Jaeger Lecoultre Reverso. From the Soixantième to the Quantième Perpétuel: 10 years of a Saga.
1991 - 2000. A saga of ten years, housing the most classic, traditional horological complications.
At that time, the universe of fine watches, at Jaeger Lecoultre, was rectangular, not round.
Not that there were not great watches, from the early 90's to the early 2000's... You indeed had the Master Géographique, the Grande Memovox, the Perpetual Calendar, the Memovox, but I don't see in these round watches the expression of fine horology, in comparison to these six rectangular masterpieces we'll see here. At the exception, maybe, of the Master Ultra Thin, whose Cal 849 and its ultra thinness ( only 1, 85 mm high ) can compete in this category.
So, all started in 1991, with the rightly called Soixantième, to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the rectangular icon.
1/ 1991: The Reverso Soixantième displays the small seconds in a classic way, at 6 o' clock, a power reserve curiously located between 10 and 12 o clock, and a date which follows a complex way, all that on a solid silver brushed and guilloché dial ( with two different kind of guillochage ).
From the point of view of aesthetics, the outcome is awkward, or at least, surprising. There is no symmetry, nor balance, but, after a while, you feel it as a part of its identity, and a big part of its charm.
The case has a new size, the famous GT case, which is still a reference for the amateurs of this watch, whose dimensions are 42 x 26 mm for a 9, 35 mm height.
This rose gold GT case will be common to the five other Reverso belonging to this saga.
The movement is the Cal 824, whose plates and bridges are made in 14 Kt rose gold, which was a first.
2/ 1993: The Reverso Tourbillon.
1993... Think about it, just one minute. At that time, how many wrist watches with tourbillon did we have, in the market?
Breguet made some, as well as Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, IWC ( the Destriero Scafusia ), Daniel Roth, Girard Perregaux and certainly a few others... BUT the Tourbillon as reserved to prestigious watches, as it was seen as a prestigious sophistication.
Since circa 2005, the tourbillon has been housed in more watches. I would not say that it has been democratized, but you get my point.
The great point with the Reverso Tourbillon is that it offers the possibility to put the Tourbillon on the verso side.
So, you have a classic, sober but refined guilloché dial on the front, giving you the time, and, for the selfish pleasure of its owner, on the verso, the tourbillon you can admire just by flipping the case.
The detail I like a lot? The tourbillon bridge, which is very close to the Cal 170 which won some chronometry contests from 1948 to 1954.
The 14 Kt rose gold Cal 828 and its 194 parts in all its timeless beauty:
Can you imagine it is 26 years old?
3/ 1994: The Reverso Minute Repeater.
Among these six special Reverso, the Minute Repeater is the only one to not offer something to see on the verso side, as its back is solid.
Its purpose, or should I say its duality, is elsewhere. Indeed, this is the only one which allows you to read AND to listen to the time. And this is a pretty tough challenge to offer a minute repeater in such a small space.
The dial is classic, here again, but the presence of the governor, between 4 and 6 o'clock reveals the presence of the minute repeater. A governor made in... Pink gold.The other detail linked to the Minute Repeater? The discreet trigger, on the left side of the case.
Here, the movement, hidden under the solid case back, is made of steel. Its rectangular shape is unique, as far as I remember, in the minute repeaters category. The Cal 943 is made of 306 parts.
As for the sound, I could hear several. The common point is that the sound is not loud at all, but that is easily understandable, given the reduced dimensions of the case and movement.Some sounded quite well, others didn't, but they probably needed a service, after so many years...
Definitely a classic, and a challenge, this Reverso Minute Repeater!
4/ 1996: The Reverso Chronographe Retrograde.
Another masterpiece, indisputably, this Reverso Chronographe Retrograde. And a unique one, as it features a 14 Kt rose gold, in house, rectangular, manual winding chronographe, which, moreover, has retrograde chronograph minutes, displayed in the verso side, along with the classic chronograph seconds.
Here, you have the best of both words, a bit like for the Reverso Tourbillon.
The recto dial offers you the time, only, and the possibility to see if your chronograph is running or not, with this indicator at 5 o' clock. so, the presence of the chronograph is not forced but chosen, with its location on the verso side, which is an idea I like a lot.
Then, the opposition of style is something clearly noticeable, on this watch. Classic and sober, or refined and sophisticated, it is up to you to choose, depending on the mood of the moment or your needs....
The small movement, the Cal 829, is made of 317 parts, and a pure beauty to admire.
A movement which has been made in steel a few years after, to be housed in the Reverso Gran sport Chronograph, with a different reference: Cal 859.
5/ 1998: The Reverso Géographique.
Original, this Reverso Géographique certainly is. Do you know many other rectangular Travel Watches?
Thanks to its complication, it is also friendly. Especially for those who travel, or... for dreamers, as this is the kind of watch which makes you travel in your mind, without having to move!
All of this in total discretion. Indeed, at the exception of the pusher under the crown, how could you guess, from the recto side, that you are in presence of a travel watch?
On the recto, you just have the hours, minutes, small seconds, and a night and day indicator in your home place. In terms of symmetry and balance, this dial is excellent.
On the verso, you have your second time zone sub dial, linked to the city of your choice, with the day / night indicator of the place you are going to. All of these indications are synchronised via the pusher. Complex to realize, but simple and friendly to use.
The manual winding movement is the Cal 858, made with 206 parts, in steel, like the minute repeater.
I would also mention that the two dials of this Reverso are, like the others, in solid silver and that they both are guilloché, which is not evident for the black one I took in picture, but it really is. And both are really superb.
6/ 2000: Reverso Perpetual Calendar.
It was mandatory to choose the Perpetual Calendar, for this special series of Reverso.
Indeed, the Perpetual Calendar is a classic and noble complication which has its place, in this Saga, and the Reverso is, in my opinion, THE ideal watch to house it.
Why? Simple! On most of the perpetual calendars, the main issue is the dial, which is often not very legible, and most often busy with all these informations, especially when you have a complete Perpetual Calendar such as this one.
Here, with the " Reverso Concept ", you have the main dial for the time, the night and day indicator to remind you that between 10 PM and 3 AM, it is certainly not the time to set the time backward if you don't want to ruin the perpetual calendar mechanism, and the leap year, which will intrigue those who don't know what is the true purpose of this watch.
Flip the case and go to the verso... On the finely guilloché dial, you have three sub dials, one dedicated to the Date and the Moon Phase, the Date being Retrograde, and two sub dials, dedicated to the Day and the Month. In terms of legibility and class, it is hard to do better.
The movement is manual winding, the Cal 855, made of 276 parts, and in steel.
You now better understand what I started this article by stating that, during this Saga, the universe of fine watches was rectangular, at Jaeger Lecoultre, with these 6 marvels which didn't have round competitors.
Things have changed, now, and for some time.
But when I go back to that era, as I did, during my last visit at the Manufacture, I dreamed.
At the point that I asked the Manufacture to show me only two Reverso, and while photographing them, I asked to see the four others... Knowing that I would write an article about all of them, finally.
If each of them is an excellent choice, there is one which is a bit apart, the Géographique.
Indeed, this is not a prestigious complication, compared to the Chronograph, the Minute Repeater, the Tourbillon, or the Perpetual Calendar, but it is, for me, the most friendly one, and the one I would love to add in my collection, for its originality, too.
Looking forward to reading your comments and thoughts,