While it may have far more aesthetic common ground with a dress watch (at least by today‘s standards), the reversible case of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso was originally designed specifically to protect its crystal while playing polo, and at its very core, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is, in fact, a sports watch. Although fitting an additional display to the reverse side of the case completely defeats the original purpose of its design, it also unlocks an entirely new realm of both aesthetic and functional possibilities, allowing users to essentially have one watch with two very different personalities. Among a handful of new Reverso releases unveiled this year at Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023 is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph, which is my personal favorite among the brand’s novelties this year. Available in either stainless steel or solid gold, one side offers a clean and classic time-only display in the spirit of the very first Reverso from 1931, while the other is a thoroughly modern skeletonized chronograph with a retrograde minutes counter.
Rather than debuting this rather drool-worthy new model exclusively in precious metals, JLC offers the Reverso Tribute Chronograph in both stainless steel (ref. Q389848J) and 18k pink gold (ref. Q389257J). The rectangular cases themselves measure 29.9mm-wide by 49.4mm-tall with an overall thickness of 11.14mm, and while these proportions might sound rather compact, rectangular watches always wear larger than circular ones of similar dimensions, and the quadrilateral profile of the JLC Reverso Tribute Chronograph still offers plenty of wrist presence. Pictured here on Jake’s wrist (as he was the one who took the photos), the watch hardly looks undersized, and it ultimately offers far more visual impact than a case diameter of 29.9mm would otherwise indicate. Additionally, since the majority of the weight resides within its center revolving case, the signature “Reverso” operation offers a particularly satisfying mechanical action as it flips around and locks into the outer frame of its case.
Although the underlying Reverso case concept has been used to create a remarkably wide assortment of different models over the years, the case of the new LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph offers a far more traditional take on the collection’s rectangular profile, as its “Tribute” designation implies that it draws its inspiration from the original Reverso watches from the 1930s. With ornamental grooves on the top and bottom of the case, the overall aesthetic impact of the new Tribute Chronograph is very true to the brand’s original vision for the watch, and while the time-only display further leans into this classic appearance, the skeletonized chronograph side offers a stark contrast with an inherently modern overall design. Just as you would expect, a pair of sapphire crystals are fitted to either side of the revolving center case in order to protect the two displays, while 30 meters of water resistance guards against daily incidental moisture contact (which was something that was lacking on the original Reverso watches from the 1930s).
On the right-hand side of the case (when viewing the time-only display) is a signed winding crown flanked by two rectangular pushers that are used to operate the chronograph functions of the movement. However, when the chronograph side of the watch is facing upwards, the crown and pushers will appear on the left-hand side of the case, which allows them to be operated by the thumb of your right hand (assuming that you are wearing it on your left wrist). On traditional round watches, chronograph pushers on the 9 o’clock side can sometimes feel a bit awkward to operate, but when the case of the watch is rectangular, operating them with your thumb becomes a fairly natural motion, due to the fact that they reside in a straight vertical line, rather than being positioned along the curved perimeter of a circular case. Furthermore, the thin rectangular profile of the pushers offers minimal visual presence, so there is little to distract from the simple and classic lines of the watch during the occasions when you simply wish to wear it as a time-only piece.
Largely staying true to the classic design of the original Reverso from 1931, the time-only dial of the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph conceals the model’s mechanical complexity with a simple pair of centrally-mounted dauphine hands and an elegant set of faceted batons for the hour markers. On the stainless steel model, the dial appears in a cool blue-gray color with a sunray finish, while the 18k rose gold version is fitted with a gloss black dial that has matching rose gold hands and polished indexes. Aside from the pair of pushers on the side of the case, the time-only side of the JLC Reverso Tribute Chronograph is about as simple and classic as it gets, without so much as even a running seconds hand or date window to detract from its clean and minimalist display.
While the time-only side of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph is classic and traditional, the chronograph side is thoroughly contemporary, with a skeletonized display and an arc-shaped retrograde minutes counter. On the upper half of the open-worked dial, you get a secondary display of the time with a prominent centrally-mounted chronograph seconds hand. Two concentric rings make up the dial itself, with the outer one in the same metal finish as the hands and markers, while the inner one features a gloss black 60-unit scale, which can be used for both the minutes of the time and for the seconds of the chronograph. On the lower half of the dial is an arc-shaped retrograde 30-minute counter for the chronograph, and this configuration offers maximum legibility given the fairly limited amount of available space within the rectangular case. Blued hands for the chronograph match the blued screws of the movement, and this creates a strong sense of visual harmony that connects the internal movement of the watch to the accents on its largely skeletonized display.
Powering the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph is the brand’s Caliber 860 manual-wind movement. Running at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 52 hours, the JLC Cal. 860 is a fully integrated chronograph operated by a column wheel and horizontal clutch, the latter of which was chosen over a vertical clutch to help ensure a thinner profile on the wrist. Consistent with the brand’s design philosophy that the shape of a movement should match its case, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 860 offers a distinct rectangular profile, and the decision to display the chronograph seconds on the upper half of the dial with the time, while the minutes receive their own retrograde display below, ultimately helps create a maximum amount of legibility while still preserving a balanced and largely symmetrical overall layout. Lastly, just as you would expect from a brand known as “the watchmaker’s watchmaker,” the pushers on the JLC Reverso Tribute Chronograph offer an incredibly crisp and snappy operation, thanks in large part to the precision column wheel mechanism that sits fully visible through the dial side of the watch at the 7 o’clock location.
Both the stainless steel and 18k rose gold versions of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph come with two different straps that feature an interchangeable buckle system, which is a signature feature of the brand’s Reverso Tribute series. Included with each model is one bi-material strap made from calf leather and canvas, along with an additional strap crafted entirely from calf leather that offers a slightly more dressy overall appearance. The straps are designed by the celebrated Argentinian polo boot manufacturer Casa Fagliano, which further connects the Reverso Tribute Chronograph to its historical roots on the polo field, while also providing the watches with two different personalities to correspond with the two very different aesthetics of their displays.
Reverso watches with two faces are always more expensive than those that only have one, and given that chronographs are inherently more complex than time-only watches, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph is naturally one of the more expensive options currently available within the collection. With an official retail price of $21,400 USD in stainless steel (ref. Q389848J) or $37,400 USD in 18k pink gold (ref. Q389257J), the new JLC Reverso Tribute Chronograph is objectively a rather expensive timepiece, although it’s hard not to agree that these prices also seem rather reasonable in a world where people are consistently paying more than twice these values for standard Rolex Daytona chronographs in the same materials. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is one of the true icons from the world of watchmaking, and while the new Reverso Tribute Chronograph represents a significant departure from the original spirit of the model, it is also essentially two different watches housed within a single case, and it is arguably one of the most visually striking renditions of the Reverso that the brand has ever put forward. For more information on the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph, please visit the brand’s website.