Make it simple, but significant,” says fictional ad man Don Draper in the popular television drama Mad Men. It’s an astute quip that many advertising creatives continue to live by today, but the words could apply as easily to the making of great campaigns as they do Draper’s watch of choice in the show: A Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, with an unassuming streamlined silhouette and distinct Art Deco lines that have seen it become one of the world’s most iconic and beloved watches today.
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Exactly nine decades ago this year, the innovative timepiece was created when polo-playing British Army officers in India found their watches smashed to smithereens due to the rigorous nature of the game. A protective watch grill would have been an easy enough solution to the problem (it was already commonly used on military watches of that time), but it was hardly an elegant one. With Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso, officers were promised a wristwatch that could hold its own on the treacherous playing field with a quick flip of its case (all the better to hide and protect its delicate glass and dial) while offering polished, refined looks that were befitting their uniform and social standing for all other occasions.
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The Reverso, upon its unveil, turned the watch industry on its head with a never-before-seen mechanism—a pair of spring-loaded spurs that helped hold its swivelling case in place—that provided an ingenious answer to a real-life problem. But if ever there were a watch that held secrets and intrigue like a world-class spy, it was this multi-faceted charmer.
Naked to the eye were the 23 components that went into the making of the original and seemingly simple and minimalist swivel case alone. (Today, the watch case comprises more than 50 components for the most satisfying #ASMR experience when it turns.) Then there was the blank metal underside surface of the watch that begged to be personalised with proud initials, heartfelt messages or even noble enamel-decorated family crests—kept hidden from the world until its owner chose to reveal it. It’s a service that remains highly popular today, so much so that the watchmaker has launched a free-to-use online engraving tool on its website that allows you to see your creation before making a decision.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the flip-face number continues to shine as an emblem of pared-down sophistication. From the signature triple gadroons that flank the case to the discreet railtrack minute circle that encircles its dial, the watch’s balanced “Golden Ratio” proportions and distinct geometric lines speak of its Art Deco heritage while remaining stylishly relevant for modern times. And not only for its andro-chic aesthetics that seem perfectly tailor-made for both male and female wrists alike.
Even so, Jaeger-LeCoultre, armed with well over a century’s worth of dedicated heritage for ladies’ timepieces, was ever mindful to ensure that women were able to find a design that spoke to their desires. In 2016, the Reverso One was unveiled in fitting tribute to the original Reverso Lady that appeared within the year of the 1931 launch.
Bearing the elongated case shape and cambered profile of its precursors, the Reverso One offers design elements that are unique to the range. A whimsical Arabic numeral font coupled with Dauphine- type hands grace the discreet sunburst guilloché dial. Diamond options along its gadroons offer the choice of adding a touch of sparkle for style versatility that covers both power suits and playsuits.
For those who are after undeniable glamour and panache, Jaeger-LeCoultre has released two new Métiers Rares® editions to celebrate the collection’s 90th anniversary. The Reverso One Precious Flowers, with four different manual-wind designs to its name, immortalises the ephemeral beauty of blooms through gem-setting, engraving and enamelling for a time-telling corsage. The Reverso One Cordonnet Jewellery, on the other hand, turns the collection’s signature 1920s-inspired black cord strap into a glittering bracelet that’s entirely set with diamonds—much like its fully set duo-faced Duetto case with a white mother-of-pearl dial on one side and onyx on the other.
Time-honoured crafts are not all there is to fête Jaeger-LeCoultre’s milestone celebration. For the true timepiece connoisseur, Jaeger-LeCoultre has the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185, which pushes the boundaries of haute horlogerie in several notable ways. It’s the world’s first watch with four functioning faces, and comes packed with 12 patents and 11 complications (including a tourbillon, instantaneous perpetual calendar and minute repeater)—all of which took six years to develop.
Through the years, the Reverso has played blank canvas to a myriad of watchmaking complications and a host of decorative arts— perhaps explaining just how it has managed to stay in the hearts of adoring fans throughout the years. And with a Reverso to meet every need and desire of the zeitgeist, it seems this watch is here to stay. We can only imagine the gems its centennial celebrations will bring.
Brought to you by Jaeger-LeCoultre