Of the many notable watches legendary Swiss horologists Jaeger-LeCoultre have produced over their 188-year history, the timeless Reverso models are arguably their most iconic. While some will claim that the idea of the “luxury sport watch” originated with Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak in 1972, we’d argue that it goes back more than 40 years before that, when a British military officer stationed in India approached watch dealer Cesar de Trey asking for a wristwatch he could wear whilst playing polo without worrying about it being damaged by a wayward swing of a mallet. De Trey took this quandary to Jacques-David LeCoultre, whose answer was the very first Reverso, a watch with an ingenious swiveling face that could openly display the time when facing upright, or be flipped over and tucked away under the case with a simple flick of the fingers. It was a watch that looked just as good closed as it did open, with a solid caseback that could be customized with any number of engravings or bejewelment. Thus the watch — which was originally meant for rugged use — developed a reputation as a beloved piece of art deco-style jewelry that has proven popular over the past eight decades among men and women alike.
Jaeger-LeCoultre is no stranger to innovation: their patents and accolades include the world’s smallest watch movement, and eventually their talented watchmakers began experimenting with making the most out of the Reverso case. While the original Reverso (with a watch on one side and a hard case in either stainless steel or precious metal on the other) is still very much in production, they also began introducing Reverso models with watch faces on both sides of the swiveling dials, a complicated feat of engineering that fits no two separate, fully functioning watch movements in a space usually occupied by one. And now Jaeger-LeCoultre, never one to rest on their well-earned laurels, has announced the release of their most complicated Reverso model ever, the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185.
The Hybris Mechanica moniker has been applied to a very few models by Jaeger-LeCoultre before, all produced in limited numbers and featuring absolutely bonkers complications that continue to prove the label’s engineers are at the absolute peak of their game, and the new Reverso is no exception. From the first glance at the watch, with its flying tourbillon, chime lever and an intricate guilloche dial that brings to mind early racing Bentleys, it’s obvious that this is a very special watch. But what lies hidden beneath reveals so, so much more.
To start, that tourbillon facing dial is one of four fully functional dials this watch has. Yes, beyond the dials on either side of the swiveling Reverso movement, there is also a heavily complicated dial on each sides of the caseback. This would be an accomplishment alone when observing how thin that caseback is, but the standalone engineering masterpieces that every single one of those faces entails is what makes this watch a true jawdropper. In all, the newest Hybris Mechanica houses 11 different complications and holds 12 different patents in a lithe case that measures just 31mm x 51mm x 15mm.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has long referred to the front and back of its Reverso models as the Recto and Verso faces, but the four faces of this watch required a whole new term altogether, which they have coined the Quadriptyque. The Recto face of the new Hybris Mechanica Calbre 185 is a testament to the precision of telling time. Along with a patented flying tourbillon at the 7 o’clock position, Jaeger-LeCoultre has managed to fit a dual-window grande date complication at 5 o’clock, which required the tooling of unique, never-before-used date discs. The date window is just one part of the perpetual calendar mechanism of the Recto face, which also displays the month, day and leap-year function in a series of handsomely open-worked discs, all of which change instantaneously at the stroke of their respective midnights. Flipping over to the Verso face, one will find the same time of day, only it’s displayed in a digital jump-hour mechanism. But the real wow factor of this face is revealed by the chiming hammers at the bottom — they sound out the hours, quarter hours and minutes of the time in three separate tones with no noticeable delay between their changing, a function that makes its Reverso debut here. To further enhance the acoustic quality of these seamless chimes, Jaeger-LeCoultre attaches the hammers directly to the sapphire crystal, leveraging the tonal qualities of the latter material as well.
While these two faces alone would make the Calibre 185 a showstopper, the wonders are just getting started. The third face of this watch, located on the interior of the caseback (which Jaeger-LeCoultre refers to as the cradle), is nothing less than the most complicated moonphase mechanisms ever presented together on a wristwatch, displaying concurrently the synodic, draconic and anomalistic cycles of the earth, moon and sun. The upper portion of the cradle is dominated by a laser-etched engraving of the phases of the moon over the northern hemisphere. While traditional moonphase complications allow for a day of error every 32.5 months, Jaeger-LeCoultre claims the synodic moonphase on the Calibre 185 will remain correct for 1,111 years. To the bottom left, a pink-gold sun is orbited by a tiny moon, a patented mechanism which reads the draconic cycle of the moon and sun and accurately displays both lunar and solar eclipses. To the right exists yet another complication which earned Jaeger-LeCoultre a patent: a small domed earth micropainted in enamel surrounded by a moon in elliptical orbit, displaying the anomalistic cycle of the sun and moon. This function accurately denotes the distance between the earth and moon at any given time; when that distance reaches its perigee, a supermoon is nigh. Rounding it all off is the fourth face of the watch, the caseback, which displays the phases of the moon as seen from the southern hemisphere with the same 1,111-year precision.
Production of the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 — the most complicated ever Reverso housing the most advanced astronomical measurements, most accurate perpetual calendar and most seamless chiming mechanism to ever be housed in a watch — will be limited to just 10 pieces. Pricing is available upon request, and suffice it to say that like most masterpieces, this one probably won’t come cheap.