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 an array of contemporary variations to suit the palate of modern enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.
As much as I admire the Reverso design in general, I must admit that there is a bit of a disconnect when I think about how Jaeger LeCoultre had always marketed the Reverso as a dress watch, despite it being designed initially for polo players. How does one reconcile the usage of such an elegant dressy looking timepiece for a rugged game of polo? To answer this question, we ought to take a closer look at the Gran’ Sport collection. First released in 1998, it was a radical departure from the classy Reverso aesthetic many collectors were all used to, but it also marked Jaeger LeCoultre’s first serious attempt since the 1930s to position the Reverso back to its original design intent as a rugged ‘sports’ watch. The reference we have here today — the Gran’ Sport Duo Ref. 295.1.51, is an exemplary reference from that endeavour and a later variant offered under this collection during the 2000s.
The Gran’ Sport Duo Ref. 295.1.51 features a distinct case design compared to the conventional Reverso cases. It showcases a barrel-shaped case profile with slightly rounded edges and semi-integrated lugs, meticulously crafted from 18-carat yellow gold. When you turn the Ref. 295.1.51 watch over on its’ caseback, you'll immediately notice that the caseback incorporates an open-spaced middle section. This simple but clever design element is not just for show, it serves a practical purpose in preventing the accumulation of grit, dirt, or sweat in this particular region. Given that the Gran' Sport is truly intended as a rugged sports watch, this thoughtful little detail makes it a fitting and practical feature befitting the spirit of this design.
Designed to capitalize on its flip-action by giving it a second dial, the Gran’ Sport Duo Ref. 295.1.51 followed the footsteps of its Duoface predecessor. Its dials are split between a lighter-coloured 'home' dial and a darker-coloured secondary dial that the user would wear to indicate the time in two different parts of the world — effectively making it a dual-time piece.
On the lighter-coloured primary dial, you will find a grid-like pattern motif at the centre portion of the dial, coupled with a set of luminous broad sword hands, with highly sober Floral Arabic numerals encircling the dial. There is also a date window aperture at 5 o ‘clock, a small seconds register at the 6, and a 24-hour AM/PM indicator at 11 o ‘clock. The dial is also further embellished with subtle touches of red accents for visual contrast.
As for the secondary dial, there is also a similar grid-like pattern motif with a slightly different design that seemingly emanates from the centre of the main dial and the AM/PM indicating sub-dial. Despite having a simpler aesthetic on this side, it maintains the same font and handset as found on the primary dial, creating a harmonious visual coherence. One delightful design detail that stands out is how Jaeger LeCoultre tastefully overlapped the number '6' on the AM/PM indicator with the 6 o'clock hour numeral.
Fitted inside this case is Jaeger LeCoultre’s manual-winding Cal. 851, which features a GMT complication and a 45-hour power reserve.
I've always believed that Reversos occupy a distinctive category of their own, and the Gran’ Sport’s design is a great representation of how the Reverso would look like if Jaeger LeCoultre decided to push for a case design that is more aligned with its original intended purpose. Nevertheless, the introduction of this collection further demonstrates the versatility of the Reverso’s design codes and continues to solidify its continued prominence in the world of high-end watchmaking, making this a compelling alternative for avid travellers (or collectors in general) who prefer a sportier Reverso aesthetic.
Do note, the Reverso Gran' Sport collection was eventually discontinued in the mid-2000s and succeeded by the much bigger and beefier Reverso Squadra collection.