A Brief History of The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

By Jovan Krstevski

Possibly this is the best watch made by artists for those who really appreciate the arts, well sort of speaking, so friends, 85 years ago the Reverso was introduced by LeCoultre. The design of the watch was both out of a necessity and class, someone has to design a watch, able to survive a popular sport of the time played by kings, polo. We all know how the game is played and my golly any watch not durable enough would simply stop working, this may not be the thing today but back then, wristwatches were shall I say is of mediocre build particularly on the use of delicate crystals.

Reverso patent and drawings

The original patent and drawings of the Reverso

The Reverso was developed finally when the watch importer César de Trey described the above problem to his supplier Jacques-David LeCoultre. Of course being natural at the subject matter LeCoultre collaborated with Edmond Jaeger and the Parisian engineer René-Alfred Chauvot to build a very innovative watch of that time. The idea was genius and very effective – a case in steel that slides on a holder and swivel completely during the dangerous moments of the game. It was patented on 4 March 1931 and saw its production series shortly until WWII. The production met many obstacles particularly on the availability of movement to be used and the delayed cases from Jaeger. This is the reason why the earliest Reversos featured cases by A.E. Wenger and movements by Tavannes (often signed “Lisica”) instead but of course, the final assembly was handled in Le Sentier by LeCoultre right from the start.


The original Reverso – 1931


General Douglas MacArthur’s 1935 Reverso

The Reverso was finally released with LeCoultre’s specially designed JLC 11 U calibre in 1933. This movement sported 15 jewels, 18,000 vph, and 50-hour power reserve, very impressive indeed. By then, 11 movements were developed in-house by LeCoultre before WWII. After the war, though, it was only in 1982 that the Reverso was reintroduced to the market making the previous models very rare. Last year General Douglas MacArthur’s 1935 Reverso sold for a whopping $75,000. Personally, this watch is priceless so I guess the price is just right.

Reverso advertisement

Vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Advertisement

JLC Reverso 1985

The first ever water-resistant Reverso case – 1985

JLC Reverso Gyrotourbilllon combo

The Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2

There is a large collection of the Reverso watch ranging from gentlemen versions to the ladies version. The styles don’t vary too far though specially on the case design. However the movements used varies a lot and my personal favorite is the Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 released in 2008. This is a very complicated watch sporting a spherical tourbillon and a 50-hour power reserve. I don’t have it but the guy who paid more than $250,000 at auction in 2013 has. In 2006 Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrated its 75th anniversary and of course the best way to commemorate such a prestigious event is to release a reinterpreted version of the Reverso, the square-shaped Squadra.


A chocolate-toned dial in this Reverso featuring the small seconds sub-dial at six o’clock – 1935

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931 – 2011


Grande Reverso Night & Day in pink gold

What I like about the Reverso is its poignant classic design making it almost impossible to change it dramatically. I believe this is the reason why even when taking some more varied forms and complicated displays, it hasn’t lost its original attraction. For more info, please visit jaeger-lecoultre.com