On the Wrist: The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Medium Duoface

While the Reverso’s size and shape lend it to dress-wear, its sporting origin makes for ultimate wearability.

By Logan R. Baker

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Medium Duoface Small Second sits at a nicely sized 42.9 X 25.5. (Photo by Dani Vernon)

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is the classic sports watch. Yes, Gérald Genta deserves credit for reviving interest in the luxury-sports category with Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak; and yes, there will always be plenty of support for the Rolex Submariner, but no single watch combines the sporting history, aesthetic versatility, and unqualifiable elegance like the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso.

The Reverso’s history is a fascinating one. It was originally thought up in 1931 after British officers stationed in India realized they had a problem: Keeping time (always a crucial skill in the military) didn’t mix as well as they would have hoped with one of their favorite pastimes (playing polo). And it’s still true that there isn’t much that stands in the way of an errant mallet making contact with your wrist, leading to irreversible and costly damages to the watch’s crystal.

The Travel time side of the Reverso Classic Medium Duoface Small Second. (Photo by Shyam Patel)

With this concern in mind, the third-generation head of the brand, Jacques-David LeCoultre, and his team of watchmakers developed the very first Reverso, a watch that could be seamlessly flipped to expose a metal caseback that safeguards the watch’s mechanics and appearance.

Six years after the Reverso made its official debut, LeCoultre and Paris-based watchmaker Edmond Jaeger officially registered the name of the now globally known brand to distribute the Reverso around the world. Thus the history of the brand, which has existed in some form since 1833, and the Reverso developed an interdependent relationship. Without the Reverso, Jaeger-LeCoultre would not be the esteemed manufacture it is today, and without the LeCoultre family ingenuity, we would never have the wonderful art deco–inspired wristwatch that remains popular with each new iteration.

Close up on the dial of the the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Medium Duoface Small Second. (Photo by Shyam Patel)

Last year the Reverso celebrated its 85th birthday and was rewarded with multiple new lines and the new Atelier Reverso concept e-commerce site that offers even greater personalization options than the ones the watch was already known for. Highlights of the new series included the Reverso Tribute
Calendar—which appeared on the cover of Watch Journal’s December/January issue—and the highly complex Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon. This year, the brand released eight new men’s Reverso models, all featuring the design’s timeless elegance.

I was fortunate enough to wear this year’s Reverso Classic Medium Duoface Small Second for almost two weeks and during that time I put it through a handful of different experiences to get a real feel for what it would be like to keep a Reverso as a daily wearer. I sported it through multiple dinners, various cocktail parties, two college graduations, a lease signing, and every day at the office, as well as while relaxing at home on the weekend.

The casebook of the Reverso Classic Medium Duoface Small Second. (Photo by Dani Vernon)

I know that to a lot of people nowadays, the Reverso—as well as any Tank-style watch—should be worn only on black-tie occasions: To them, wearing a watch of that caliber with casual clothing would be sacrilege, but it is important to remember that the Reverso is a sports watch and deserves some leeway with its wardrobe pairing.

The Duoface I received was a perfect fit for my admittedly thin wrists, and the black alligator strap allowed for plenty of comfortable space. Not obtrusively large, but a more than suitable 42.9 by 25.5 mm, the case really hit the sweet spot for me in terms of readability and wrist placement.

The Reverso by the water. (Photo by Shyam Patel)

On the subject of readability, I would be hard-pressed to think of a watch that channels a design motif more appropriately than the Reverso does, with its art deco influence. Introduced during the same few years as William Van Alen’s Chrysler Building in Manhattan, the watch’s design shares the same rectilinear lines and modernist thought for which the New York architectural icon is famous.

The Duoface, of course, offers two dials, jettisoning the watch’s original purpose of protection in favor of a more globalized feel. I kept my Travel Time dial firmly set on Geneva time in order to feel closer to the watch’s home, and I noticed no timing problems in my brief period with the timepiece. I did appreciate the day-and-night indicator on the Travel Time side as a way to ensure my watch was set accurately. Exactly opposite the indicator at 6:00 on the Home Time side was a small seconds subdial that I found to be nicely situated. It wasn’t large enough to make eying the exact time around the half-hour difficult. Nor was it obtrusive to the design.

Inside the Reverso’s Duoface construction rests the Caliber 854A/2. (Photo by Shyam Patel)

The clous de Paris guilloché design remains an inspiring touch on both sides of the dial. On the Home Time side, the watch bears the guilloché design within the hour markers, but on the reverse black dial, the inner area remains smooth while the outer lines are guillochéd. The hour markers reach out in a sunburst pattern, again amazingly legible.

The watch is powered by the manually wound Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 854A/2, which offers a 42-hour power reserve. Retail price: $8,300. More information is available here.

With a thickness of 9.2 mm, the Reverso will fit underneath any sort of jacket or dress shirt. (Photo by Dani Vernon)
There is an elegant guilloché pattern on both sides of the watch. (Photo by Shyam Patel)
Decorative gadroons are found above and below the watch’s dial. (Photo by Shyam Patel)
Reverso’s are known for being instantly legible and recognizable from afar. (Photo by Shyam Patel)