Perhaps one of the most iconic and collectable of Jaeger-LeCoultre's designs, the Reverso, patented as "a watch which can slide on its base and flip over on itself" was introduced in 1931. With a sleek rectangular case, clean lines and geometric appeal born from the Art Deco movement, this eye-catching timepiece has a unique design story that belies its elegant and refined design, harking back to the frantic and adrenaline filled polo matches of the British Army in India.
During the winter of 1930-1, Swiss businessman and avid watch collector César de Trey attended a polo match at a club of British army officers whilst travelling in India. During the hustle and bustle of the game, one of the officers broke the glass of his watch, and challenged de Trey to create a timepiece that could withstand a polo match.
Upon his return, César de Trey discussed the idea with Jacques-David LeCoultre, the grandson of Le-Coultre's founder Antoine LeCoultre. The vision was to create a watch with a dial that could flip and face the wearer's wrist, offering protection from shocks and knocks, with the generously proportioned case back which allowed for a wealth of personalisation.
LeCoultre was to produce the movements for this new watch, and appointed the firm Jaeger S.A for the unique slide and flip case production according to the designs of French inventor René-Alfred Chauvot. This collaboration between Jaeger S.A and LeCoultre was to be the start of a long and much reputed history.
A 1930s stainless steel Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso wristwatch, the rectangular signed silvered dial with arabic and dagger numerals, stainless case number: 5773, 35 x 22mm overall, Swiss 15-jewel movement serial: 223061, on leather strap. Sold in 2012 for £2,074.
The early Reverso models featured only hours and minutes, with the subsidiary seconds dial introduced to the line in 1934. The dimensions of these early watches are the same as today's Reverso Classique models, 38 x 24 x 6mm.
From 1931, the case backs of these watches were personalised with engravings, and even enamelled miniatures. These case backs provided and continue to provide a canvas for the designers of LeCoultre, Jaeger S.A, as well as for the customers. In 1937, Jaeger S.A. and LeCoultre merged, adopting the name Jaeger-LeCoultre.
A ladies bicolour Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso wristwatch, circa 1993, the rectangular signed dial with arabic numerals, quartz movement, within an 18ct gold and stainless steel case, engraved with initials, numbered 260.5.08 1679708, on a Jaeger Le-Coultre leather strap, case diameter 33mm. Sold in 2014 for £1,098.
Following the Second World War, the popularity of the Reverso waned, with the fashions turning back to round dials, a disassociation with Deco styles, and the influx of the quartz watch. However, in the 1980s the Reverso was re-launched, housing mostly quartz movements.
In the 1990s and beyond, Jaeger Le-Coultre introduced an array of limited edition Reversos, helping to restore the timepiece to its former popularity enjoyed in the 1930s. These editions were often limited to 500 pieces, and so are highly collectable and fetch great prices under the hammer.
An 18ct gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso quartz wristwatch, circa 1990, the rectangular signed silvered dial with arabic numerals, sapphire glass, turn-over case 22 x 39mm overall, quartz movement, on Jaeger-LeCoultre leather strap. With maker's box and booklet. Sold in 2011 for £2,196.
In 1994, the Duo Face concept was launched, with a dial to each side of the case that are driven by a single movement. This technically brilliant timepiece remains one of Jaeger-LeCoultre's most popular designs. Further technological advances followed, with some Reversos now boasting not one but three dials all powered by a single movement. Combining complications, design and a fascinating story, these timepieces truly make a wonderful everyday or dress watch, and are certainly a must in any watch connoisseurs collection.
A Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra Thin stainless steel manual wind wristwatch, the signed rectangular dial with Arabic hour markers, within a stainless steel case, ref: 277.8.62, case 46mm, with box and papers. Sold in 2020 for £2,928.
In 2011, the Reverso Ultra Thin was launched, as a celebration of the model's 80th anniversary, paying homage to the sleek outlines of the original models. These wearable and stylish watches typically generate a huge amount of interest from our bidders and sell extremely well.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is largely credited for bringing a new aesthetic to watchmaking, and continue to enjoy a great popularity even today. Collectors scour the auctions for examples of this timepiece, whether dating from the early days or the more modern pieces. Condition, rarity and accompanying box and papers all impact the price of these watches at auction, with strong prices achieved that are supplemented with those three factors present.
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