For the Watches & Wonders 2023 season, Jaeger-LeCoultre released a number of new Reverso watches, including a new rendition of their Reverso Chronograph first seen in the 60th Anniversary Edition Series launched in the 1990s. The new Reverso Tribute Chronograph is now available in either a steel case or rose gold case. Here is our hands-on, comprehensive review.
We photographed the JLC Reverso Tribute Chronograph at the JLC booth in Watches & Wonders. Our pick is, of course the stainless steel model. More watch for the money. Though truth be told, the rose gold model has a completely different vibe and its own, more romantic appeal.
Review: the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph
The retail pricing of the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph is SGD 31,000 in steel, and SGD 54,500 in rose gold. Both prices are inclusive of GST.
It has been a while since Jaeger-LeCoultre have had a fully mechanical, hand-wound chronograph. The last in recent memory was the Squadra Chronograph but the chronograph had a self winding movement. The Squadra was released in 2006, now discontinued but it was a model which polarised collectors as the square shape of the Squadra case was perhaps not as well liked as the rectangular Reverso. It was the first to have a square dial, and JLC applied for a patent for the design but was rejected. It turned out that René-Alfred Chauvot, the designer of the first Reverso case, had filed his own patent for a square case all the way back in 1931, but it was never actually produced.
The lead watch in the 60th Anniversary collection was the Reverso Soixantième (1991), created in a rose gold case, and rose gold movement. The same collection comprise of other notable pieces, including a tourbillon (1993), a minute repeater (1994), a retrograde chronograph (1996), w GMT watch called the Géographique in 1998 and a perpetual calendar in 2000.
We told this story before, but it stands repeating, that the complicated Reverso’s Grand Taille case came about when Günter Blümlein, who had just taken over as boss of the manufacuture asked the watchmakers to make a Reverso with a complicated movement. The reply was negative, as the watchmakers said to him that there was just not enough space. To which, Blümlein casually and brilliantly replied, “Well, just make the case bigger!” Thus was born the Grande Taille case, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The case, dial and hands
The case of the new Reverso Tribute Chronograph is 49.4 x 29.9 mm, H 11.14mm, which is larger than the original Grand Taille case which measured 42.2 x 26.1 mm, H 9.5 mm. But the proportions are well chosen, that the watch does not look at all large, nor bulky. But remained quite wearable and svelte on the wrist.
The case retains the gardoons on the top and bottom, framing the dial. And as usual, the case is on a slide which moves over the solid case back which are attached to the lugs.
The dial on the first side features the very standard, but beautiful Art Deco styling that the Reverso is known for. The dial on our chosen stainless steel model has a sunray brushed blue dial. The blue is somewhat a cross between a pale pastel, but in a darker shade, no quite indigo but mesmerising. The indices are appliqué with arrow shaped ends. This is coherent with the Dauphiné hands which are used for the hours and minutes. A railway track to mark the seconds makes way around the rectangular dial, completing the indications. The JLC logo and nameplate sits below the 12 o’clock marker.
The rose gold version has the same dial. But in a black sunray finish. in the metal, the dial is very shiny, and has a sleek look. Very nice contrast to the rose gold markers, hands and the case sides.
Flip the case over, and we see the business side of the chronograph. Unlike the 1996 version, where the rear has only the chronograph indications, the new Reverso Tribute Chronograph carries the time indication over to the reverse side. This requires a modification to the movement. But other than that, the same chronograph indications are offered in the novelty. The center seconds hands record the chronograph seconds and a 30 minute retrograde totaliser records the elapsed minutes. The other big difference between the 1996 and 2023 model is that the former has a power reserve indicator in the shape of a fan showing if the chronograph is stopped or started on the main dial, while the latter leaves this indication out.
The movement: Calibre 860
The movement is the Caliber 860. As usual, this movement is designed and manufactured in-house at the JLC Manufacture in Le Sentier. The movement is a derivative of the original Caliber 829 designed by Manuel Guerin, introduced in 1996.The differences are as indicated – the lack of a chronograph running indicator, as well as the addition of the time display on the reverse dial. The movement is also enlarged.
Movement finishing is excellent. We judge it to be perhaps a bit more elaborate than the regular “plain Jane” Reverso. The column wheel is visible at about 7 o’clock on the reverse dial, and balances visually with the balance wheel at 5 o’clock. The rear dial is open and the pointed appliqué indices are now floating over the movement and seem to point towards the chronograph seconds indicator. A touch of red adds a subtle but eye catching highlight of colour.
The feel of the chronograph operations is very nice. With a good, light but positive pressure to start and as this is a column wheel controlled chronograph, the start, stop and reset feel the same. The clutch is horizontal to keep the height of the movement low, and there is the small characteristic chronograph jump on activation.
The landscape of mechanical hand-wound chronographs are indeed large. But one within a dual side case is quite limited.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Face to Face II is one of the rarities to offer a dual face chronograph, and frankly the only one we can think of. It has an RRP of only SGD 5.969.
The case reversing mechanism requires the watch to be taken off the wrist, as the entire case swivels around a pivot placed in the mid-section of the outer case. The watch only shows the chronograph readouts on the flip side. The movement – designated by Hamilton as H41 is a derivative of the Valjoux 7750.
In comparison to the 60th Anniversary Reverso Chronograph, the novelty Reverso Tribute Chronograph uses the same movement as the base – the Caliber 829, but modified to allow the time to be shown on both dials. The 1996 issue was a limited edition of 500 pieces in rose gold only.
On the front is a traditional Reverso with an aperture with a date at 6 o’clock and a chronograph run/stop indicator at 5 o’clock which shows “Marche” and “Arret” (“go” and “stop”). The dial is guilloché instead the sunray finished dials on both the Tribute models. On the reverse, the dial is partially openworked and shows a large dial much like the Tribute for the chronograph seconds above a retrograde scale at the 6 o’clock position. See the images below of this spectacular 1996 chronograph, courtesy of SteveG.
Our conclusion after spending time with the JLC Reverso Tribute Chronograph is one which we came away very impressed with. This is a magnificently beautiful timepiece. Both dial sides are almost as persuasive in their beauty. The front dial in its simplicity and Art Deco vibes. The rear dial with the mechanical beauty of the exposed movement.
This is one of the top picks of the Watches & Wonders 2023 Show. The Reverso Tribute Chronograph was on the top 3 watches on Robin Lim, Chester Lau, and Kunal Khemka have the watch in their top of the show lists. And even though it was not on mine, it certainly is one of the highlights of the show for me.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph specifications
Stainless steel / Rose Gold
Dimensions (L x W): 49.4 x 29.9 mmThickness: 11.14mm
Appliqued hour-markers, Blue / Black, sunray-brushed
Black, Opaline, Appliqued hour-markers
Two straps included with the watch:
- Calfskin Leather, Navy-blue / Grey
- Calfskin Leather, Black
Lug width: 22mmLength 12h: 75mmLength 6h: 120mm
Double Folding BuckleStainless steelBuckle width: 20mm
JAEGER-LECOULTRE CALIBRE 860
Hour – Minute
30-minute counter, Hour – Minute identical on front/back, Chronograph’s Second, Chronograph
Manual winding, Vibrations per hour: 28800, Jewels: 38, Barrel: 1, Thickness: 5.5mm, Power reserve: 52 hours