Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Grande Date ¶
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In the annals of watchmaking history, Jaeger LeCoultre is one of the powerhouse manufactures that has enjoyed steady success for over a century by producing top-tier timepieces and distinctive products that have led the market in quality and style. Today JLC is a true manufacture, producing all of its components in-house and finishing its watches to the highest level while maintaining competitive pricing. Quality and value have long been the tenets of JLC; they are also known for their innovative models that have become icons of classic design, such as the Polaris, Memovox, Atmos, and the famous Reverso.
Jaeger LeCoultre began as LeCoultre, the creation of Swiss visionary Antoine LeCoultre who founded a watchmaking workshop in Le Sentier in 1833. Until the early 20th century they produced high-quality movements and ebauches for other brands, offering a huge catalogue ranging from basic timekeepers to extremely complicated calibres. LeCoultre also innovated in the production of high-precision equipment, being the first to design a device capable of measuring tolerances to the micron – in 1844! As such LeCoultre became a manufacture of the highest precision, pioneering the use of interchangeable parts in high-quality calibres.
In 1903 Jaeger came into the picture – French watchmaker Edmond Jaeger to be precise. He formed a partnership with Jacques-David LeCoultre, grandson of Antoine, to produce the thinnest pocketwatch movements in the world and their creations remain record holders to this day (the basic calibre was 1.38mm thick, while a minute repeater was all of 3.5mm). Jaeger was a pioneer in aviation and his company produced aircraft (and later automobile) instruments and clocks for many decades, but after his successful collaboration with LeCoultre in the 1900s Edmond formed a partnership that led to the creation of the Jaeger LeCoultre watch brand. After decades of producing movements for other companies, they were finally making watches of their own design. (Something to note – in the US market watches were branded LeCoultre until 1985, while in the rest of the world they showed Jaeger LeCoutre on the dial. Automotive instruments were produced under the Jaeger name until the 1990s)
One of the most famous JLC designs, and still one of their top sellers, is the art-deco classic – the Reverso. In 1931 a group of British officers in India challenged LeCoultre to create a watch that would be able to withstand the rigors of playing polo, while being able to transition to a formal affair with ease. A durable yet elegant watch was needed to solve the problem of watch crystals being smashed during play. The solution was ingenious – a watch that could be flipped over on the wrist without being removed, with a solid caseback opposite the dial to protect against damage. It still had to be elegant and well integrated; the final design is a true design classic, with a perfectly proportioned rectangular shape and integrated lugs and architectural details that hide the mechanism. When closed it isn’t apparent that this is a watch that can transform, and the hidden back allows for endless personalization ranging from simple engravings to hand-painted enamel artworks. The design was so popular that it remained in production until the 1970s, and was re-introduced to much acclaim in the 1990s. It remains one of JLC’s signature watches.
Nowadays most people wouldn’t be crazy enough to wear an expensive mechanical watch when playing sports (though some still do, right Mr. Nadal?). As a result the Reverso has become more of a dressy art-deco watch than something anyone would dare wear playing polo. This means that the reverse side has become the showcase for various extra functions, another dial, or in the case of this Grande Date an exhibition window on the movement. Having an exhibition case allows you to wear the watch with the movement showing – how many times have you admired a fine calibre and wished you could wear the watch upside down to gaze upon the mechanical beauty? Now you can!
Like all Jaegers, the Reverso Grande Date features an in-house movement that is quite impressive considering the relatively modest price. It has twin spring barrels for a full 8-day power reserve, and it features power reserve and big-date complications on the dial side, made all the more remarkable considering the modest size of the case (29 by 46 mm). The movement is beautifully finished, with cotes-de-geneve striping and fine polishing throughout. JLC prides itself on manufacturing and designing all their movement entirely in-house, and this calibre 875 is a beauty. It winds buttery smooth too. It is also stringently tested; JLC doesn’t submit their watches for COSC chronometer trials, instead performing a 6 week (or 1000 hour) torture test on each watch that includes exposure to shocks, water, multiple positions, multiple temperatures, and of course accuracy testing. In many ways it is stricter than the traditional COSC accuracy tests.
While the 29mm width doesn’t sound like much, the Grande Date is a sizeable watch. Lug to lug it is 46.5mm, so it has a lot of wrist presence. The elongated shape disguises how big it actually is – it is in fact part of the Grande Taille collection, which is larger than the classic Reverso (but smaller than the Squadra sport models). With hefty lugs and a thick case, it is a watch that straddles the line between imposing and elegant - which is right in line with the art-deco styling, an aesthetic that often equal parts industrial, architectural, and finesse. Those signature horizontal lines that hide the opening of the Reverso case and blend it into the lugs are pure art-deco, the shape and detail of the case would look right at home in the Chrysler Building or in a Humphrey Bogart flick.
The Grande Date is still available from JLC, but not in stainless steel. This version has been discontinued in favour of a gold model. That means that this watch represents good value for such fine watchmaking, moreso when you consider the current replacement retails for double the price. The Reverso is a design classic from a storied brand that offers great style and fine quality. Everyone needs as least one square watch in his or her collection, and for many the Reverso is the only choice. It’s the only watch that has a purpose to its shape, and its party trick still delights watch lovers after 80 years. For more information on our Reverso Grande Date or any other watches we have in stock, feel free to call me at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.