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After many sleepless nights of deliberation, it was time for a change. I sold my Lange 1815 to make room for something new in the collection. What would it be? After much hunting and poring over catalogs and visiting dealers, I decided on a Jaeger Le-Coultre Reverso Grande GMT (RGGMT from here on) in steel. The standard alligator strap wasn’t very flexible or comfortable for me, and left the watch sitting high, so I went for the bracelet model.

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That was in early 2009. Two and a bit years on, am I still in love?

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Let’s back up a little. There are three things that can happen to a watch after you’ve owned it for a while: either it grows on you, you like it as much as you did originally, or you grow bored of it and wonder what on earth possessed you to buy the damn thing in the first place. The 1815 was one of the former category. Living with it for six years just reaffirmed how much thought and refinement went into the design and execution of the watch. Would the RGGMT be the same?

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The RGGMT offers fantastic bang for the buck. Not only do you get an inhouse, shaped movement (the Cal. 878 with 276 parts), it has a useful complication – second timezone on a separate dial, settable by +/- pushers; it runs for eight days and displays remaining power reserve; day/night for the two timezones; subseconds; GMT offset of second timezone; and finally, a big date display. JLC also put them through their 1000 hour ‘Master Control’ timing and regulation test, which is evident in how well it keeps time. Oh, and it’s effectively two watches in one, because of the very different dials. What more could you ask for?

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Actually, a watch that shows both timezones on one face with a second hour hand is much easier to read. And one that puts the power reserve on the side which will be right side up when the crown faces your winding hand (the RGGMT shows it on the back dial, which means you have to wind the watch upside down or awkwardly with your left hand) would be nice. And generally I know whether it’s day or night, so those indicators aren’t generally that useful. I also found the second timezone quite useless when travelling to Nepal, which has a 5h 45 minute GMT offset (to be fair, though, almost all GMT watches would have this problem). There’s also the small matter of the case being made of steel so soft that all you have to do is merely look at it to induce a scratch. Oh, and the bracelet is made of the same material, too.

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With all that criticism, you’d think I regret my purchase. On the contrary; it’s actually a very satisfying watch to own – I just don’t use it the way the makers intended. Both of my dials show the same timezone. The silver guilloche dial, with its blue hands and field of stars on the night portion of the day/night display, is a beautifully classical, elegant watch. I wear it on the bracelet for formal occasions, or with a soft Nomos cordovan strap for everyday use. The rear dial is matte black with pilot-style markings and luminous hands and indices; I found a rubber strap with vertical grooves that echo those in the case, completely changing the look of the watch into something much sportier – in the way a Royal Oak is both refined and rugged, I suppose.

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There’s also the sense of occasion you get when strapping it on, because the Reverso is really a piece of watchmaking history. Like everything else – cars especially – it’s gotten fatter and more complicated, but ultimately the DNA remains intact, and that’s what’s important.

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What about the scratches? Well, I’ll go with the school of thought that says they are a mark of patina and character. (But I’ll still keep a Cape Cod handy for the times when it gets too much!)

MT

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The author/ photographer at work

  • SteKos

    Hi Ming.  Loved your review.  I was wondering if you could tell me where you got the leather and rubber straps for the watch, and what sizes you used?  I’m guessing from the pictures you are using a different deployment clasp?

    Thanks.

  • Paul

    I find that the day/night indicators are useful for watches that show the date, so that when they happen to run down, it’s easy to reset time to the proper am/pm time (instead of having to advance the time past 12 at least once). (All my automatics run for ~36 hrs, and run down whenever I’m on a 2+ day business trip, since I haven’t got any winders.)

  • Joe

    Great review Ming, could you tell us which Nomos Cordavan strap are you using?

  • Le-Chinois

    I had to sell mine and a Portuguese and then cash to buy my Grand Lange 1. Just the opposite. I do miss my Jaeger, had it for 2 yrs…

  • YC

    As beautiful as the Jaeger-LeCoutre is I find the service absolutely appalling, I received the Reverso as a Christmas present last December, during the purchase we were told that to get it engraved all we had to do was have it sent to Switzerland by the jeweller we purchased it from and for approx 480 euros JLC would engrave the watch. On January 19th 2013 I dropped the watch off, the jeweller sent it to Switzerland that same week, it is now 12 weeks later and I still have not had the watch returned. I have sent several emails, phone calls etc.. and have received no response, the jeweller has been told that the watch is possibly due back end of April. I find this atrocious.

  • Cyrille

    I bought this watch few years ago, changed to the same rubber strap with tyre grooves – that also fits quite well the white dial. I use the black dial for business trips abroad, keeping the silver dial for home. The good thing with reverse is you can engrave the front side of the case – disclosing it while flipping the dials. I did engrave a GMT world time wheel to help selecting the GMT zone on the black dial. Will never change it, but bought a strong diver watch for sports and holidays.