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.
Following our recent listing of a relatively rare variant of the Reverso Chronographe Retrograde Ref. 270.2.69 (which was a 500-piece limited edition), we’re pleased to present a much rarer variant of the same reference today. Remarkably, this example is actually part of a 20-piece prototype produced by Jaeger LeCoultre as press pieces for exhibitions and trade fairs around the world. Each of these prototypes feature a unique serial number engraved on the caseback and the world ‘BALE’, which denoted ‘Basel’. Words cannot describe just how special it is to have this available to market.
For those who require some context on what makes the Ref. 270.2.69 so special, I believe it is important for us to preface this: At the time when the Ref. 270.2.69 was released, Jaeger LeCoultre had just gone through a turbulent period known as the quartz crisis. The visionary Günter Blümlein, who oversaw Jaeger LeCoultre's operations at the time, recognized the Maison's exceptional technical potential stemming from its rich history as an in-house movement maker. This realization later became pivotal in the brand's resurgence during the post-quartz crisis era. The Ref. 270.2.69 was subsequently unveiled as part of a series of six limited edition Reverso models launched between 1991 and 2000 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the iconic Reverso. These milestones contributed significantly to solidifying Jaeger LeCoultre's esteemed position within the industry as we know it today.
Starting with the Ref. 270.2.69’s 18-carat rose gold ‘Grande Taille’ style case, it measures a compact 42mm x 26mm in size and with a slim case profile of only 10mm. Like many Reverso models, the case is polished entirely and reveals a beautiful perlage and its hallmarks on the inner chassis. As for the primary silver dial, it is crafted from galvanized silver and showcases a set of blued steel hands, as well as a guilloche pattern in the center portion. A tastefully positioned quick-set date window aperture can be found at 6 o'clock and a trapezoidal-shaped chronograph stop/run indicator at 5 o ‘clock. Engaging the chronograph pusher would cause the indicator to show 'Marche,' meaning 'run.' When the chronograph is stopped, the trapezoidal indicator would then switch to 'Arret,' which signifies 'stop.' I find this quite a unique feature as it indicates to the user when it is safe to engage the chronograph reset pusher.
Upon flipping the dial to its opposite side, you will quickly realize that the secondary dial of the Ref. 270.2.69 is what makes this particular Reverso reference so special. Here, you'll be treated to a visually stunning view of the skeletonized 37-jeweled, manual-winding JLC Cal. 829, which was one of the first column wheel chronographs created after the quartz crisis. Mind you, this was before brands such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin had their own.
The Cal. 829 features two seamlessly recessed chronograph registers, brushed steel elements, delicate blued screws, meticulously executed anglage and Côtes de Genève on the rose gold gilded bridges, as well as a power reserve of 40 hours. What is cool about this movement is that it was purpose-made to fit this exact Reverso, so what you get is a proportionately perfect rectangular in-house caliber. I highly doubt brands today are willing to fork out the cost to do such a thing. While the time-telling side of this Reverso is the side that should obviously face you while on the wrist, I found myself having the chronograph side open most of the time just so I could admire the movement. It is by far the most captivating aspect of this watch.
For the discerning connoisseur, the Ref. 270.2.69 unquestionably stands as one of the most coveted and sought-after iterations of the Reverso. Jaeger-LeCoultre's decision to release a tribute model in 2023 after a prolonged hiatus in this style will inevitably make the original even more desirable. Adding to that, the fact that this particular example here is one of only 20 prototypes makes it even more elusive and exceptional. I highly doubt another will surface on the market.
If you’re in the market for a rare Reverso, don’t wait.