When it talks about iconic watches that have indelibly marked the watchmaking history, surely one of the first timepieces that comes to the mind of collectors and watch enthusiasts is the Reverso by Jaeger-LeCoultre. To pay homage to the first model from the 1930s, Jaeger-LeCoultre in 2019 presented the Tribute collection that takes inspiration from the design canons of the very first iconic model. In particular, within this collection it is possible to find the Reverso Tribute Small Seconds, which show the same complication presented for the first time in 1934.
Recently, four new watches showing the small seconds complication have been added to this quite new collection and all of them were presented during Watch & Wonders 2023. All these new references have the common feature of the colored dial, paying tribute to the avant-garde spirit of the Maison, which, in the 1930s, was one of the very few watch factories to offer colored dials while white and silver dials were still the norm.
How the idea of the Reverso come about?
The Reverso, with its patented case “capable of sliding in its support and being completely turned over”, never ceases to fascinate and is undoubtedly considered a genuine icon in the watch world today. But how did this “unique” watch come about? It was born in 1931 as a result of a “challenge”. Indeed, the year before Cesar de Trey, a Swiss businessman involved in Swiss watchmaking, after a polo match in India was “challenged” by a British officer, who had broken the glass of his watch, to think of a watch that was elegant, but at the same time capable of withstanding the strong shocks suffered during polo matches.
It was then that De Trey thought of an ingenious solution: a system that could turn the watch case upside down so that the glass and dial could be effectively protected. Back in Switzerland, he proposed it to Jaeques-David LeCoultre, then director of LeCoultre & Cie. Considering that the Manufacture “LeCoultre & Cie” had never made cases, LeCoultre needed the French specialists from Jaeger, who was already collaborating with, to make the flip-up one for the future Reverso. Thus, they designed and created the watch together.
Watches and Wonders and Novelties
Despite nearly 100 years of history, the Reverso has been truthful to its “primitive geometries,” confirming an innate elegance and essentiality. As previously anticipated, there were actually 4 new versions of the Reverso Tribute Small Seconds presented at Watches and Wonders 2023, especially focusing on 3 new (and very attractive) pink gold editions and a new steel model, under the reference Q713842J, with a silver dial and a Fagliano Collection calf-leather-and-canvas strap.
In line with the previous Reverso Tribute models, all these watches feature faceted dauphine hands, colored dials, applied bar indexes, and the small seconds display at 6 o’clock. Starting from the new stainless-steel version, the silver-colored dial results to be the main novelty, recalling the dials of first-generation of Reverso. Such dial has been introduced also on the pink gold version together with the black tuxedo and the intense oxblood red dials, which are much more attractive and catchy. The introduction of these new colors pushed Jaeger-LeCoultre to provide foreach Reverso Tribute Small Seconds in rose gold two different straps, both made in the emblematic Argentinian Casa Fagliano fabric. The first one shows a combination of canvas and calfskin and a second one is realized by calfskin combination and they are available in colors matching the new dials, fitted with pink gold pin buckles for quick strap changes.
If the introduction of new dials seems belittling. it is to specify that creating a sunray dial like these takes a long time and it is required high precision to make the slenders, almost imperceptible lines that produce the characteristic variations in hue when light falls on the dial from different angles. Moreover, the silver and black dials are then varnished and polished, while the burgundy dial goes one step further and is lacquered too.
Prosecuting, the most significant new features presented the rose gold version of the Reverso Small Seconds is the “streamlining” of the case, which brought to the the case thickness reduction. With over 50 components – 40 of which are allocated to the sliding and rotating mechanism – the cases are produced and hand-assembled by a specialized team at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacture in the Vallée de Joux, and a further reduction of the thickness increased the challenges hidden behind the manufacturing and assembling process of the various components. However, this complexity increase succeeds in giving the watch additional elegance. Although the Reverso was born as a sports watch, it is now well known how it has become a classic to go with a nice suit, rather than a watch for playing polo.
About the movement
Despite there is a difference of approximately 1mm in thickness between the steel and rose gold, both versions of Reverso Tribute Small Seconds are powered by the manually wound mechanical movement, Calibre 822, which is made up of 108 parts, just 2.94mm thick and 22.6mm long. With four well-finished bridges for the category (perlage, cote de geneve, screw burnishing, anglage), this in-house calibre runs at 21,600vph, delivers a power reserve of 45 hours and is equipped with a fix mobile bezel-anti-bump system on the escapement wheel as well, which allows with the backstop less overall friction. A beautiful and simple movement.
What we think
The Reverso turns out to be an absolute watchmaking icon, a lovable watch we might say. Since its introduction in 2019, several dial colors have been introduced and presented on the Reverso Tribute Small Seconds. Currently, in the catalog there are green, blue, burgundy, and the newly presented silver dials for steel cases. On the other hand, we find the 3 dials presented this year, classic silver, flashy burgundy and black for the rose gold case.
A lovely watch, we might say. But expect that for an unknown reason, this steel model retains the older case that measures 8.5mm in height, and not the new case that has been slimmed down to 7.56mm in thickness. The latter is exclusive to the pink gold versions. Such decision from Jaeger-leCoultre results to be quite incomprehensible at our eyes and, in a certain point of view, unfair to collectors who cannot afford the version in the noble material. We hope that in the future they can also make the case of the steel version thinner and continue to impress us with fantastic new dials for this model that has almost 100 years of history.
Written by Alessio Sammaria
Born in 1996, trainee tax lawyer in Milan. Watch enthusiast since childhood, collector since the age of majority. Attracted to the shapes, innovations and materials of watches. Exit watch in his collection is to own all the great complications.