As a singular example of Art Deco design, the Reverso has remained eternally modern since its creation in 1931. While the design was originally conceived for the polo field, it began to appear in feminine form even before the first anniversary of its launch – in keeping with La Grande Maison’s philosophy of creating technically sophisticated timepieces for both men and women since its early years. Remaining true to itself through decades of social change and shifting tastes, the Reverso has fulfilled a potential that could hardly have been imagined at the time of its creation and, for 2023, Jaeger-LeCoultre presents a new expression of the Reverso’s feminine side. Offered in two eye-catching colour variations, the Reverso One Precious Colours features a richly decorated case that pays direct tribute to Art Deco style. 

The Geometry of Art Deco

Emerging in the mid-1920s and named (many decades later) after the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Art Deco grew directly out of the tremendous social and cultural changes that followed the First World War. An exuberant and streamlined elegance that emphasised clean, strong lines as an organising principle, it reflected the new sense of freedom and hedonism that permeated every aspect of society. In surface decoration, the repetitive use of parallel lines and rectilinear motifs to form chevrons and zigzags was amplified by blocks of colour and gleaming metal accents, creating a visual dynamism that remains captivating to this day.

It is this design language that the talented artisans of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s in-house Métiers Rares® atelier have translated for the Reverso One Precious Colours, creating a dazzling pattern that covers the entire case back and wraps seamlessly around the case sides to frame the dial.

With the front dial facing outwards, the Reverso One Precious Colours has a rich and elegant presence, its white mother-of-pearl dial contrasting with the vivid colours of its enamelled frame and the sparkle of the diamond-set gadroons and lugs. The dial is finely detailed with the narrow gold brackets in each corner, the applied numerals and the Dauphine hands that are signatures of all Reverso One jewellery models. The watch is fastened to the wrist by a shiny alligator strap, colour-matched to the case decoration.

A tour-de-force of the decorative crafts

Turn the swivelling case over and the Reverso One Precious Colours becomes a piece of High Jewellery. Presented in shades of blue with black on a pink gold background, or in different tones of green on a white gold background, the pattern is executed in miniature-painted grand feu enamel with diamond-set accents, creating an optical illusion of depth and movement.

The process is an exacting one, requiring absolute mastery of each technique, as well as the impeccable coordination of the different crafts, beginning with enamelling. The base metal, of white gold or pink gold, must first be sealed with a fondant or transparent enamel and fired. Next, to create a pristine surface onto which the multi-coloured design will be painted, the enameller applies layers of opaque white enamel, with drying and firing after each layer. Then, with great precision, the lines that define the geometric design are hand-drawn with a fine point across the flat surface of the watch case, continuing seamlessly around the sides. Only then can the colouring can begin.

Using a very fine-tipped brush, the entire surface is hand-painted to create the blocks of different colour – again working layer by layer, with firing after every application – until the enameller is fully satisfied with the depth and intensity of each colour. Once the firing of the colours is completed, more layers of transparent fondant are applied. Known as the Geneva technique, this final coating preserves the colours and enhances the sense of depth; this exceptionally durable surface is then hand-polished to achieve a shiny, glazed appearance, with the perfectly smooth finish of a sheet of glass.

Enamelling the convex case sides of the Reverso One Precious Colours at the same time as the flat case back is particularly challenging, because the two areas require a different consistency of enamel for better adherence during the firing. Equally challenging is the question of colour: just as an artist would do with paints on a palette, the enameller blends different metal oxide pigments together to achieve the desired variation of blue or green. However, with grand feu enamelling the outcome is unpredictable because firing at 800 degrees Centigrade changes some pigments, causing colours not to blend as expected. A Reverso One Precious Colours case requires up to 15 firings, as well as multiple phases of drying at 200 degrees. The ability to master such challenges comes only with years of experience and the five enamellers in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Métiers Rares® atelier have all thoroughly mastered the Geneva technique.

After enamelling, the Reverso case is handed over to the gem-setter, who must work with absolute precision to ensure that the diamonds are perfectly set. Using the grain-setting technique, tiny claws of gold are raised from the flat metal surface to hold each stone in place. This must be done without disturbing the finished enamel or encroaching on the perfectly straight lines that define the coloured fields and separate them from the gem-set ones. Setting the diamonds that decorate the Reverso One Precious Colours requires 45 hours of meticulous work, in addition to the preceding 80 hours of

enamelling work. A great benefit of Jaeger-LeCoultre having its own decorative crafts atelier at the Manufacture, gathering multiple skills together under one roof, is that the different artisans are able to work so closely together, exchanging ideas and sharing each other’s creative energy.

Concealed within the case, the movement that powers the Reverso One Precious Colours is testament to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s commitment to mechanical excellence. Developed and produced entirely within the Manufacture, the hand-wound Calibre 846 was created specifically for the Reverso and, in keeping with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s philosophy of product integrity, is shaped to follow the contours of the rectangular case.

Reaffirming Jaeger-LeCoultre’s mastery of the decorative crafts and fine jewellery techniques and deftly fusing functionality, aesthetics and fine watchmaking, this boldly feminine interpretation of the Reverso is a jewel to be worn, as well as a watch to tell the time.