December 13, 2016
by Zach Pina
Bucking the current trend in watchmaking where ‘old’ is hot, but ‘too-old’ is not, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso spent the year celebrating its 85th birthday with the Tribute Calendar announced at SIHH 2016 – a fully modern, yet carefully preserved icon that we recently had a chance to experience in 18k rose gold. An absolutely gorgeous dual faced watch, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Calendar watch will make enthusiasts drool. Even those a little more weary of the ubiquitous Reverso will likely understand that the execution of watches like this one is exactly why the line has come to define Jaeger-LeCoultre, for better or worse.
85 years is a long time. For perspective, in 1931 when the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso debuted as an early truly purpose-built ’sport’ watch, Herbert Hoover was president of the United States and a loaf of bread cost 8 cents. And in all that time since, the Reverso has largely escaped major alteration to its double-sided swiveling case construction and art deco design language, yielding one of those impossibly classic watches that just never gets old – quite literally and figuratively. And while it’s awfully easy to lose count of the myriad of versions we’ve seen over the years, one thing is certain – the Reverso is a veritable time capsule, beloved and readily counted amongst the ranks of other icons like the Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster Professional, or the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak – only this watch predates the aforementioned by multiple decades each.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Calendar is built around the familiar vertical portrait-shaped case shape. Given the overall complexity of the hand-wound Caliber 853 triple calendar movement within and the obvious contemporary desire for larger cases, the size grows even from the Large Duoface’s 47mm by 28mm dimensions to 49.4mm tall by 30mm wide. In terms of thickness, the watch sits a reasonable 10.9mm high. Really, the joy of a Reverso like this comes in the dual faces and world class finishes. It really sits in a class of its own without any real peers, and I have a feeling a lot of people are going to drool over this watch. Even those people who, somewhat correctly, feel that JLC is reliant on the Reverso to the point of interchangeability will agree that this watch is a good reason why.
The 853 manifests itself in two dial executions on the Tribute Calendar – foremost with the silver ‘front’ dial of the watch which exhibits a split day/month aperture and a moonphase indicator with a pointer date surround at 6:00. It’s more information than most might be used to seeing in such a small amount of real estate but it remains extremely well-balanced, thanks to textbook applications of symmetry and contrast between the beveled dauphine hands, applied rose gold markers, and the beautiful silvered texture of the dial itself. And speaking of that silver dial, it acts as an antidote, counterbalancing the rose gold’s warm tones with a cold, refined masculinity that’s just a pleasure to behold – something that few rose gold watches can lay claim to.
Before we flip the watch over, let me discuss the movement itself for a moment – the hand-cranking 853 hums along at a relatively low 3 Hertz, or 21,600 vibrations per hour, granting a power reserve of around 45 hours. On paper, higher oscillations are always more of a pleasure to behold, but since there’s no running seconds hand on this Reverso, there’s no visual indicator that the watch is running at a lower speed. Granted, we get a moonphase indicator instead, so it’s hardly a terrible trade-off.
While the earliest incarnations of the Reverso had only one dial side, enabling the wearer to flip the watch face crystal side-down to protect it from errant polo mallet strikes, the modern Reverso delivers two watches in one. Flip this Tribute Calendar dial over, and we’re treated with a slightly miniaturized circular time display set against a black hobnail (or Clous de Paris) dial that’s been finished with a clever day/night indicator at 6:00. Not only is the second dial a starkly different wearing experience on the wrist, it’s also an entirely separate complication, uniquely useful to the wearer in its own way.
An aspect of any Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso that has propelled the watch into iconic status is the fact that there really is no other watch like it. That has led to a perception of preponderance by a lot of critics who find that JLC and Reverso are basically one and the same, to the neglect of some other truly incredible pieces by the brand. That may be so, but I’m also of the mindset that JLC is constantly improving on the Reverso while releasing some truly stellar watches otherwise. One example of a great sports watch would be the Master Compressor Chronograph Ceramic Watch in blue. There’s a lot of competition in the luxury sports watch arena and to be honest, it’s a lot harder to stand out in that space as well. With the Reverso, JLC has firmly planted their brand identity with a watch that has proven itself to live up to tropes like “timeless” and “iconic.”
One of the true testaments of a serious watchmaker like Jaeger-LeCoultre, is the finishing on aspects of the watch that are not readily visible – like the inside of the caseback, visible only when the dial is halfway between flipped positions. Here, we have some beautiful linear graining that subtly matches the thickness and shapes of the beveling on the bezel and indices. It’s these little details that matter, because they’re by and large the components that have collectively rendered the Reverso a staple in many serious watch collections, and an icon for the better part of the last century. If the Tribute Calendar in Rose Gold is calling your name, it can be had for a price of $23,000. jaeger-lecoultre.com