeCoultre points of sale in Australia- four in Melbourne, five in Sydney and one in each of Brisbane and Perth. You can check out the full list at the official website here.