The Reverso - An Art Deco Design Classic
On Monday 15th April we received a telephone call from an excited Jonathan Newey from Hansons Auctioneers - had we seen the bidding on the Reverso? The beautiful little ladies pendant watch, donated to FARA New Kings Road, had just been sold at their London Antiques & Fine Art auction for £1150, which was four times over estimate!
"With a number of expressions of interest before the sale, we were confident that the watch was going to exceed the estimate, however we were very pleasantly surprised by the actual result. As well as numerous online bidders from the U.K. and overseas, there were two bidders in the room as well as telephone bidders from France and Germany. It is always very satisfying for auctioneers to see items achieve far more than their estimates for clients; particularly when the client is a charity and the proceeds are going to a good cause."
What made this watch so desirable to horologists? Simply, the 'Reverso' is considered a classic timepiece by watch connoisseurs. It's ingenious engineering and pure geometric lines make it a pinnacle of Art Deco design. Inspired by architecture and possessing the golden mean the Reverso is the perfect, symbiosis of form and function. The patented design of the 4th March 1931 describes it as a 'wristwatch which can slide on its base and flip over on itself' taking its name from the Latin word reverso meaning 'I turn around'.
As the story goes, the genesis of the watch derives from a gentlemen's wager. On returning from a trip to India, in 1930, the Swiss business man and watch collector, Caesar de Trey, was challenged by a group of British Army officers to find a Swiss watchmaker to make a timepiece that was capable of surviving the rigours of a polo match. De Trey approached Jacques-David LeCoultre (from the watchmaking family dating back to 1833) to develop the watch movement and enlisted designer Rene-Alfred Chauvot to design the case. On the 25th July 1931 de Trey bought the rights to Chauvot's invention and the first Reversos went into production.
The Reverso pendant donated to FARA New King's Road dates from between 1931 and 1937. In 1937 Le Coultre and watchmaker Eduard Jaegar merged companies to form Jaegar- Le Coultre which makes highly sought after watches to this day. This Reverso is now a scarce model made specifically for woman. An early advert for the Reverso shows its androgynous appeal.
"By its simplicity and its utilitarian character, the Reverso is the most accomplished watch that is indispensable to the modern man or woman. A gesture is enough, to transform this elegant city watch into a sports watch."
The plate on the back of the Reverso gives a generous surface for personalisation and it soon became a popular choice of the international elite (and royalty) who wished to have hidden engravings and enamel portraits on the back side of the case. Indeed our donated watch carries the message 'B with love from Tip. April '41'
Above is shown the original 1931 Reverso and some notable others; such as the two tone gold and stainless steel Reverso purchased by Edward VIII and unfortunately engraved before his decision to abdicate in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson and reproduction of one of Jaegar-Le Coultre's most famous Reverso creations which featured the portrait of an Indian lady, a Maharini, whose story remains one of the best-kept secrets in the history of the Reverso.
A new Jaegar-Le Coultre Reverso would set you back £4000 today. The buyer of our Reverso got an original timepiece at an excellent price showing its well worth buying in auction.
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