In the watch world there are some timepieces that stand out as icons, such as the Patek Philippe complications, the Cartier Tank, the Omega Speedmaster Moon watch, Rolex Submariner. Amongst these is an instantly recognizable and loved watch that is the Jaeger Le-Coultre Reveso.
During the Raj in India in the 1930s, British officers liked to play Polo. But being as they were British they had to be dressed properly and that means wearing the recently popular invention of the wristwatch. Due to the fragility of watches at the time the glass kept breaking during the melee of play. In a chance conversation with British officers whilst travelling in India, Cesar de Trey of Switzerland, found out about this problem and decided to help. On his return to Europe he commissioned a Parisian engineer called Rene-Alfred Chauvot to try and find a solution for the British Polo players. (Who says globalisation is a new thing?)
Chauvot came up with the idea of a case that swivelled through 180 degrees in order to protect the dial of the watch and present the steel case back during a Polo match. Thus making the worlds first sports watch. The Reverso celebrates 80 years since that 1931 innovation.
The case is an engineering masterpiece consisting of over 50 mechanical parts, but this complication is unseen due to its elegant and simple action, which is a joy to see and use. Its complicated design was costly to make and almost led to the end of the Reverso in the quartz era of the 1970s, but Jaeger re launched the Reverso and its elegant and un fussed design it is now more popular than ever.
Jaeger Le-Coultre also made their unique design for other watch houses such as Cartier, Favre Leuba, and a small run of just 8 for Patek Philippe, (one of which sold at Christies Geneva in May 2010 for 147,000 Swiss Francs). Many famous people owned a Reverso, including Amelia Earhart, Sir John Mills (who’s watch sold at Bonhams auction in 2005 for £4200), and His Royal Highness The Duke of Windsor, who had the case back monogrammed with the Royal Crown and Edward VIII 1937. This example has been chosen by Jaeger as a re-issue to mark the 80th anniversary and has been fitted with the ultra thin mechanical movement.
A new Reverso today can cost from about £4000 to over £80,000 depending on how complicated they are. When looking at pre owned examples my advice is to stick to a selection of the simpler models, like the steel Reverso Classic, and The Grand Taille in steel. Of the fancier models I recommend the Night and Day a model with two dials, the second being accessed by reversing the watch and can be set for a second time zone. Only buy this model in steel or rose gold. For ladies the Reverso Duetto a beautiful watch with a regular dial for day use, and a reverse dial of mother of pearl with diamonds for evening wear. There are many more models with all number of complications from day date to tourbillion, but in my opinion and auction results back me up, people prefer the more basic elegant versions of this watch. A mans steel Reverso Classic can be yours from £1800, a Night and Day in rose gold on a leather strap from £5000, and a ladies Reverso Duetto in steel from £2500. Any one of these watches is a joy to own and will be an appreciating asset.
Michael Delage-Pandeli for Antique Explorer: 1st Nov 2011 11:44:00
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