Reverso Stories - Celebrating Jaeger-LeCoultre's Enduring IconBy Ross Povey
This December, Jaeger-LeCoultre will host a special pop-up exhibition in Covent Garden, London. Reverso Stories will celebrate the heritage, innovation and rare crafts of the brand’s most enduring creation.
Polo, the equine pursuit, is often referred to as the ‘sport of kings’. A ball game that dates back to 600 BC, it was often played by the cavalry and royal guards. In the UK — and in fact, around the globe — royal families both partake in and spectate at important events and sponsorship is often handled by high-end luxury brands. In short, it’s a refined and exclusive sport for the most part, and so it’s fitting that a watch such as the Reverso is so closely associated with polo. In India, back in the early 1900s, polo was hugely popular and yet there was an issue with wearing a watch. The speed, swinging mallets and rocketing balls were all perfect for smashing the crystal of a watch to smithereens. What to do? Step forward Jaeger-LeCoultre, who devised a watch with a midcase that could flip around to protect the crystal, all without removing the watch from one’s wrist.
As is often the way with sports or professional watches (only a tiny fraction of dive watches made each year are bought by divers, for example), the Reverso was soon not only worn by polo players, but was adopted by tastemakers and the stylish elite. Now, 91 years of this iconic watch will be celebrated in the exhibition in London as part of a wider celebration of the watch with the most complicated Reverso ever and the launch of the brand’s new collaborations.
Made of Makers is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new program that sees the brand collaborating with artists, designers and other craftspeople to develop innovative ways to extend the dialogue between watchmaking and the arts. Of the six artists that JLC is currently working with, it is the work of Alex Trochut that will be prominently displayed in London. Says Catherine Rénier, CEO of Jaeger LeCoultre: “In the spirit of our founder, Antoine-LeCoultre, our Manufacture has always been driven by the belief that to be truly innovative and push boundaries, it is vital to be open-minded. Through Made of Makers, we are looking for different perspectives on how the practices of watchmaking, art and other creative disciplines can bring value to lived experiences.”
Alex Trochut is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work is inspired by the fusion of street culture, fashion and music. Having worked with such diverse partners as The Rolling Stones, Pepsi, Nike and Katy Perry, he has turned his creator’s eye onto Jaeger-LeCoutlre to devise a novel typeface inspired by the brand’s Art Deco watch, the Reverso. The full alphabet that Trochut has created will be on show at the Reverso Stories exhibition and has been adopted by the brand as a new in-house typeface. Those who commission a caseback engraving from JLC can choose this new type as the font for the inscription, and will appear in future projects.
Another part of the London event, is an installation by a second Made of Makers collaborator, Michael Murphy. Murphy’s art installation, Spacetime will transport visitors through the three physical dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time. The concept centres around the viewer’s perception of the work, which changes depending on where they stand. Murphy, another American artist, uses multidimensional techniques to create three-dimensional interpretations of flat images.
The centre-piece of the event will be a showcase of the enamelling, engraving, gem-setting and guilloché work that has been used to embellish and bring the Reverso alive over the past nine decades. On display will be historic timepieces, modern-day High Jewellery and miniature-painted models that will demonstrate the model’s journey. A highlight of the exhibition will be the most complicated example ever presented: the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185, with four functioning faces. As Jaeger Le-Coulture says, “the watch is the result of over six years of development, combining key areas of savoir-faire with innovative new astronomical indications, the Reverso Hybris Mechanica “Quadriptyque” can predict the next global incidence of astronomical events such as supermoons and eclipses.”
The Reverso Stories watchmaking experience is open from Monday to Sunday from 11am to 8pm at The Piazza, Covent Garden, WC2E 8RF London. Entry is free of charge. Audio guides are available for the Reverso exhibition.