Designing the perfect watch doesn’t occur by happenstance. Born at the height of the Art Deco period, the JaegerLeCoultre Reverso epitomised the spirit of the time. Also known as style moderne, a name derived from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925, the Art Deco era was a decorative arts and architecture movement that originated in the 1920s and developed into a major style in western Europe and the United States during the 1930.
It was here, at the nascent climax of the Industrial Revolution that the New York Times commented, “The trammels of tradition were to be removed and art was to be free in experiment in the service of civilisation which, in the article of mechanics, is so radically changed since most of the traditions of art were invented.”
With its distinctive Art Deco lines and swivelling case, the Reverso is one of the worldʼs most recognisable wristwatches.
Ninety years after the birth of the Reverso, and 150 years after creating its first minute repeater, the grand maison presents the Reverso Tribute Minute Repeater embodying Jaeger-LeCoultreʼs constant pursuit of beauty and aesthetic refinement by harnessing the full potential of its unique design and the Manufactureʼs endlessly inventive quest for technical advancement.
Straddling the artistic spectrum from the delicate enamel work of the Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai “Kirifuri Waterfall” to the mind-bending engineering of the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185, Jaeger-LeCoultre has spent the collection’s 90th year pushing the boundaries of the Reverso series both mechanically and aesthetically; the Reverso Tribute Minute Repeater, following in the same vein as 1994’s Reverso Répétition Minutes and 2011’s Reverso Répétition Minutes à Rideau is no different.
Mechanically and artistically enlightened, both dials of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Minute Repeater are fully skeletonised. One of the most fascinating complications to watch, the front dial is entirely skeletonised, revealing the full complexity of the minute repeater mechanism and presenting a mesmerising display of moving parts when the minute repeater is activated.
The exuberance of the front dial contrasts with the rectilinear geometry of the Reverso case, the relative sobriety of the reverse dial echoes and amplifies those straight lines, showing the crown wheel, mainspring barrel, going train, and balance.
Vertical Côtes de Genève stripes extend over the entire height of the main plate, which also serves as the dial. Embodying technical advances such as Jaeger-LeCoultre’s patented trebuchet hammers, silent regulator and a new generation of gongs, the Reverso Tribute Minute Repeater is powered by a revised version of Calibre 944 – a movement seen originally on the Répétition Minutes à Rideau.
Historically, red gold is considered the material of choice for repeaters and while there’s no painstakingly hand painted enamel decoration, the finishing on the Tribute Minute Repeater is artistry in its own right: a large bow-shaped bridge that sweeps from 11 o’clock to seven o’clock, conveying a sense of visual depth and transparency enhanced by faceted indices that are cantilevered from the chemin de fer minutes track. Showcasing both technical complexity and the aesthetic crafts, the
Reverso Tribute Minute Repeater underlines the eternal modernity of the Reverso. Painted Faces: Another Dimension of Watch Artistry There was once a time when mid-20th century tastes rejected ornamentation in all areas of design, yet today, one can still find Reverso exemplars at auction bearing family crests and assorted heraldry that still fetch good values.
Truth is, that traditional artistic crafts such as enamelling, miniature painting and guillochage are still practised in the Le Sentier manufacture even if they began to disappear is testament that the Reverso wasn’t special because it provided a canvas for art, it was special because it was the most technically integrated watch case of the time and a platform for mechanical expression.
In the days before those dark times, when enamel watch dials were more commonplace, work was sectionalised: enamel powder was ground in one workshop, while another would create the white enamel base making surfaces on which the artists could paint and so forth.
So the savoir-faire was not lost immediately, and it was a slow dissolution as many practitioners of individual metiers d’art retired or passed and each technique which contributed to the whole art form were forever lost but it was the Jaeger-LeCoultre that stepped in to preserve these arts in watchmaking.
In 1996, the grand maison released its first timepieces to be decorated with grand feu enamel in contemporary times. Crafted by Miklos Merczel, a former watchmaker at Jaeger-LeCoultre who established the manufacture’s in-house enamelling studio, the set of four Reverso watches each bore a perfectly reproduced miniature of a work by the Art Nouveau master, Alphonse Mucha.
These were collectively known as The Seasons, painted in the original a century earlier. Reverso is latin for “I turn” and so, the rear of the Reverso, returning to its raison as the “perfect canvas” celebrating the joie de vivre alongside the marvel of mechanical ingenuity is every bit a turning point.
Ultimately, the Reverso design continues to showcase the technical and artistic capabilities and finesse of Jaeger-LeCoultre as it perpetuates its legacy for new forms of visual expression.
Discover the history and the legacy of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso here.