When the Reverso was created in 1931, its signature swivelling case was an ingenious functional solution to the problem of protecting the dial and glass of the watch when worn on the polo field. It quickly became apparent that the blank metal of the case-back was an ideal canvas for artistic expression, lending itself naturally to decoration with engraving, enamel and other crafts.
In 2022, nine decades after the Reverso was born, Jaeger-LeCoultre presents the latest episode in this story: the Reverso Tribute Enamel “Tiger” – a remarkable expression of the Manufacture’s craftsmanship and creativity. Created to coincide with Chinese New Year, the new timepiece pays tribute to the Year of the Tiger.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel “Tiger”
Swivelling the watch case to its reverse side reveals a magnificent tiger. Engraved into the pink gold case metal, it seems to leap out from its background of black opaque Grand Feu enamel, the polished surface of the tiger’s coat and the contrasting rhodium-brushed texture of its stripes catching and refracting the light to create the illusion of movement and power.
To maximise the sense of volume and bring depth to the engraving, the artisan engraver used a technique called modelled engraving, using differently sized chisels to sculpt the metal step by step – a precise and exacting task that requires absolute focus and remarkable dexterity.
Adding to the challenge of creating this interpretation of the Reverso Tribute Enamel, the engraver’s work began not, as is usual, with a bare metal surface but with one that already had its coat of Grand Feu enamel. An unprecedented accuracy of gesture is necessary in order to avoid all risk of damage to the pristine enamel, and the engraver devoted 55 working hours to the creation of this masterpiece.
The dial of the Reverso Tribute Enamel features the same opaque black Grand Feu enamel as the case-back. The elegant simplicity of the Reverso Tribute dial, with its faceted appliqué hour-markers, chemin de fer minutes track, and Dauphine hands – in this case, perfectly matched to the pink gold of the case – places full value on the subtle beauty of the glowing black background.
The apparent simplicity of the pure black enamel is deceptive because in Grand Feu enamelling, the outcome of the firing process is never entirely predictable. Building up the enamel layers to create a black of such depth and richness, with each new layer followed by firing, the enamelling of the two surfaces of the Reverso Tribute Enamel “Tiger” required no less than 20 working hours. Jaeger-LeCoultre remains one of very few watch Manufactures to have its own in-house enamelling atelier, safeguarding and advancing this ancient craft.