Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and so it was with Jaeger LeCoultre’s Reverso. Launched in 1931, this revolutionary watch is famed for its rectangular flip-case that protects the crystal. It was conceived in India by one Monsieur Cesar De Trey, a Swiss maker of gold dentures who, while visiting polo-playing British Army officers, heard them complain about their watches getting damaged during matches.
De Trey had already come up with the name Reverso by the time he visited the Vallee de Joux in Switzerland and joined forces with Jacques-David Le Coultre, Edmond Jaeger and French designer-engineer Rene Alfred Chauvot, who filed a patent application in Paris that would solve the polo players’ sporting woes. Sliding on its base and flipping over so that the dial was concealed and the case-back faced upwards, it was not only adopted by sportsmen but by royalty. The Maharaja of Karputala in India famously had a number of pieces made featuring an enamel painting of his wife on the caseback.
Its art deco look was out of fashion by the 1950s and round watches were de riguer. But an Italian watch distributor, Giorgio Corvo, sparked a revival of sorts in 1972 when he noticed some unused Reverso cases while visiting the factory. He bought all of the remaining stock (200 empty cases), had movements installed and sold them to his countrymen, who have always been one step ahead of the game when it comes to matters of style.
The original Reverso case was 38 mm long, 24 mm large and 6 mm high, the same size as today's Reverso Classique (ref 2508412). Other notable models include the Classic Large Duoface, featuring two faces, and the Grande Reverso Calendar, which has a much larger case (29.5x48.5mm) and features a moonphase dial with full calendar and date display.
It may come as a surprise to learn that in 1930s Reversos were produced in very small numbers for other companies (Patek Philippe made eight), but the model today is linked inextricably with Jaeger LeCoultre.