Building The Perfect Watch Collection With €25,000 — Lex Picks One Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Out Of Three
How do you start building? Well, one brick at a time. Therefore, I have limited myself to just one watch. A watch with a staggering €25,000 price tag, that is. You might think that picking just one watch is the easy way out of a complex conundrum, but you’d be wrong. Finding the perfect, solid foundation for a future watch collection is not a simple task. I had to go over a long list of brands and models, answering questions regarding timelessness, historical significance, et cetra, et cetera. It all boiled down to the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso collection and three watches in particular — the Tribute models with a chronograph, a calendar, and the Monoface Small Seconds in gold.
I ended up choosing the Reverso because both the watch and Jaeger-LeCoultre are Haute Horlogerie staples. The fact that the Reverso started life as a sports watch and evolved into an undisputed classic also cemented my decision to pick it as the foundation of this imaginary collection. And it’s also because I (still) don’t own a Reverso in the real world. Thinking and writing about the reversible watch again might help me to truly find the right one for me. I think it’s likely still the one that I mentioned while performing my Reverso experiment in 2021, the Eight Days ref. 3018420 with a digital power reserve indicator on the case back. But as the prime building block of my imaginary watch collection, I’ll opt for something brand-spanking new. I narrowed my choices down to these three watches — the Reverso Tribute Chronograph, Tribute Duoface Calendar, and Tribute Monoface Small Seconds.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph: an open-worked technical and aesthetic marvel
For me, one of the best watches of Watches and Wonders 2023 was the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph in steel (Q389848J). This 49.4 × 29.9 × 11.14mm Reverso is based on the principle of the golden rectangle. That is a rectangle that will maintain the same proportions after a square with sides equal to its shorter side is cut from it. The outcome is nothing short of divine. The same can be said about the heavenly sunray-brushed gray-blue dial. And there’s more. The baton hour markers, dauphine hands, and railroad minute track on the front dial are the hallmarks of the Reverso Tribute line and look elegant and confident.
Fun on the back
The horological merriment continues on the reverse where the chronograph takes center stage. Inside the 30m-water-resistant case beats the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 860, a fully integrated hand-wound chronograph movement that is visible thanks to the open-worked dial. It’s the successor of the 1996 caliber 829, the brand’s first shaped chronograph movement in a rectangular case. The new 4Hz movement has a power reserve of 52 hours, which is impressive considering the high energy requirement of a retrograde chronograph combined with two time displays. The measured time is shown by a large chronograph seconds display in the center and a retrograde 30-minute counter on an arc at 6 o’clock. But you can also still read the hours and minutes on the chronograph side of the watch. To achieve that, the movement powers two sets of hands that move in opposite directions.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph comes on a Fagliano Collection strap made of canvas and calfskin. It also includes an additional full-leather strap. Sadly enough, when this watch came out in the spring of this year, it carried a price of €24,200. Less than eight months later, the price tag now reads €27,300. Given the fact that I’m on a €25K budget, that price is a bit of a problem. But it’s not a problem I can’t fix. More about that later. There are two more Reverso candidates to inspect first.
The classic Reverso Tribute Duoface Calendar
Next up is the €18,200 Reverso Tribute Duoface Calendar in its steel 49.4 × 29.9 × 10.9mm steel case. This watch offers another time zone on its rear dial and adds a complete calendar on the front. All the aesthetic codes of the Tribute line are there. The deep blue sunray rear dial shows double hour markers surrounding the minute track and a redesigned, much more contemporary-looking Night/Day disc. In my opinion, however, the better-looking dial is the silver one that shows the date indications. It looks very classy and traditional. Providing a nice and subtle contrast is the sporty canvas/calfskin strap designed by Argentinian bootmaker Casa Fagliano. This strap is a nod to the Reverso’s history as a polo watch, but if you want to dress up, a blue full-leather strap comes as a second option free of charge.
The hand-wound, rectangular movement inside the Tribute Duoface Calendar is the JLC caliber 853, and it consists of 223 parts. You can’t see any of them, but the idea is still worth something.
The precious Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds
My last option is, just like the Tribute Chronograph, a 2023 novelty. I have three choices when it comes to picking my favorite Tribute Monoface Small Seconds in rose gold. All three have a price of €24,900, and the case measures 45.6 × 27.4 × 7.56mm, meaning it’s almost 1mm thinner than this watch’s predecessor. There’s the choice between versions with a black sunray dial, (Q713257J), a burgundy sunray dial, (Q713256J), and a silver sunray dial (Q7132521). The case proportions are divine, and the fit on the wrist is also out of this world. Yes, “a match made in heaven” might apply. But which color to pick? Well, let me delay answering that by first telling you that inside the case beats the manually wound Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 822. That’s a movement consisting of 108 components.
The most handsome one of the trio is the version with the burgundy dial. That’s also because both of the included Fagliano Collection straps create such a warm, sophisticated, and colorful watch composition. Is it enough to become the foundation of my imaginary collection? Well, it’s time to find out right now.
And the winner is…
The winner is the Tribute Reverso Chronograph! I know, I know, the price of the watch exceeds the €25K mark. But it didn’t when it was introduced earlier this year, and I am certain that I can persuade my local JLC dealer to sell it to me for exactly €25K. What gives me leverage is the global state of the luxury industry and the watch world in particular. It’s an undeniable fact that the watch market is slowing down — JLC’s mother company Richemont reported that its watch sales fell 11% in the three months leading up to September 30th — and selling a €25K watch will give the AD a very healthy and welcome profit. At this price point, the discount percentage is of lesser importance than the actual profit.
In the end, it’s all about the money in the bank. I’ve witnessed negotiations between a client and a retailer regarding a tourbillon watch in precious metal. In the end, the discount was around 40%. But it was all about the actual money being made, and that was still sufficient to let go of an upper-echelon watch that was probably pretty hard to sell anyway.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Chronograph is the one for me because of its sporty character, fantastic movement, and steel case. In the end, the Duoface Calendar is a bit too classic for my taste, and the gold one, although very pretty, is not enough watch for me. I prefer watchmaking skills and flair over a precious metal case.
Do you agree with my choice, or do you favor the Duoface Calendar or the Monoface Small Seconds in gold? Let me know in the comments. I will now go and take a look if I can find a nicely priced Eight Days ref. 3018420.