The idea of a watch that has rotates to conceal itself or show a second face does not belong to Jaeger-LeCoultre: right around when the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso made its debut, two other swiveling watches were making their debut—the Universal Genève Cabriolet and the Cartier Tank Basculante. Since then, too, brands like TAG Heuer, Omega, and Hamilton have all taken their turns creating flipping watches. Heck! DeBethune just released a twin-faced dial in 2021. Any mention of these models, though, always includes a mention of the Reverso, for the simple fact that it is the best known of the bunch and and the only of the original three still in production. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Classic Large Duoface Green Marble Boutique Edition continues a storied past, maintaining the essence of its forebear while injecting a bit of panache .
Introduced in 1931 and regarded as the first sports watch ever made, the LeCoultre Reverso was built for a very specific purpose. British officers stationed in India had grown weary of shattering the glass of their watches during games of polo. Demonstrating an apparent unwillingness to simply take their watches off, the British India Polo Club approached César de Trey, a Swiss businessman with a known affinity for timepieces. It was de Trey who made the Reverso happen: enlisting the talents of French engineer René-Alfred Chauvot and movement maker Jacques-David LeCoultre, a watch with a swivel case to protect itself during sports outings was created. (Interestingly, the movement took longer to develop than the case: early models feature ébauches from Tavannes and until 1933 lacked the LeCoultre name on their dials.)
In 1948, just 17 years after its introduction, the Reverso fell victim to market trends and was pulled from Jaeger-LeCoultre’s catalog. In 1974, after a nearly three decade hiatus and following the success of an enterprising Italian JLC distributor in selling 200 new-old-stock Reversos retrofitted with the JLC 480, the brand slowly reintroduced the model, culminating in 1991 with a 60th anniversary edition. Once a very intentional sport watch, the Reverso has shifted to the other end of the spectrum. The market trend towards larger, more functional and durable timepieces that started in the years following World War II continues today, and the Reverso in all its iterations is now considered far more dressy than it is sporty. Since it’s relaunch, the Reverso has been outfitted with every complication imaginable, including the radical Duoface model, introduced in 1994.
Despite a 90-year history, the Reverso has remained largely unchanged since its introduction. The rectangular design that was born of and embodies the Art Deco movement still features the hallmark triple-gadroon inverted flutings at the top and bottom of the case, the curvilinear maincase, a simple caseback, and sloped conical lugs. The case itself was reengineered in advance of its re-release in the late 1980s, improving the functionality and durability of the swivel mechanism. The sizes offered have changed, as well: JLC now makes the Reverso in three sizes, Small, Medium, and Large.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Classic Large Duoface Green Marble Boutique Edition is offered in Large, measuring 28.3mm wide with a 47mm lug-to-lug. Additionally, with a 85th anniversary model released in 2016, the second time zone adjuster—which independently adjusts the travel time hour hand—was changed from a caseside button to a concealed slider in the top. JLC also added a slight curve to the caseback, improving how the 10.3mm thick watch wears (the previous caseback was dead-flat which translated to a more pronounced presence on the wrist). Sapphire crystals cover both dials, with a polished finish throughout the case, save for the brushed caseback and the perlage applied behind the swivel. The watch is secured to the wrist by a grey alligator strap with quick-release pins and a deployant clasp that also features a proprietary quick-release mechanism for swapping leather.
The primary dial is brushed silver with a rectangular guilloche center and a subsidiary seconds that mirrors the main dial, both featuring printed black numerals. The hands are long blued swords, with a baton subsidiary seconds hand. A small guilloche border trims the dial and reinforces its elegance. Flipping the watch over to the Travel Time side—as is boldly labeled along the bottom edge—one is confronted with an entirely different dial experience. One of the options offered through JLC’s Atelier Reverso customization program, this side features a matte olive drab center with printed white minute track and a subsidiary 24-hour indicator with split-guilloche day/night center. Surrounding it all in dramatic fashion is green marble, suggestive of camouflage fatigues. The bold hour markers are printed with luminous material, matched by lume-filled sword hands, which are quite more pronounced than the lithe blued hands on the front. The combination of the silver and marble dials is a complementary juxtaposition allowing the watch to be used either for traveling, or to be changed to suit the owner’s style or needs on any given day.
Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the great movement manufactures, having supplied movements in whole or in part to Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin. Powering the the Jaeger-LeCoultre Classic Large Duoface Green Marble Boutique Edition is the in-house, 160-component, 19-jewel JLC Caliber 842A/2. The 854A/2 replaced the previous 854 around 2016, coinciding with the 85th anniversary of the model; the primary difference was the change of the time zone adjuster from a case-side pusher to a slider that is concealed at the top of the swiveling body. Almost all Reverso calibers, including the 854A/2, are handwound in order to keep the case from becoming unreasonably bulky. Entirely concealed within the double-dialed case, Jaeger-LeCoultre has adorned the movement with perlage and anglage throughout, even on some of the wheels. The movement features a straight line lever escapement, shock absorber, flat balance spring, and a thermocompensated balance adjusted to 5 positions. It beats at 21,600 vbh and has a power reserve of 42 hours.
Versus the Competition
There’s no shortage of dual-time options at any level of the watch market. Most seem to skew towards tool watches and lack the grace of the Reverso. Looking at other classic brands, several options in the more formal vein of the Reverso. The Cartier Tonneau XL Dual Time is rather more dressy than the Reverso, but still features an elongated profile (and from a brand that has also dabbled in reversible watches). Instead of the reversible face, two equisized dials share the front, with corresponding crowns to control the two movements housed in the case. Moving to one of the holy trinity brands, the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Dual Time is not only a beautiful execution of a dual-time watch, but an excellent entry into Vacheron Constantin. Featuring a subsidiary dial to display the second time, plus a day-night indicator, the Harmony Dual Time ups the ante with stunning rose gold spade hands.
Of course, an easy alternative is to simply find another Reverso that fits your taste. While it’s hard to argue with the simplicity of the Duoface, Jaeger-LeCoultre offers a dizzying amount of options for its flagship model. One such example is the Grande Date Reverso. Offered on a sporty 5-link stainless steel bracelet, it retains the single-face design of the original, but in this writer’s opinion, the model is a bit cluttered with its power reserve, large date, and small seconds all fighting for room.
Despite its low profile and subtle design, the Reverso is one of the more recognizable timepieces. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Classic Large Duoface Green Marble Boutique Edition is no different, though the military-inspired marble certainly gives it its own pop. That’s just what this watch is perfect for: the traveler who desires a classic–maybe even iconic–watch with a special twist. While the entire duoface line betrays the model’s original design as a polo watch, that history is no less relevant, and someone who appreciates it—or just loves polo—will likely be able to have an even deeper appreciation for this timepiece.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Classic Large Duoface Green Marble Boutique Edition and its brethren brought another splash to JLC’s most famous extant timepiece. With it’s beautiful silver guilloche and marble dials, this Reverso balances a dash of personality with the subtlety for which the line is known.