Photos by Jake Witkin

Introduced at Watches & Wonders last year, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso One Precious Colours watches boldly lean into the Art Deco roots of the brand’s famous rectangular swivel-case model. Available in two palettes, the casebacks of these Reverso watches flaunt a stunning enamel and gem-set geometric pattern, which wraps around to frame the dials on the other side.  This type of artistry — one that is flawlessly executed by the artisans at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Atelier Metiers Rares — can only be fully appreciated in real life, so we went hands-on with these pieces that beautifully blur the lines between jewelry, art, and timekeeping.

Whether dramatic curves or straight lines, zigzags or chevrons, Art Deco patterns are characterized by repetition and bold colors. This influence is clearly illustrated in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s grand feu enamel and diamond-set decoration, all painstakingly done by hand. The gold surface is first sealed with transparent enamel and fired, further followed by additional layers of opaque white enamel — each of which has to dry and be fired before the next application. Once the base is ready, the artist has to hand-draw all the lines of the geometric pattern. To achieve the mosaic of colors, the enameler hand paints each block with a tiny brush, working in layers, blending different metal oxide pigments for shade variation, and firing up the piece in the kiln after every coating until the correct intensity has been achieved. Grand feu enameling requires temperatures up to 800 degrees Celsius (1,472 degrees Fahrenheit). The final step, referred to as the Geneva technique, is the application of fondant to get that super shiny glazed look.

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Only when the grand feu enameled pattern is in place, which takes about 80 hours of work, does the case move into the hands of a gem-setter. Setting the diamonds into the case while leaving the enameling work intact presents its own challenges and requires another 45 hours of work. Given the amount of time it takes just to decorate the Reverso One Colours, it comes as no surprise that these are limited-production pieces. Looking at the painted surface up close, you can see the minuscule brushstrokes that make up the blue or green arrangements; the curved sides of the case are particularly impressive and I can only imagine how difficult it was to achieve the alternating swaths of colors with such precision. The green and white gold version gives a slight tropical vibe while the blue and rose gold model feels more formal and regal.

Compared to other Reverso models, the Reverso One has a more elongated and slender case, which wears nicely on the wrist. Dimensions are 40mm lug-to-lug, 20mm across, and 9.09mm thick. On a nearly 6-inch wrist here, you can see that the case takes up a nice amount of vertical real estate and doesn’t look too petite. The watch wraps around the wrist with a color-matched shiny alligator strap. On the flip side of the ornate enameled and diamond caseback is a straightforward time-only dial, where a white mother-of-pearl surface is home to applied Arabic numerals and Dauphine hands. Opting for a minimal dial design was the right choice here since it’s framed with a heavy dose of diamonds and enameled sides.

Inside the slim case is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 846 manually wound movement, offering a power reserve of 38 hours — which isn’t long but if the watch stops running, thankfully only the hour and minute hands need readjusting. This particular movement has been around since 1975 and its form was specifically designed to fit into the rectangular Reverso all those decades ago.

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When watch enthusiasts speak about Jaeger-LeCoultre, its reputation of being “The Watchmaker of Watchmakers” inevitably comes up due to its history of making fantastic movements for other renowned watch brands. While that reputation is no doubt well-earned, I think it can also overshadow all the other facets of watch craftsmanship that JLC does so well within its Métiers Rares Atelier. Watches like the Reverso One Colours serve to remind us that Jaeger-LeCoultre continues to champion decorative crafts such as enameling and gem-setting, not to mention others like engraving, guilloché , and marquetry. And the luxury watch landscape is all the more beautiful and interesting when peppered with special pieces like this.

As expected, the prices for these Jaeger-LeCoultre high-jewelry watches are expensive. The pink gold and blue Reverso One Colours ref. Q3292432 is priced at USD 125,000, while the white gold and green Reverso One Colours ref. Q3293432 is priced at USD 130,000. As mentioned, production is limited, so they’re available in select boutiques only. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.

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