As I write this review I am actually freshly back from a visit of the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture in Le Sentier, Switzerland. In the watch industry the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture is considered a special place because it is a serious factory where both cases and movements are made – which is a rare combo. I got to see a lot of Reverso cases being produced and realized just how complex they are to manufacture. A simple case requires dozens of steps that involve both hand and machine work. The efforts are necessary to achieve the right shape, polish, and of course unique case flipping mechanism.
The original Reverso was produced in 1931 for British polo players stationed in India. The elite group wanted a watch they could wear while playing the game without too much risk of damage. At the time watch crystals were mostly glass and were relatively fragile. The Reverso case was designed to flip over and reveal a polished piece of solid metal to protect the crystal on the other side. The flipping case mechanism has of course been modernized a bit, but retains the same basic system as developed about 80 years ago. Last year Jaeger-LeCoultre fervently celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Reverso which involved the release of many new models, limited editions, and a closer look at the heritage of the watch. For review I had the pleasure of checking out one of the newer pieces – the Grande Reverso Duoface (also sometimes just called “Duo”) timepiece (ref. Q374.24.21).
The Reverso comes in a range of sizes and style. The largest of modern watches are the super-sized Reverso cases in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s highest end models such as the Gyrotourbillon II and the Triptyque. The Grande Reverso is a step down from that. The more square Squadra is a handsome sporty option as well. Then there are smaller men’s versions as well as a few sizes for the ladies. The Grande Reverso case is 32.15mm wide and about 52mm tall. That length of the case prevents it from looking small. I would not say that the piece wears large, but it certainly doesn’t feel petite. The Reverso is a super classic look. Those three horizontal lines in the case above and below the dial really make it look distinctive, and the overall look and feel of the piece is ultra-classy. No where will a Reverso look out of place.
The case flipping function is slick and well-engineered. Hell, the brand did have 80 years to work on it. There are spring-loaded ball bearings that help it move easily and snap securely into place. Originally the Reverso has a plain metal caseback. Jaeger-LeCoultre early-on realized that this space was useful for custom engravings, enamel paintings, etc… Today for example there is a special Reverso website where you can customize your own and Jaeger-LeCoultre will make it for you. The brand also realized that if they created complex movements, the watch could have two dials. This Duoface is a perfect example of one of those pieces.
In this case Jaeger-LeCoultre decided to use each side as a different time zone. So this is a nice two timezone watch with the date. The idea is that you just flip over the watch to see the time zone elsewhere. One side has the time with subsidiary seconds dial and an open-date indicator. The other side has another time zone with a day/night indicator. That latter side would be use for what is often referred to as “home time.” It makes for a useful travel watch, and as a benefit each side is aesthetically different giving you the option to “wear it light or dark.”
Each dial is very much reminiscent of the Reverso’s historical look. The brand is careful to ensure that detailing is impressive by giving the dials machine engraving and crisp printing. The black colored dial also has luminant for night viewing. The best part is that the overall Reverso look is not only highly art deco in style, but also very legible and useful. It is hard to not be a Reverso fan. The design is timeless, looks good on most people, and even after all this time the flipping case concept is still fun. Others have tried to replicate the idea of a double sided watch, but no one does it better than JLC.
This particular Grande Reverso Duoface watch has an 18k rose gold case. There are steel versions as well but I have to say that gold suits the Reverso very well. I know there are 18k white gold versions, but you might as well just get a steel one at that point. If you go gold, go rose or pink gold for a case like this. The color looks great with both the silvered and black colored dials. The blued steel hands on the silvered dial are classic – and Jaeger-LeCoultre even flame blues their hands in-house.
Pull the case to the side and you’ll see the perlage decorated back plate. It adds a nicely machined look and frames the rest of the case well. On the wrist the watch is extremely comfortable and feel slimmer than it is. It is very interesting to me how rectangular-shaped watches have a very distinct feel on the wrist compared to round watches.
If you are a guy who likes modern sized watches I don’t recommend going for a size any smaller than the Grande Reverso case. If it is still too small for you then check out a Squadra. Attached to the case is an alligator/crocodile strap. Of course it looks nice and I like how it is fitted directly to the case with very little gap. Funny how gaps between a strap and case keep some watches from looking their best. The deployant clasp on the strap is quite nice. It has a hidden fold-over deployant and what you see is just a very elegant rounded buckle piece. Very nice.
The majority of Reverso movements are manually wound. This has a lot to do with the space and style of the movement. Though there are a few automatic Reverso watches around. Jaeger-LeCoultre of course makes all of their own movements. The shame in a watch like this is that you can’t see the movement. Even opening up the case is something that only an expert should do. That makes sense as there are hands on both sides. For those wanting a more “pure” horological experience there are watches in the Grande Reverso range very similar to this piece that have an exhibition style caseback on the second dial side of the watch.
Inside this Grande Reverso Duoface is a Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 986 manually wound movement. All features are controlled via the crown and it has a power reserve of about 48 hours. It is a slick movement and all I could have asked for in addition to the existing features would be a power reserve indicator. For me, I really like it when manually wound movements have those. Price for this excellent Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Duoface watch is $19,300 in 18k rose gold and about $10,200 in steel. It is a classic, and an easy decision to own.