As far as rectangular watches go, none are quite as well-known as the legendary Reverso. Ninety years ago, Jaeger-LeCoultre created the Reverso as an ingenious solution for polo players who wished to protect the glass of their watches while playing matches. With its swivelling case and distinctive Art Deco lines, it was to become a classic of 20th century design.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Nonantième
This year, in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the Reverso, the ‘watchmaker’s watchmaker’ presents the latest episode in this story – a celebratory piece with a display that’s never been seen in the collection. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Nonantième (French for ‘ninetieth’), which showcases a completely novel visual expression to an alliance of several classical complications.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The Reverso Tribute Nonantième is presented in a standard Reverso case. Rendered in pink gold, it features emblematic design elements like the three clear-cut gadroons at the top and bottom, elegant rectangular lines, and, of course, the special hinge that allows the case to swivel and flip front-to-back. Measuring a sizeable 49.4 x 29.9 mm, the Reverso Tribute Nonantième is a little unwieldy – not helped by the fact that rectangular watches tend to “wear larger” on the wrist as well. As such, having a bigger wrist is probably a necessity to pull off the Reverso Tribute Nonantième with panache.
When it comes to the dial, the front end will be familiar to most. Its design is classic Reverso: a silvered, sunray-brushed dial with golden applied indices, and dauphine hands. In the lower half of the dial, a bosom-style moonphase display is set within the small seconds counter. Beneath the 12 o’clock marker is a large date display, framed by an applied filet of pink gold that echoes the rectangular shape of the dial and case. Of note is the visual and textural contrast between the brushed surface of the dial and the polished pink gold elements – stunningly gorgeous.
Flipping the case over reveals an entirely new expression of some of watchmaking’s most familiar complications. Dramatic and captivating, it is unlike anything seen on a Reverso before. The solid pink gold case back is dominated by two round apertures of different sizes, arranged like a figure-eight and encircled by gadroons that echo the rectilinear gadroons on the upper and lower edges of the case. The small upper aperture displays a semi-jumping digital hour indication – a first for the Reverso. In the large aperture below the hour, minutes are displayed on a rotating disc that is partially concealed by a three-quarter plate lacquered in vivid blue and sprinkled with tiny golden stars to depict the night sky. Within a small circle at the centre, an applied golden sun and moon pass above a horizon to indicate night and day. Finally, in the semi-circle below the horizon, a JL logo is set on a sunray-pattern background.
As a whole, the display is irrefutable evidence that creativity and craftsmanship thrives at the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufactory. One cannot help but feel, however, that the semi-jumping digital hour should’ve been ‘instantaneously jumping’ given the watchmaking prowess of the brand. One possible explanation for the lack of it is size constraint. Apart from being more mechanically sophisticated, an instantaneously jumping digital hour is also more power-hungry and will likely require larger, or more mainspring barrels. With the current size of the watch, a further increase in dimensions to accommodate extra parts is simply out of the question.
Driving the Reverso Tribute Nonantième is the 230-part, in-house manufactured Calibre 826. The brand new, manually wound movement has a short-ish power reserve of 42 hours (so you’ll have to wind it everyday to keep it going) and operates at a stately 3 Hz frequency. It shows the same time on both faces of the watch, in addition to displaying the grande date, moon phase, and day/night.
As there isn’t an exhibition case back, the movement cannot be ordinarily seen by the wearer without first opening the case. But with the track record of Jaeger-LeCoultre, you can count on the Calibre 826 to be finished way beyond engineering/functional standards.
The Competitive Landscape
Much like the Rolex sports watch or the Patek Philippe Calatrava, the Reverso is an icon. The Reverso Tribute Nonantième, as one of the latest Reversos to be introduced, brings with it a novel style of display that makes it so memorable. While wristwatches with front and back dials do exist (and are not that rare), one with a solid case back housing aperture displays has never been done previously, to the best of our knowledge. Limited to 190 pieces, the Reverso Tribute Nonantième is available only in boutiques and is priced at around SGD58,500.
One timepiece that the Reverso Tribute Nonantième is strongly reminiscent of is the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Moon Phase. Sure, the two watches aren’t the same shape, but they share notable similarities. For instance, the date in both watches is executed in large format, with numerals individually framed in gold. In addition, the moon phase indicator in the two pieces is located within the seconds sub-dial. And last but not least, their day/night indicators are also highly stylised, graphically depicting the day and night skies. The Lange 1 Moon Phase may come in a standard issue round case, but its finissage is anything but standard. With superior finishing to the Reverso (and most other watches on the planet), the Lange 1 Moon Phase at around EUR40,000 seemingly offers good bang for buck.
Design-forward yet true to its roots, the Reverso Tribute Nonantième makes for a fitting anniversary timepiece. The size and steeper-than-expected pricing might be a stumbling block for some, but the watch is otherwise an eye-catcher and one for the connoisseurs among us.
Photographed in the JLC Boutique in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC 4/120 Macro and HC 2.8/80 with H28 extension tube. Profoto strobes.