Few timepieces are as iconic as the Reverso, nor as durable.
Despite a storied 85 years since its creation in 1931, its rectangular form has seen scores of editions, re-editions and re-imaginings from luxury Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre, without ever straying from its timeless design.
The Reverso is an elegant dress watch with an ironically sporty background.
British Army Officers in Colonial India wanted a way to protect their valuable wristwatches during the bumps, smacks and mallet mis-strikes of polo matches.
(Players needed to wear their watches on the field to keep an eye on the time remaining in each of the seven-minute periods of play known as ‘chukkas’.)
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s ingenious solution? A pivoting case allowing the watch can be flipped around, bringing the smooth metal back to the fore and protecting the watch’s crystal face and dial. And so the aptly-named Reverso was born.
In our modern hyper-connected world, the Reverso is not just a watch but a piece of Art Deco wristwear.
It’s not just the rectangular shape, which defies the roots of the modern wristwatch as a modified pocket watch fitted with a strap.
The dimensions are based on the geometry of the “golden ratio” favoured by artists and architects, with the case’s height-to-width ratio measuring roughly 1.618 – which may help explain why the Reverso’s shape is so harmonious to the human eye.
The hands, indices and finely-patterned dials also speak to an era when thoughtful design was part of everyday craft, not something you could set aside as an option.
And while there’s rarely the need to swivel the watch case around, the Reverso’s unadorned metal backplate is a perfect canvas for engraving – either to personalise your own Reverso or to add special significance to one given as a gift.
(Besides, that intricate movement itself turns out to be a strangely and immensely pleasing piece of idleplay.)
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s extended Reverso family starts with the Classic collection, in a stainless steel case with a clean uncluttered dial in Small, Medium and Large dimensions – a size range which also underscores the Reverso’s unique position as a throughly unisex watch.
(Don’t overlook the merits of changing the band to something a little different – the right Reverso can look even more eye-catchingly elegant against a tanned leather strap.)
The petite Reverso One series, on the other hand, is deliberately crafted for women, with an elongated case and vintage feminine lines straight out of Downton Abbey.
The Tribute collection pays closest homage to the original models, with the Reverso Tribute Duoface particularly well suited to travellers.
Use the white front dial for your current location, then swivel the stainless steel case to reveal a stunningly contrasting deep blue dial for the time at home or an overseas office, with an additional 24-hour day/night indicator.
The starkly different colours and patterns of each face almost makes this two Reversos which happen to share the same dark blue alligator strap.
Reverso Classic Small (reference 2618430): $5,800
Reverso Classic Medium (reference 2538420): $11,200
Reverso Classic Large (reference 3828420): $11,500
Reverso Tribute Duo (reference 3908420): $16,200
For stockists, visit www.jaeger-lecoultre.com.