The Reverso Captured the Art Deco Aesthetic of the Era
In 1930, César de Trey, an entrepreneur and watch collector, traveled to India. While attending a polo match in the winter of 1930-1931, one of the players asked de Trey to create a watch built to withstand polo mallet strikes without damaging the watch. In particular, there was a need to protect the glass and dial during the matches.
Ever the entrepreneur, de Trey set out to solve the problem and hit on the idea of a watch that flipped over. He approached Jacques-David LeCoultre of the Paris firm Jaeger SA to produce the watch. Jaeger arranged for Rene-Alfred Chauvet, a French industrial designer, to design the reversible case.
The Paris patent office accepted an application to register a watch capable of sliding in its support and flipping over on March 4, 1931. Things moved quickly. By July, de Trey purchased Chauvot’s design. He registered the name REVERSO that November.
Production of the Reverso began immediately. The Reverso hit the market nine months after the patent application was filed. A business partnership between LeCoultre and de Trey pushed the watch forward.
Chauvet’s art-deco design was an immediate success. The Reverso found its way onto the wrists of trendsetters around the world.
There was a Reverso for every taste. Cases were offered in steel, gold, and women’s models. It could be worn on the wrist, as a pendant, or clipped to a handbag. As its popularity grew, brightly colored lacquer dials became a fashion statement, as did engraving and personalizing the reverse side of the case.
As the years marched on, Reverso’s popularity waned. Swiss watch-making faced a severe challenge from Seiko’s introduction of the quartz watch in December 1969. While the quartz movement rocked the swiss watchmakers, the industry struggled to make a comeback and did so. Italian distributor Giorgio Corva bought the last 200 hundred watch cases and relaunched the Reverso in 1975. All 200 were sold in a month. The Reverso was reborn.
Led by the designs of icons like Gerald Genta and others, the Swiss made a slow comeback after Seiko laid siege to the industry. Genta brought us designs sure to live forever. The Patek Phillipe Nautilus and the Audemars Piquet Royal Oak were Genta designs launched after 1969. Industry icons such as Jean-Claude Biver, whose leadership pushed Blancpain, Omega, and Hublot to the fore.
The FIFA World Cup is on these days. When you see the referee board go up to announce a substitution during the game, you will notice the board itself is watch shaped, with HUBLOT emblazoned across the bottom. That idea originated with Mr. Biver.
Over ninety years, the Reverso has reinvented itself over and over. The watch has housed more than fifty calibres without ever compromising its identity.
Jaeger-LeCoultre created a timepiece in 1931 that was sure to become a classic design. The watch features Art Deco lines and a case that flips over to protect the crystal and dial. Today the Reverso is certainly amongst the most immediately recognizable watches ever produced.
Learn more at jaeger-lecoultre.com.
Douglas Pilarski is an award-winning writer and journalist based on the west coast. He covers luxury goods, horology, exotic cars, CJ-CX, workplace issues, fine dining, lifestyle, and millionaire travel. He regularly contributes to Journal Blue and Illumination-curated on medium.com and NewsBreak.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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