WatchWorks Haarlem / Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso: The Innovative Icon

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso: The Innovative Icon

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is one of the very first purposely built sports watches. It was created when in 1930, César de Trey, who made his fortune as a manufacturer of dentures, spoke with officers from the British Army in India. They enjoyed playing polo, a sport that emerged from Manipur, a state in east British India, where it was known among the locals as sagol kangjei, or horse hockey in English. Lieutenant Joseph Ford Sherer of the 44th Regiment of Sylhet Light Infantry of the East India Company’s army observed the game and started playing with the local players, along with his Captain, Robert Stewart, in the mid 19th century. Soon they established their own polo club, wrote the first official rule book, and not long after, many British officers adopted the game in India before it spread around the world. 

The unique case construction of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

As the wristwatch became increasingly popular at the beginning of the 20th century, in particular amongst the arm forces, British officers soon found out that their timepieces were no match for the forces that are unleashed upon them when playing polo. As a big watch enthousiast, who even owned a watch store of his own in Lausanne, de Trey reached out Jacques-David LeCoultre III to find a solution to this problem. It was Réne-Alfred Chauvot, a French designer, who came up with the idea of having a watch of which the case can swivel 180 degrees in its case. This means that it shows its caseback during the game, protecting the glass (which was not made of sapphire in those days) as it only showed the caseback. After the game, players could simply swivel the case back and see the dial again. 

Here at WatchWorks we find the de Reverso especially attractive in precious metal

Thanks to this ingenious idea, the Reverso, as it was called, became a big hit. What also worked was that the design was not only innovative from a technical point of view but also captured the flair of the Art Deco in a timeless way. What perhaps plays a role in this, is that the Reverso is designed according to the golden ratio, which is considered a standard way to achieve the perfect proportions. For Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Reverso became an icon, one of the few watches to deserve this title genuinely. The design also proved to be very versatile, looking fabulous as a time-only but also being a fantastic canvas for more complex movements. Today, the Reverso is one of the pillars of the Jaeger-LeCoultre collection, offering its rich history in enticing new ways.