The Reverso Stories Exhibition – A Horological Experience Comes to New York City

It’s one thing to read the history of a particular timepiece, its design language and influence well-known to those inclined toward the subject of high horology; a visit to any Jaeger-LeCoultre boutique or authorized dealer will no doubt allow for the handling and experience of trying on a Reverso. While that certainly makes for a pleasant, if tempting, afternoon, it is an entirely different foray to walk backwards through the decades and experience first-hand the history and heritage of an icon.

Part museum exhibit, part art gallery, and part lifestyle immersion, the Reverso Stories exhibition was first created in 2021 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the creation of the multifaceted timepieces. By guiding visitors through the physical story of the Art Deco paragon, the exhibition tells the story of the Reverso in four parts.

Story of an Icon

The Reverso was first created in 1931 with a purely functional goal in mind – how do you create a watch which will perform its core functions, yet will be protected from the myriad of threats which are present in the course of a match of polo? Through a combination of archival materials and landmark examples, the Reverso’s development is illustrated throughout the decades, from the very first Reverso model ever created up through today’s contemporary references.

The first-ever Reverso from 1931
The first-ever Reverso from 1931

Story of Style & Design

A seminal example of Art Deco design in fine watchmaking, the Reverso has, in the broadest sense, remained much the same over the past nine decades. Its primary case shape, proportions, overall presence, and elegance having been guided by the mathematical and artistic principles of the Golden Ratio, the Reverso maintains its core identity to this day in ways that few other watch designs can claim. While the technology has advanced dramatically over the years, and so too the bounds of the Reverso’s construction and capabilities, it has never the less remained a steadfast example of a triumphant aesthetic ideal.

Story of Innovation

Watch brands with history and heritage as broad and rich and Jaeger-LeCoultre are faced with two contradictory challenges – maintain the identity expressed through watches which built their brands, and innovate and expand the horizons of what timekeeping means. Remarkably, both of these goals have been contained and achieved all within the Reverso design. This dynamism is on full display by showcasing the heights of horological achievement which have been achieved by JLC in recent years.

Story of Craftsmanship

Though these mechanical achievements are beguiling for the functions which they are capable, that is not where the artistry ends. Jaeger-LeCoultre, often referred to as the ‘watchmaker’s watchmaker” is a rarity in the sheer breadth of crafts and capabilities available within the Manufacture. Indeed, the 180 different crafts are illustrated in varying degrees through a series of videos giving a glance behind the curtain, as well as examples of meticulously finished watches replete with exotic refinements– enamel, precious stone setting, and world class movement finishing. But it is not enough to merely observe these pieces of horological craftsmanship under glass as one would other relics of historical import.

An Immersive Experience

While the world class timepieces on display are remarkable in their own right, the experience of the Reverso Stories exhibition does not stop with simply displays. Within the core of the exhibition lies multimedia artist Yiyun Kang’s Origin installation – a projection mapped experience created specifically at the request of Jaeger-LeCoultre as a part of its Made of Makers partnership program. This three dimensional audio-visual experience explores that same artistic principle present within the watches themselves – the Golden Ratio.

As though such a dynamic display weren’t engaging enough, a hands on experience is available to those who are so inclined within the Atelier d’Antoine workshop. Here the mechanically minded, or simply the curious, are invited to register for the opportunity to discover a small part of what it is like to finish a Reverso, featuring techniques like hand polishing and perlage. Should, after such a journey through time, design, sight, and sound, the hunger for all things Reverso not be satiated, guest’s are invited to stop off at the 1931 Café for refreshments prepared by award-winning French pastry chef Nina Metayer.

Award-winning French pastry chef Nina Metayer
Award-winning French pastry chef Nina Metayer

The Reverso Stories Exhibition will visit New York City from November 3rd through November 22nd, and be housed at Iron 23 – an expansive exhibition space in the heart of the iconic Flatiron District in Manhattan, at 29 West 23rd Street. You can register for Exhibition Tours here, and Workshops here.

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Photos by Troy Barmore
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