Introducing the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185By Neha S Bajpai
Much has been said about the indisputable elegance of the Reverso, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s ageless icon that turns 90 this year. Indeed, in a world obsessed with stainless steel sports watches, the Reverso has etched its place amongst the horological pantheon with its versatile and deceptively simple swiveling case.
The origins of the Reverso can be traced to a polo match in India in 1930, when some officers of the British colonial army challenged Swiss businessman César de Trey to create a watch robust enough to endure the rigors of a polo match. Trey brought this up with Jacques-David LeCoultre and Edmond Jaeger, the masters of micromechanics, who had already established their proficiency in miniaturization with the Duoplan watch in 1925.
A tough row to hoe, the task was finally accomplished with the help of French designer René-Alfred Chauvot, who created a perfect rectilinear case, which in the words of patent application No. 712868 filed at the French Ministry of Trade and Industry on March 4 1931, “can be slid in its support and completely turned over”. With its Art Deco aesthetics alongside baton-shaped hands, dart-type indices, Arabic numerals and the swiveling case with three decorative gadroons on top and bottom, the Reverso turned out to be a runaway hit.
The Story of the Swiveling Case
Buoyed by the stupendous success of the watch, LeCoultre developed a dedicated movement, Caliber 410, for the Reverso just two years after its debut. Favored by tastemakers from all walks of life, the Reverso was offered in gold as well as the original Staybrite steel. With options to be worn as pendants, handbag clips and dainty wristwatches, the watch also adapted to suit the needs of women in those days. For those seeking even greater individuality, brightly colored lacquer dials could be made to order, and the reverse side of the case personalized with engraving and lacquer.
De Trey, who made a good fortune selling gold and porcelain dentures in Switzerland, set up a watch distribution company called Spécialités Horlogères and bought the rights to the Reverso name. Between 1931 and 1933, de Trey and Jacques-David LeCoultre supplied the Reverso cases to brands like Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Cartier. By the late 1930s, Jaeger-LeCoultre had created no less than 11 different movements for the Reverso.
However, the charm of all things Art Deco started to fade after World War II. The Reverso’s popularity also took a hit, and by the late 1960s, the production was completely ceased. The next two decades were dominated by the Japanese quartz watches, and it wasn’t until 1982 that the Reverso could be resuscitated with the quartz Caliber 601 movement.
Jaeger-LeCoultre was now making the Reverso cases in-house. In 1985, the brand unveiled a new case designed by one of its engineers, Daniel Wild. Though there was no question of playing with the aesthetics of the case, the new batch used CNC technology for the first time. Composed of 55 parts instead of the 23 in the original, the new case was waterproof, dust-proof and equipped with a new flip-over mechanism.
As the revival of mechanical watches started to gain momentum in the 1990s, Günter Blümlein took the helm of Jaeger-LeCoultre and brought back the glory days of the Reverso. Together with Henry-John Belmont, the then-CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, and French designer Janek Deleskiewicz, he re-energized the Reverso with a slew of complications for the watch’s 60th anniversary.
Crafted out of pink gold, the Reverso 60ème with a power reserve and date hand was introduced in 1991. The anniversary special was soon followed by the brand’s first tourbillon wristwatch in 1993, first minute repeater in 1994, first retrograde chronograph in 1996 and first perpetual calendar in 2000 — all in a Reverso.
Despite the added challenge that rectangular movements dictate an entirely different architecture from that of the round movements traditionally used for complications, Jaeger-LeCoultre has continued to enrich the Reverso with a variety of complications. The maison introduced the world’s first rectangular minute-repeater movement, Caliber 94, in the Reverso Répétition Minutes unveiled in 1994. Then came the Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque powered by Caliber 175 — a single movement incorporating 18 different functions, including civil time, sidereal time and a perpetual calendar, displayed on three dials, the third dial being set into the carrier plate of the watch.
The Reverso has also housed Jaeger-LeCoultre’s unique bi-axial flying tourbillon, first seen in the Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 of 2008 and then in the 2016 Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon.
The Most Complicated Reverso: Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 (Quadriptyque)
To celebrate the Reverso’s glorious nine-decade long journey, Jaeger-LeCoultre has chosen the Hybris Mechanica collection to introduce its most complex iteration of the Reverso to date. Featuring 11 astonishing complications deftly displayed over the four faces of the watch, the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 (Quadriptyque) is a mechanical wonder.
Conceptualized and designed over six years, the watch represents Jaeger-LeCoultre’s biggest strengths — its impeccable design sensibilities and supreme technical prowess. Unlike most grand complications, the Quadriptyque doesn’t overwhelm you with a bogglingly busy dial. It happens to be the world’s first wristwatch with four functioning display faces, but all so cleverly packaged in a 51.2mm ×31mm ×15.15mm case that you’ll instantly want to play with it.
Indeed, the Hybris Mechanica is a representation of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s soaring ambition to conquer newer milestones in haute horlogerie. Over the last 18 years, the Hybris Mechanica family has showcased close to 20 groundbreaking creations in a variety of models — from the Atmos Mystérieuse, which was the inaugural piece in the line launched in 2003 and the Master Gyrotourbillon 1 from 2004, to the Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon in 2014 and the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel in 2019.
On the Reverso’s 75th anniversary in 2006, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque, an ultra complicated timepiece made by 14 specialists. The watch had three dials displaying mean, sidereal, and perpetual times in one grand complication. Its other features included display of moon phases, equation of time, zodiac calendar, astronomical chart, sunrise and sunset time, power reserve, day/night and leap-year indicators.
This year, the brand has again turned to the Hybris Mechanica line to present a watch that not only offers the usual perpetual calendar and minute repeater functions, but also predicts supermoons and eclipses.
Four Faces: 11 Complications, 12 Patents
For all their complexity, most grand complications fall short of creating a harmonious dial design. The Quadriptyque, however, scores full marks for its selective and clear display of the 11 complications across the four faces of the watch.
Face One: The most striking feature on the main dial is the beautiful Clous de Paris guillochage interspersed with the clean day, date and month display discs. To accommodate the dimensions of the flying tourbillon at seven o’clock, Jaeger-LeCoultre created a new system of date display discs. The instantaneous perpetual calendar feature and day/night indications are also presented on this opening face of the watch.
Face Two: With over 200 chiming watches to its credit, the La Grande Maison du Sentier couldn’t have possibly skipped the minute repeater mechanism in its most complicated Reverso. Bringing together various crucial innovations from the revered world of chiming watches in this one piece, Jaeger-LeCoultre has equipped the Quadriptyque with the silent chime governor, patented by the manufacture in 1895 to eliminate the buzzing noise created by the older anchor system. Then there is the more recent innovation of the use of crystal gongs attached directly to the sapphire crystal and the articulated trebuchet hammers (developed for the Hybris Mechanica Duomètre à Grande Sonnerie in 2009) that ensure the sound is loud and crystal clear.
Debuting in the Quadriptyque is a completely novel engineering of the chiming components to create a seamless chime with no pauses in between the hours, quarters and minutes. A conventional minute repeater mechanism uses special pivoting racks that read the time off a series of cams, and then proceed to activate each group of chimed notes in turn. This creates a gap in between chimed notes, especially when there are only hours and minutes to be struck, with no intervening quarters. Over the years, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been focusing on reducing these gaps in high complications like the Hybris Mechanica Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon (2014) and Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel (2019). Thanks to a highly refined mechanical sequence, the maison has managed to completely eliminate these gaps in the Quadriptyque.
The watch’s chiming mechanism can be activated with the slide of a lever located just above the crown. The hours are sounded off with a series of low notes; the quarter hours by an alternating couplet of high and low notes; and a succession of high notes indicates the number of minutes to be added to the elapsed quarters.
The wearer can enjoy a captivating interplay of the striking time displayed through the hammers and gongs in motion alongside a secondary time display, presented in a jumping hours and peripheral minutes format.
Face Three: The most spectacular complication on the Quadriptyque can be seen on the interior face of the watch cradle. This is the first time any watch brand has attempted a display of the synodic, draconic and the anomalistic cycles (the motion of the moon in relation to the Earth and the sun) in a wristwatch. To put it in simpler terms, the readings from these cycles help in predicting solar and lunar eclipses, and also supermoons.
While the synodic cycle is captured in the top half of the dial through a massive representation of the moon phases as seen in the Northern Hemisphere, the draconic cycle (when the path of the moon intersects with the orbit of the Earth around the sun) is read through a counter just below this, represented by a three-dimensional micro-sculpted pink gold sun with a tiny hemispherical moon in orbit.
An enamel-painted Earth on the right side of the draconic cycle counter represents the anomalistic cycle, showing the varying distance between the Earth and moon. When the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest point of orbit in relation to the Earth, also known as perigee, we see the mesmerizing supermoon phenomenon unfold. As a result, the moon can appear to be up to 14 percent larger and brighter than usual.
Face Four: Made at the Atelier des Métiers Rares, the last face of the Quadriptyque presents the phases of the moon as seen in the Southern Hemisphere. Engraved and lacquered in various hues of blue, the star-speckled backdrop is adorned with a gorgeous pink gold moon.
Powered by Caliber 185, the Quadriptyque works on a fabulous trick that was first seen in the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Grande Complication à Triptyque in 2006. Every night, as the watch strikes 12, a little pin extends out of the main case movement and activates the mechanical corrector in the cradle, which then advances the cradle displays. This ensures that the four display faces continue to function uninterrupted. The mechanism driving the cradle display is set directly into the cradle, so this keeps the watch ultra compact at 15.15mm.
Limited to just 10 pieces, this exceptional timepiece comes in a special presentation box with a built-in mechanism that allows the wearer to intuitively set all the calendar and astronomical displays of the watch after a period of it being unworn. The box has a two-position crown that can be used to set the number of days for which the watch hasn’t been worn. Once this is set up, the crown can be pulled further to its second position and wound, to rapidly bring the watch to the current date for all calendar and astronomical indications.
The best part about this magical box is that you don’t have to worry about damaging the movement while correcting the settings. The entire process is designed to be controlled by the box corrector mechanism in a way that no amount of overenthusiasm at your end can harm this pièce extraordinaire.
Movement: Manual-winding Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 185; 50-hour power reserve
Case: White gold; 51.2mm x 31mm x 15.15mm; water resistant to 30m
Face 1 — hours, minutes and seconds; tourbillon; instantaneous perpetual calendar; grande date; day, month, leap year, night/day.
Face 2 — Jumping digital hours, minutes, minute repeater
Face 3 — Northern Hemisphere moon phases, draconic lunar cycle, anomalistic lunar cycle, month, year
Face 4 — Southern Hemisphere moon phases
Strap: Blue alligator
Price: EUR 1.35 million
Availability: Limited edition of 10 pieces