The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is a watch that needs little introduction, but just in case: It's a reversible watch, the dial of which can be flipped over and hidden such that its case back is facing outward. We'll let you read all about the history of this fascinating design here, but suffice it to say that for "watch people," it's a true icon that's stood the test of time for some 90 years.
And on the occasion of said 90th anniversary, Jaeger-LeCoultre wasn't content to merely release their old watch in a new color and call it a day. (Though they did reveal a beautiful green Reverso for those who prefer the model in a more classic iteration.) No — "JLC" pulled out all the stops and launched two mind-bogglingly complex pieces aimed at collectors that truly show just how far the Reverso has come since its debut in 1931.
We spoke with Lionel Farve, Jaeger-LeCoultre's Product Design Director, to get a better feel for the new pieces and to understand the context behind and development of one of the most complicated Reverso watches ever made.
Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque
It's the world's first watches with four faces
Yeah, you read that right: four faces. How is that possible? This Reverso still opens on a hinged case, as in a book, but here, each part of the case has a dial with information on it: the front of the watch, the back (where the traditional case back would be), plus the part of the case attached to the lugs, and the reverse of this piece. (See the image above for better context.) Lacquer is used on the dials because enamel would have made them too thick.
The cal. 185 movement is hand-finished — and beautiful to look at
"It's important to understand that in watchmaking, even the movement needs to be beautiful," explains Lionel Favre. "If every part of the movement has the same finish...it appears as sort of a flat movement. So we take a long time to discuss the finishing." You can see the incredible detail of the differently finished parts: polished, guiollché, clous de Paris, satin brushed, perlage, etc.
"This type of project isn't written on a brief," Favre continues. "On the first brief, they wanted to do better than the Triptyque (Editor's Note: a three-faced Jaeger-LeCoultre high complication), and they wanted to add a minute repeater. That was the first step, but the project evolved over years, and we decided to put sound, precision and celestial (complications) — our specialties — into the watch: a minute repeater, a tourbillon, and for the celestial part, we wanted to have something new. On the Triptyque, you have the equation of time, but we didn't want to use the same thing to express the celestial part.We have some astronomical fans at the company, and we have regular discussions and they speak about these different (astronomical) cycles. So step by step, we managed to create this movement."
The faces reveal incredibly detailed astronomical information
So much information, in fact, that it took JLC six years to develop the in-house cal. 185 that displays it all. Here's what each face displays:
Face 1: Hour-minute; tourbillon (indicates seconds); instantaneous perpetual calendar; grande date; day; month; leap year; night and day
Face 2: Jumping digital hour; minute repeater
Face 3: Northern hemisphere moon phase; draconic lunar cycle; anomalistic lunar cycle; month; year
Face 4: Southern hemisphere moon phase
The watch, with its 11 complications, required 12 different patents to be filed during its production.
It comes with its own mechanical box to keep it properly set
The Quadriptyque is so complex that one would need a watchmaker to reset it if the power reserve were to run out. So, instead of leaving this problem in the customer's lap, the manufacture developed a special mechanical presentation box that allows the user to reset it him or herself — simply punch in the number of days since you put the watch down into the box, and it updates the movement for you.
"This was a proposition of our watchmakers," Favre explains regarding the box. "The main watchmaker (on this project) —one day we spoke together and he said it was possible to create something to set the watch, because it's very hard to set if you're not a watchmaker. So we said, ok, it's a really good idea, but we want something mechanical, not electronic or a machine. So he developed, in parallel, the watch and the box."
Price: 1.35M EUR
It's the latest is a long line of complicated Reverso models
In 1991, JLC debuted the Soixantieme — which featured power reserve and date displays — in celebration of the Reverso's 60th anniversary. This was quickly followed up by models equipped with a tourbillon; a minute repeater; a chronograph with retrograde display; a dual-time display; and a perpetual calendar. In 2011, the maison debuted the Septemième, which featured an 8-day power reserve. But the Nonantième goes one better.
The Nonantième is all about the semi-jump hour display
Housed within a pink gold case, the front dial features a moon phase display, a small seconds counter, and a large date display. The secondary dial, however, features a wildly cool semi-jumping digital hour display, below which sits an aperture through which a rotating minutes disc is visible. (It's called a semi-jumping hour display because it takes 5 minutes to move — it doesn't jump instantaneously.) This, in turn, frames a day/night indicator that takes the shape of an applied golden sun and moon passing over the horizon. This combination of complications within the Reverso framework is unique and striking.
It may be a complicated watch, but it's still a Reverso at heart
Even a quick glance at the case profile of the Nontanième confirms its lineage from a watch developed 90 years ago. "In terms of design," Favre begins, "It conserves a large part of polished metal, and this is what's so nice with the Reverso: You have beautiful reflections on this large metal part. It has a lot of style, I think."
It required an entirely new movement
The Nonantième necessitated a brand-new caliber be built: the cal. 826. Manually wound and consisting of over 230 components, it features a power reserve of 42 hours. Though it displays the same time on both faces of the watch, semi-jumping hours, day/night indicators and moon phase indicators all combine into an extremely complicated mechanical mechanism.
"We wanted to create a Reverso, but with a more surprising Reverso that one with a classic display," says Favre. "And the thought was more, 'How can we display the hour with something different?' We did some research and realized that the jumping hours (complication) was really famous in the 1930s — not more the technical achievement, but more for the purity of the design. It was interesting to add this type of display to the Reverso because it echoes the date of creation of the watch — the 1930s. It's also an 'echo' because this type of complication was designed to protect the face of the watch, the same as the Reverso. With the jumping hour, you reduce the size of the glass, so in a way you protect the watch. So this is double protection."
Price: $40,500 (limited edition of 190 pieces available at Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques only)