JLC Reverso "Art Deco", 18k RG

The Reverso "Art Deco" by Jaeger LeCoultre was introduced in 1993 using the same basic movement as the initial "Grande Taille" (large size) handwind Reverso of 1992. Providing just the basic functions (hours, minutes, seconds), the Art Deco's gilt movement (822 AD), has been thoroughly skeletoned and finished by hand, raising the parts count from 116 to 134 in the process. The decorations are of a relatively serenely flowing serpentine and barleycorn theme, and extend beyond the bridges themselves to include the supporting metal framework, all visible through a slightly cylindrically curved sapphire window.

The obverse side (where one may read the time...) sports gold Dauphine hands and applied lance-style and cabochon markers and the "JL" logo, all arrayed over and upon a vertically brushed and guilloched silver dial. The minute track marches around the perimeter, and appears to be pressed into the dial, while the small sconds rectangle encloses its distinctive handwork with a printed track and numbers for the quarter minutes. Mercifully, the only other printing on dial is "Jaeger-LeCoultre", "Reverso" and "Swiss Made". I mention this not because the dial is in any manner busy or over-adorned, but because its relative simplicity allows this otherwise rather audacious watch to actually be read quite easily, provided of course that one has the obverse side of the case in view.

This watch is one that crept up on me, rather than grabbing my attention and refusing to let go. Initially, the Reverso line struck me as an unappealing combination of architectural stolidity and prissy fussiness. Although I enjoy the back side of a watch as only a WIS is likely to, the "flippiness" along with all the extra hardware pieces and joints required to make it work seemed to me a gimmick and probably explained why the Reverso was discontinued 60-or-so years ago to begin with, and reintroduced at the behest of a jeweler, naturally, 20-some years later.

This was all before I happened to actually see and handle one, of course. About 8 months ago my wife and I visited Manhattan as a sort of "last trip" prior to the expected birth of our second child, and having contracted the disease earlier that year, I dragged her to several of the usual stores, one of which was Cellini, where she looked at Reversos while I fingerprinted the Langes and Dubuis. She liked the ladies' version quite a bit, and I thought them nice but...I didn't really check out the larger pieces. Anyhow, this past April I bought her a stainless steel Duetto (with the diamonds) as a birthday gift, and I really took the time to check it out.

I was really impressed with the attention to detail, the design and finish, and the crisp way the case flipped. I was now even more enamoured of easy access to that "other" side of the watch than was my wife. I began to pay attention when good-quality pictures of Reversos came by, Duos, chronographs, and Geographique (oh!), not to mention the Repetition Minutes. By now I was smitten, but I don't shop for watches like a normal WIS, I wait for one to fall into my lap, and one day this Art Deco (looks more like Art Nouveau to me, but who asked?) shows up on Zeetan's and the price was like second-hand, and oh, I thought it looked fabulous, but the picture was really small. I searched the web for a decent picture, but there just didn't seem to be any. I know one can return new merchandise if it is disappointing, even to Malaysia, but I really had no intention of doing such a thing. I went back and checked out my wife's duetto really well, swallowed and placed my order.

In another wonder of international commerce, my watch, ordered on a Tuesday, was in my post office box the next Monday, apparently having crossed my path out of my office the previous Friday; 3 days in transit from literally half-a-world away. I won't belabor this any further. I think it's just about perfect, nicely sized, easy to read, beautifully engineered and constructed, and when I don't really need to know the time (which is actually quite often) a perfectly lovely miniature of horological art, complete with ravishingly red/purple rubies and the deepest blue screws I have ever seen is just a flip away, a private pleasure available anytime.

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I hope you enjoyed this!
July 6, 2001

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