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Field report.......LE Reverso Chronographe from 1996

August 28 2005 at 6:06 PM
Evitzee  (Login Evitzee)
PP Discussion Group

I’ve owned my NOS JLC Reverso Chronographe for a few weeks and I’d thought I’d post some pics as well as a few comments on it now that I’ve lived with it ‘in the flesh’.

Everyone is familiar with the Grand Taille case, introduced in 1991 for the 60th anniversary of the Reverso. The GT size always struck me as a perfect size for the swiveling Reverso case. It was a good size on the wrist yet it was thin enough to be eminently wearable in all situations (dress or casual). It just seemed elegant in the way it looked on the wrist. The 1998 JLC catalogue says one of the reasons for the GT size was that “people are larger today than they were two generations ago” when the original Reverso was designed. H’mm ….. we can’t be that much fatter now for them to introduce the even BIGGER Extra Grand Taille case, can we? No, it’s all about marketing, for when the Grand Taille case was introduced in 1991 it looked like a huge watch. It’s just perception. Unfortunately, that perception seems to work against watches like the Grand Taille Reversos being desired in the current marketplace where bigger watches are much more in demand. I own two Grand Tailles, along with a Grande Date Reverso in the XGT size, and I find the additional 3mm in thickness and 5mm in length of the XGT case size makes it a bit less friendly and more bulky. But that’s not the issue here.

The 500 piece limited edition Reverso Chronographe came out in 1996 as the fourth edition of the series (after the 60eme, Tourbillon, and Minute Repeater), and has the usual very fine silver guilloched dial with the very useful added feature of a quick set date at the 6 o’clock position. A pink gold fan shaped hand at 5 o’clock switches back and forth between Arret (stop) and Marche (run) to let you know if the chronographe is running or not so you don’t have to flip it over.

Winding the watch is very easy because the watch has a larger (higher) crown than normal because of the proximity of the square chrono push buttons, which is a nice attention to detail. I’ve also replaced the original glossy JLC croc strap with a matte brown Genesis II strap which makes the watch a bit more sporty and casual.

But the real excitement with this watch is the Cal 829 movement which was designed specifically for this edition. A slight variation later came out as the Cal 859 for the Gran’ Sport Chrono which has now been discontinued. So it seems that this wonderful movement will no longer be produced.

I just don’t think JLC ever marketed this movement to its full potential extent. Why? I think it was probably too complex, hence expensive, to produce. And I think they saw the market moving to bigger and bigger watches, so they were ‘stuck’ with a relatively small movement. Unfortunately the market sees the ‘small movement, small case’ as a liability today. That’s a real shame. If you study the Swiss watch industry in the 20th century one of the driving goals was to always produce thinner, smaller movements with the same, or better, accuracy. I think they unfortunately have gone in the opposite direction the last 20 years with the production of bigger and bigger movements. I can’t see where that is progress, but that’s what the public wants. Their new Cal 751 in the Master Compressor Chronograph is a good example. It looks like a nice piece of work, but it’s a big movement and it is in a 41.5mm case.

But take a look at the Cal 829 in the Reverso Chronographe:

Consider the dimensions of this movement. First, it is a rectangular chronograph movement which are made by very few manufacturers today. (Only one other one comes to mind.) In a space of 22.6mm x 17.2mm JLC movement designers have designed 317 pieces, with a column wheel and flyback minute hand, along with some unique cams and levers to make it all work. If you convert that to a round movement it is equivalent to a 10’’’ movement (22.5mm in diameter). And it’s only 4.5mm thick, with 28’800 vph and 44 hour power reserve. Those are amazing stats and in reality this movement is probably one of the greatest achievements in the last 20-30 years. Yet it has had a production run of less than 10 years. It’s like what the late Rodney Dangerfield used to say, “I don’t get no respect…..” But it’s hard not to get excited about this movement when you consider what it represents from the design and execution standpoint.

In use the chronograph is a treat. The start/stop feel has a very good feel and breakover feedback. The reset button is a bit softer with not quite the same feel as the other button, but the blued steel hands reset perfectly to zero position. The chrono works perfectly and the flyback of the 30 minute hand happens EXACTLY as the second hand crosses the top of the seconds dial at the end of 30 minutes. There are enough cutouts in the chrono mainplate that you can see the column wheel and the various well polished steel levers. The movement is red gold plated as are other iterations in this series. The red gold plating adds a nice look to the watch and gives it a bit of a vintage appearance. Accuracy as far as I can tell is within 5 seconds per day.

The back side of the carrier plate is highly polished which seems to be standard on the limited edition series:

Personally, this watch contains all the elements of the best aspects of the Swiss watch industry …… out of the box creativity, overall uniqueness and fineness of execution. If only all watches produced today met these goals.

I love this watch….it fits my style perfectly and I’m glad this long held watch was disgorged from an authorized dealer’s stock.

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