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Collector’s Corner – Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronographe Retrograde

In our earlier episode of the Collector’s Nook, we took a have a look at the Chopard L.U.C 16/1860 and its siblings which might be a part of the micro-rotor Calibre 96 household. From the realm of time-only, we transfer to problems once more. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso celebrated its ninetieth anniversary in 2021 with the beautiful Nonantième, a celebration of the spirit of the Reverso and the chances afforded by a swivelling case. This text travels 30 years again to the early Nineties, to a landmark venture that noticed Jaeger-LeCoultre relearn Haute Horlogerie as the corporate developed six limited-edition watches in rose gold, every with a unique complication, within the span of ten years. And, since we love our chronographs at MONOCHROME, we’re going to take a look at a selected watch on this particular sequence, particularly the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronographe Retrograde.

A Temporary Historical past of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso

We took our first have a look at the post-quartz disaster years at Jaeger-LeCoultre in our earlier The Collector’s Nook entry concerning the Grasp Management Perpetual. In 1978, VDO began build up its watch portfolio below the umbrella firm “Les Manufactures Horlogères”, first buying IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre (later including A. Lange & Söhne to the combination) and in 1980, the visionary Günter Blümlein turned the pinnacle of the 2 manufacturers. After consolidating JLC’s shareholding construction and attaining a sale of 40% within the firm to Audemars Piguet – at the moment a buyer of JLC ébauches – Blümlein set his sights on charting a path for the corporate. The Reverso caught his consideration. 

It’s troublesome to think about a time when the Reverso was not part of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s catalogue. The mannequin vary is synonymous with Jaeger-LeCoultre – it’s the corporate’s model of the Submariner, the Royal Oak, and the Speedmaster. The story has been instructed so many instances, so I promise to maintain it brief. The idea of the Reverso was the brainchild of the profitable businessman César de Trey, who first skilled the game of polo – and the demise of the crystals on watches worn by mentioned polo gamers – throughout his travels on the Indian subcontinent in 1930.

César de Trey (left) and Jacques-David LeCoultre (proper), two of the lads concerned within the improvement of the Reverso within the early Thirties.

The idea of activewear was nonetheless in its infancy, and slightly prodding from his British associates was all it took to set de Trey on the journey to see whether or not a watch case may very well be designed to face up to the rigours of the game. Lower than one 12 months later, the Paris patent workplace acquired the applying for “a watch able to sliding in its assist and being utterly turned over.” The Reverso, Latin for “I flip,” was born. 

The Reverso was an icon of the Artwork Deco period – the sq. case form from the patent software was as a substitute lengthened and accentuated with triple godrons each prime and backside. The watch was an emblem of modernity, a break from the elaborately decorative type of the previous. It’s curious how spherical watches are the preferred by a large margin at the moment. Within the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties, because the wristwatch turned extra broadly accepted, non-round watches had been an indication of a watch that was conceived particularly as a wristwatch and was not merely a transformed pocket watch. Suffice to say, the Reverso turned an immediate success for Jaeger-LeCoultre.

The tough realities of a world reeling from a Second World Struggle in lower than three a long time meant that curiosity waned within the Artwork Deco motion and the exuberance and carefree optimism it embodied. This was the age of exploration, the age of science, and, by the way, the age of the purpose-built device watch. The Reverso went right into a interval of dormancy for almost three a long time till a revival of curiosity in Artwork Deco within the late Sixties set the Reverso on the trajectory on which it continues at the moment. In 1972, JLC’s Italian consultant Giorgio Corvo, made an enquiry about whether or not any Reversos had been in inventory. There have been none, however JLC did discover 200 Reverso circumstances – the corporate fitted an oval motion into the empty circumstances, and inside a month, all 200 Reversos had been bought. Shocked by the success, Jaeger-LeCoultre relaunched the Reverso in 1975, fitted with the newly designed calibre 846.

Giorgio Corvo with Henry-John Belmont (head of Jaeger-LeCoultre) and Günter Blülein (head of LMH) in 1993, courtesy of Jacopo Corvo and A Collected Man

The brand new Reverso, nonetheless, wanted a brand new case for the brand new period. The requirements for water resistance that had been acceptable on the time of the Reverso’s launch in 1931 would not fly 5 a long time later. The widespread reputation of dive watches had modified expectations of watches’ functionality, and the Reverso too must obtain an replace. The monumental activity of utterly reengineering the case whereas making as few aesthetic modifications as attainable fell to Daniel Wild, one of many manufacture’s engineers, who turned to new CNC machining know-how to enhance the tolerances of the design and robustness of the case. In 1985, the up to date Reverso went on sale and was a triumph, proving the Reverso’s endurance even 54 years after its launch.

The development of the brand new case designed by Daniel Wild within the Nineteen Eighties – picture courtesy of A Collected Man

Leaping ahead six years, Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrated its storied icon with the Soixantième (the mannequin you may see under), a Sixtieth-anniversary mannequin restricted to 500 items. The Soixantième was a sport changer and marked many firsts: it was the primary Reverso to be launched within the Grande Taille case, the primary Reverso with a show caseback, the primary Reverso with a strong gold motion, and the primary serially produced Reverso to show extra problems than simply the time and seconds. The Soixantième kicked off an formidable R&D venture at JLC to launch six sophisticated Reverso fashions in 10 years and show that the corporate had mastered these problems. The significance of those watches can’t be exaggerated, as they lay the inspiration for our understanding of the Reverso not as a single watch, however as a set that may embody every thing from a easy time-only watch to a grand complication.

The six special-edition Reverso fashions are listed under in chronological order, with their respective calibres and engineers, and problems:


    1991: Soixantième, calibre 824 (Daniel Wild), energy reserve, pointer date, small seconds
    1993: Tourbillon, calibre 828 (Sylvain Golay), caseback energy reserve, tourbillon escapement, small seconds
    1994: Répetition Minutes, calibre 943 (Eric Coudray), minute repeater
    1996: Chronographe Rétrograde, calibre 829 (Manuel Guerin), retrograde half-hour chronograph, date, stop-start indicator
    1998: Géographique, calibre 858 (Philippe Vandel), dual-time indication, day-night indicator, small seconds
    2000: Quantième Perpétuel, calibre 855 (Rachel Torresani), perpetual calendar with retrograde date, day-night indicator, small seconds

The 1996 Reverso Chronographe Retrograde, The fundamentals

Permit me to digress for a minute and discuss Jaeger-LeCoultre’s sister firm A. Lange & Söhne. Considered one of Günter Blümlein’s most lauded achievements was his involvement within the resurrection of the storied German model, along with the Lange household, in 1993. A mere 5 years later, the first-generation Lange Datograph was launched. The Datograph, and the motion powering it – the in-house L951.1 – undeniably modified the face of watchmaking. Established haute horlogerie manufacturers had been confronted with the prospect that they might not depend on the standard mannequin of sourcing a chronograph ébauche and regulating and ending it to their exacting requirements. They must rise to the problem set by the German upstart and develop their very own in-house chronograph motion. Work on the L951.1 began in 1995, as denoted by the primary two numerals of the calibre. That makes it the primary built-in chronograph calibre developed from the bottom up after the quartz disaster. Proper? 

What if I instructed you there was one other motion that beat the L951.1 to the punch? A motion whose improvement began the identical 12 months because the founding of A. Lange & Söhne? A motion that was perfected over the course of three years in time for the Basel exhibition in 1996? Enter the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 829. 

In my view, the calibre 829 chronograph is without doubt one of the most under-appreciated actions within the historical past of the chronograph, not simply within the context of Nineties watchmaking. To my information, that is the primary greenfield chronograph calibre effort post-quartz disaster, with work having began in direction of the top of 1992.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronograph Retrograde 1996 Calibre 829

Allow us to get the technical specs out of the way in which: the precise canister of the Chronographe Rétrograde case (the half which swivels) measures 8.5mm thick, 30.5mm in size, and 26mm in width. Throughout the tight confines of this case, the engineers packed in a high-spec motion: a smoothy Glucydur steadiness wheel beating at 28,800vph, 37 jewels (variations with 36 jewels and even 35 jewels are additionally recognized to exist. It may very well be that one of many jewels of the sooner 829 was merely ornamental and was subsequently eliminated), retrograde scrolling 30-minutes counter, a quickset date, and a chronograph operating indicator on the first dial. The calibre 829 measures 4.5mm excessive and consists of 317 elements, all in a case designed to deal with not more than 200. Regardless of the power-hungry retrograde, the motion managed 44 hours of energy reserve. The primary-gen Datograph, however, had an influence reserve of 36 hours, though it beat at a decrease frequency (18,000vph) than the Chronographe Rétrograde. Take that, Lange! (ps. I like the Datograph, no drama right here…)

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronograph Retrograde 1996 Calibre 829

What I discover most wonderful concerning the motion is the engineering ingenuity behind the operation of the retrograding minutes. The minutes wheel lies at roughly 1 o’clock on the motion facet, the alternative finish of the motion from the minutes indicator at 6 o’clock, some 1.5 centimetres away. The levers of the chronograph mechanism span all the motion and need to snake previous the steadiness wheel, with a purpose to transmit the motion of the chronograph wheel to the minutes counter. 

A lever with a beak rests on a snail cam that’s positioned straight below the chronograph minutes counter. Because the chronograph minutes elapse, the snail cam turns, and the beak rides up the growing radius of the snail cam. When half-hour have elapsed, the snail cam has made a full rotation and the beak rumps down from the snail cam’s widest level to its narrowest. This sudden movement triggers the return of the minutes hand to zero in lower than 1/8 of a second, facilitated by a coiled spring. For a technical have a look at the inside workings of the retrograde, I direct your consideration to consumer “thr” unbelievable technical article “Reverso Gran’Sport Chronograph Retrograde – a deeper have a look at the retrograde mechanism” on WatchProSite.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronograph Retrograde 1996 Calibre 829

Turning to the case (pun not meant!), the Grande Taille dimension of the Chronographe Rétrograde measures a compact 42mm lug to lug and 26mm in width (not together with the pushers). The watch measures solely 9.5mm thick – a staggering feat! As with the opposite anniversary watches, the watch is manufactured from rose gold, with the 18k hallmark and maker’s mark stamped on the inside chassis of the case, which is neatly perlaged. The case is totally polished, however as a consequence of its comparatively small dimension, the watch doesn’t look or really feel garish. On the crown facet, the 2 rectangular pushers are additionally absolutely polished and lie in the identical aircraft because the crown – that is an built-in chronograph, in any case! As a result of presence of the chronograph pushers, the crown needed to be enlarged to ease winding and setting and is extra distinguished in comparison with that of the opposite anniversary fashions. 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronograph Retrograde 1996 Calibre 829

The first dial of the Chronographe Rétrograde belies the complexity inside. The dial is a strong silver clean that’s galvanized silver and stamped with a wave guilloche sample within the central portion. A date aperture neatly stepped down from the primary dial, is tucked away at six. The time is well learn because of the big vertically-arrayed Arabic numerals for the hours and hash marks for the minutes. The classical dial is complemented by blued metal sword arms for each hours and minutes. There are two delicate indications on the dial that give the sport away that this can be a fairly particular watch. The primary is the strong gold “JL” brand on the dial – a trademark of the anniversary sequence (aside from the Géographique, which has a day-night indicator at 12). The second giveaway is the trapezoidal indicator on the dial that appears a bit like a mailbox flag. When the chronograph will not be in operation, the indicator is in its vertical place and divulges the phrase Arret, or “cease”, in black print. Begin the chronograph, and the indicator swivels 90° counterclockwise to cowl Arret and in doing so, reveals the phrase Marche, or “run”, in blue ink. It’s a whimsical contact for certain but in addition lets the consumer know whether it is secure to make use of the chronograph reset pusher.

Flip the case over, and also you unveil the magic of the calibre 829 in all its glory. Each chronograph indications are proven on two silvered registers which might be recessed into the motion bridges, with the tracks affixed with blued screws (I do marvel if the primary watches manufactured by F.P. Journe had been an inspiration for the design of this motion). The motion is nicely completed, with brushed metal elements, blued screws, and anglage on the gilded bridges, however the true magnificence lies within the vary of colors on show – silver, blue, gold, and pink from the bearing jewels.

Why you need to take into account the Reverso Chronographe Retrograde?

I keep in mind seeing photos of the Reverso Chronographe Rétrograde three years in the past, after I found my love for kind watches and for the Reverso specifically. Saying I used to be wowed could be an understatement – every thing concerning the watch amazed me, from its clear dial-side aesthetic to its unbelievable skeletonized caseback. Additionally, I’m a little bit of a sucker for formed watches… and for chronographs… so I assume this one was certain to catch my consideration sooner or later! 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronograph Retrograde 1996 Calibre 829

It’s rumoured that the Chronographe Rétrograde was a problem to promote and that the restricted run of 500 items took numerous years to be absolutely allotted. What ought to have been a speaking level and a head-turner did not generate momentum and quietly slipped out of the general public consciousness. The chronograph was re-released within the Gran’Sport line in 1998, a extra democratic tackle metal. Housed in a barely extra masculine, barrel-shaped case, the Gran’Sport was the consummate sports activities watch, with rubber or metal built-in bracelets and, regardless of the problems housed inside, 50 meters of water resistance. Aside from the totally different bridge end of the calibre 859 within the Gran’Sport iteration (rhodium-plated versus gilded in calibre 829), the first distinction is that the 859 does away with the skeletonized dial and includes a extra standard and, dare I say it, legible subsidiary dial. Additionally, the sporty Gran’Sport iteration gained a centre seconds hand for the first time show.

The chronograph model was produced in three variants: 295.81.20 (metal, silver dial), 295.81.02 (metal with black dial), and the flagship luxe 295.1.59 (yellow gold with silver dial). The Gran’Sport was discontinued after eight years and even within the Gran’Sport guise, the Chronographe Rétrograde mannequin possible remained a low-volume piece and was very costly, with an MSRP in 2006 starting from USD 15k for metal on bracelet to over 30k for gold on its corresponding bracelet. 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronograph Retrograde 1996 Calibre 829

Writes Nicholas Foulkes in his wonderful reference guide “Reverso” from 2021, “The Reverso Répétition Minutes might have been essentially the most difficult of the six, however within the eyes of the creator and certainly many others, essentially the most elegantly realized and superbly executed is the Reverso Chronographe Rétrograde”. Technical wizardry in watches impresses me as a lot as a superbly completed motion. What you will have within the Chronographe Rétrograde is an in-house, built-in formed, double-faced chronograph. The truth is, the one different dual-faced chronograph I can consider is a rarely-seen 1939 reference from Movado that didn’t enter serial manufacturing. The execution of the chronograph on two faces of the Reverso is so clear, so pure, and intuitive, it’s stunning that it was not tried earlier.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronograph Retrograde 1996 Calibre 829

Pricing for each iterations is truthful by at the moment’s market requirements. I’d go as far as to say that the Gran’Sport model of the Chronographe Rétrograde is pretty priced contemplating what’s inside. Count on to pay between EUR 6k and EUR 10k for a Gran’Sport in metal and between EUR 15k and 18k for an instance in yellow gold with a full gold bracelet. The Chronographe Rétrograde is a coveted piece and barely comes up on the market, however anticipate to pay upwards of EUR 15k for it. As with the opposite 5 anniversary Reversos, the Chronographe was produced in 500 items, all individually numbered. Twenty prototypes had been constructed as well as – the primary had two round subdials on the again. A further “zero sequence” of twenty had been manufactured as press items for exhibitions and commerce festivals world wide. 

So far as chronographs by main manufacturers go, this one is a uncommon hen and is a terrific probability to face out from the group. If you happen to’re into formed watches, if you’re a technical-minded collector who appreciates mechanical innovation and engineering ingenuity – you owe it to your self to examine this one out!