Up close: the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon

Less is very much more: in its fourth incarnation, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Gyrotourbillon returns to the Reverso, now in ingeniously reduced form

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon
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If you wanted a single, crystal clear example of how far Jaeger-LeCoultre’s watchmaking – and complicated watchmaking in general – has developed in the past decade, in both science and craft, then this could be it.

It was only eight years ago, in 2008, that Jaeger-LeCoultre brought out what stands as one of the great achievements in modern horology: Gyrotourbillon 2, a spectacularly extravagant two-axis tourbillon wristwatch in a swivelling Reverso case. It came four years after Jaeger’s first Gyrotourbillon, but superseded it in every way – most importantly, with its cylindrical balance spring, the first ever in a wristwatch, breathing away at the heart of the tourbillon.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon
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It was big – complicated watches were back then, particularly when equipped with a three-dimensional hairspring in a Reverso case. Gyrotourbillon 2 stood 55mm high, and felt as heavy as you’d expect a great rectangular lump of platinum to feel on your wrist.

Which was fine – big was very much beautiful in watches then, complicated or otherwise. And anyway, the technology to make this “watch sized” – really watch sized – didn’t exist.

We’ve had the digital chronograph Gyrotourbillon 3 in the meantime, though perhaps more important in this story was 2014’s “Hybris Mechanica 11”, an ultra-thin minute repeater flying tourbillon that treated thinness and ergonomics practically as a complication in and of themselves. [content-box name="The Essentials" align="right"] But it’s a new Reverso Gyrotourbillon that really gives us the opportunity to compare and contrast. And the first point is: it’s wearable – just.

It’s still big, of course, but with a reported 30 per cent less mass than its predecessor, and a new case shape that curves gently around your wrist, it is genuinely an easy enough watch to wear. And what you see when you do, dazzles. The fact that it's too tall to slide under a cuff like most Reversos is rather fitting: this Reverso deserves to be seen.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon
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The new Calibre 179 contains a completely new tourbillon that, compared to its three predecessors, appears to be filled with light. I’ve always had the thought that, if I was really picking hairs, the asymmetrical aluminium cage housing the gyrotourbillons has been an aesthetic weak spot – I’m not sure Stephen Forsey would stand for it.

The cage has gone, however. What we have now is a flying gyrotourbillon, with an external driving mechanism, that appears almost to be floating in mid-air as it makes its 12.6 second rotation.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon
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With the cage removed, a new balance spring is completely on show – hemispherical this time, and therefore taking up less space and allowing for a thinner watch. It’s attached to the Gyrolab Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new balance “wheel”, unveiled last year in the deadbeat seconds Geophysic, and shaped like the company’s “JL” anchor logo.

Rather than call this Gyrotourbillon 4 (though that’s what it is), Jaeger-LeCoultre has named it simply the Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon – which emphasises the fact that, in keeping with the other Tribute models unveiled this year (covered in the last issue of QP), this is a dual face, dual time zone Reverso.

A single movement with two independent dials either side of it is a complex enough undertaking – but in a watch with a three-dimensional tourbillon, plus a day-night indicator, that takes up 30 per cent less space than its predecessor, it’s more than a little remarkable.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon
Diode SA - Denis Hayoun

Inevitably, the finishing is extravagant and very fine. On the one side an ordered, pristine Deco dial places the tourbillon at the heart of a sunburst guilloché, which has a considerable sheen in the metal. The day/night display pokes out at the 11 mark, while graduations around the tourbillon housing rotate past a small blue arrow to mark off the seconds.

Swivel the case, and you’re greeted with a complex swirl of skeletonised and engraved bridges, with a second time zone dial and a 24-hour day/night display at 2 o’clock, opposite that on the other side.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon
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The inside of the case is engraved with a sunburst of its own, with a smooth, polished centre circle to act as background to the tourbillon. True theatre for the wrist.

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