Created by Jacques-David LeCoultre in 1931, the Reverso was initially conceived to withstand the harsh beating a watch would endure during a game of polo. With the need for the watch to be more durable, the Reverso's genius reveals itself through its eponymous design – a reversible case. With its case able to be turned around on itself, the Reverso's dial can be protected while playing sports and returned to its natural position with a quick flick and slide. Thanks to its iconic heritage, the Reverso has evolved into one of Jaeger LeCoultre's most important design vehicles to date, with a healthy number of contemporary variations to suit the palate of modern enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.
Presented today is an exceedingly rare version of the Reverso watch – the Grande Reverso 8 Days Kanji Japan Edition Ref. 240.8.14. With a worldwide production limited to merely 50 units. What sets it apart? At first glance, it may appear to be a regular Grande Reverso, but when you flip it over and catch sight of the power reserve indicator in Kanji characters, you quickly realize that this is no ordinary Grande Reverso.
Beginning with its case design, the Ref. 240.8.14 showcases the timeless Reverso style, measuring a case size of 46.5mm x 29mm. It boasts squared lugs with a conical profile, complemented by rounded, barrel-like case flanks on each side. The dial features a silver backdrop adorned with elegantly understated Arabic numerals as hour markers, accompanied by a small-seconds indicator positioned gracefully atop the 5 o'clock numeral, creating a visually intriguing cropped-out effect. Moreover, the center of the dial exhibits a captivating billowing rose-lathe guilloche pattern, adding to its overall allure.
Moving on to the movement powering this beautiful mechanical masterpiece from within its stainless-steel case – the in-house, manually-wound JLC Cal. 874. As the name suggests, it features a massive 8-day power reserve that is represented via Kanji characters “零 (zero), 壱 (one), 弐 (two), 参 (three)、四 (four), 伍 (five), 六 (six), 七(seven), and 八 (eight)”. Again, God is in the details when it comes to this particular reference. Modest in appearance to the casual observer, until one gazes upon its case back. However, that subtlety is precisely what appeals to me. Unassuming to most until you look at its case back, that is just the way I prefer it.
In my perspective, while Reversos were originally created for practical purposes and were commonly regarded as sports watches, I have always believed that Reversos belong to a unique category of their own. They possess a certain hybrid quality that sets them apart from other timepieces in terms of wearability. They were initially conceived as a sports watch, but today, they are considered to be dress watches by many. This exemplifies true versatility, effortlessly transitioning from the boardroom to the Polo field with utmost ease. Ultimately, it serves as a prime illustration of a design that successfully addresses a challenging real-world problem (at the time) and has established itself as an enduring symbol in the world of high-end watchmaking.
While any limited-edition Reverso’s can be considered rare, I believe that finding a Japan edition of any watch is even more challenging due to their limited availability outside of the domestic market. Moreover, this specific Grande Reverso reference was never promoted outside of Japan and is relatively unknown, making the discovery of one that is available outside of the country a genuine delight.