August 05 2011
Lucia van der Post
I’ve never personally thought of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso watch as a sporty little number. It’s always seemed to belong rather more to the haute monde – elegant, classic, refined, a touch (but just a touch) snooty. But sport is where it all began when some British Army officers stationed in India wanted a watch that was properly elegant and yet could withstand the rigours of playing polo.
The Reverso, which could be turned over, so protecting the glass, was a brilliantly ingenious answer. As its many fans know, it has long since become one of the clutch of lusted-after classics that betoken one’s arrival into the sophisticated watch-owning classes. The plain metal back that its rotating design requires has always been an irresistible empty space, ripe for inviting initials, crests, numbers or even portraits to be engraved onto it to make it personal and special.
Amelia Earhart, the aviatrix, had her watch engraved with a map showing the itinerary of her historic 1935 Mexico-New York flight, while many an English gentleman, it seems, liked the back of his Reverso to sport the insignia of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.
But now, to celebrate the 80th year since the Reverso first arrived on the scene, Jaeger-LeCoultre is offering more enticing options for engraving, enamelling, gem-setting or embellishing the back. Log onto its website, click on the “online personalisation” button and there’s a charming video that will lead you through the many options available. Here customers can be inspired to devise a scheme of their own, though to place an order they will need to consult one of the concierges.
You could go for something as simple as some initials or a meaningful date – such as, say, the date of your wedding (lots of choice as to size, fonts and colours). You could have the outline of a set of initials and the watch itself set in diamonds (first picture).
You could devise something utterly personal such as a map of a sea voyage you have made, a drawing of your house or your dog, an engraving of your nearest and dearest, or even a copy of an old master painting (assuming that it is not subject to copyright).
To achieve this, colours are applied to the metal with a very fine brush (third picture) before it is fired at high temperatures. It’s time-consuming, skilled work, and for the most elaborate of personalised designs you might have to be prepared to wait up to six months.
As for prices, since every piece is different and the labour costs will vary enormously, Jaeger-LeCoultre can offer only a rough guide. The simplest Reverso model starts at about £2,800 and for some very simple work – say some engraved initials – the extra cost would be something like £300. For a complete picture, in full glorious coloured enamel, the cost might be something like £4,000.
Second picture shows a lacquer-engraved Reverso.