Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque: 11 Complications (Plus Flying Tourbillon) Are Impressive, But The Fact That It’s So Wearable Is The Real Magic
by Ian Skellern
The ultra-complicated Jaeger Le-Coultre Reverso Calibre 185 comfortably romped home with best watch at Watches & Wonders 2021 according to our team. And I’d be surprised if it won’t be a shoo-in for the top Aiguille d’ Or prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2021 in November.
On seeing the online launch presentation and photos at Watches & Wonders, I admit to being as impressed by Calibre 185 as everyone else. With its 12 patents, 11 complications, which include a few I’d never heard of (synodic, draconic, and anomalistic lunar cycles, anyone?), four display faces, flying tourbillon, and seamless minute repeater chimes, it’s impossible for anyone with even a passing interest in mechanical watchmaking not to be impressed.
But it wasn’t until recently when I had the opportunity to visit the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture in Le Sentier and handle the masterpiece for myself that I understood the sheer scale of JLC’s achievement and gazed in newfound awe. Even though I’d read the length, width, and height dimensions of Calibre 185 in the specifications, they were just numbers: it was much smaller and more wearable than I was expecting. Calibre 185 is by no means a small watch, but it is small for the sheer amount of complications it packs inside.
And not only more wearable than I was expecting, even with my small wrists it was very wearable full stop.
It’s one thing to make an ultra-complicated watch, but to make such a complicated watch in such a compact package is a complication by itself. At just a hair over 15 mm high, the Reverso Calibre 185 is ultra thin for such an ultra complication.
To put that height in comparison, the Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon Reference 6002 (admittedly with one more complication, but without the Reverso case and with “only” two faces rather than four), is more than two millimeters higher. It was 35 years ago under the legendary Günter Blümlein that Jaeger-LeCoultre transformed from basically a movement supplier to an haute horlogerie brand in its own right. And in those 35 years, JLC has focused on three pillars: precision, sound, and astronomy. Calibre 185 distills everything that the brand has learnt in those 35 years into one incredible four-faced watch.
It’s worth going through just how much of a complicated punch the Reverso Calibre 185 Quadriptyque packs into such a relatively compact package and why it merited the award of an impressive 12 patents.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque: complications and features
Face 1: perpetual calendar
The first face displays hours, minutes, seconds (with the flying tourbillon), and and instantaneous perpetual calendar. In a nice touch, the clous de Paris guilloche of the cut-away dial is also engraved on the visible main plate and bridges.
The perpetual calendar features linear day and date functions in windows (with wheels partially visible); patented big date at 5 o’clock (this required the development of a patented concentric big date mechanism to fit beside the flying tourbillon); day/night indicator in a small square at 11 o’clock; and leap year indicator (1-4) at 1 o’clock.
The wearer can also activate the minute repeater slide on the side of case without flipping the face.
With a flying tourbillon, perpetual calendar and minute repeater, this face alone would be an extremely complicated watch by itself. But there’s more. Much more.
Face 2: minute repeater
Face 2 features jumping hours and minutes on a disk indicated by an orbiting red arrowhead. These time indications are powered from the minute repeater mechanism.
The minute repeater has entirely gap-free chimes and an extremely silent regulator.
A minute repeater generally chimes the hours (1-12), the quarter hours (1, 2, or 3 for 15, 30, and 45 minutes) and then the minutes (up to 14 minutes) after the quarters. So at 11:59 (the time with maximum chimes) it will chime 11 hours, 3 quarters, and 14 minutes (14 after 3 quarters/45 minutes).
However, when there are fewer than 14 minutes after the quarters, there is usually a dead-air gap (the length of the gap depends on how few minutes have to chime) after the quarters. So if the time is 11:46 (one minute after the 3 quarters/45 minutes chime), we hear 11 hours, 3 quarters, a pause representing the missing 13 minutes, and then the one-minute chime.
Jaeger Le-Coultre has steadily reduced the length of this gap on previous minute repeaters, but Calibre 185 is the brand’s first watch that eliminates this gap completely.
The cut-away dial reveals the minute repeater spring, regulator, and rack mechanisms in operation.
The two articulated trebuchet hammers and shaped crystal gongs are visible at the bottom of the dial. The gongs, which have a square cross-sectional profile that maximizes contact and energy transmission between the hammers and gongs, are attached directly to the sapphire crystal to optimize sound transmission. I can confirm that the repeater sound is excellent.
And the repeater mechanism features safety functionality that minimizes the risk of damage if activated when the calendar is changing or the crown is pulled out.
And not to forget the minute repeater slide. Because it is on the same side of the case as the crown (the Reverso hinge is on the other side), there isn’t enough travel distance to fully charge the chiming mechanism spring. So JLC had to develop a short travel slide using high-ratio gearing to make up for the shorter distance traveled.
So far we have an innovate two-faced Reverso with perpetual calendar and minute repeater. But there’s still more.
Face 3 (inside case back)
At midnight, a pin extends out of the main case movement to actuate a pusher in the side of the case chassis. This pin advances the astronomical indications on the inside and outside of the case back.
At the top of the inside case back blue lacquer “dial” is a large, photorealistic, high-precision, laser-engraved Northern Hemisphere moon phase display. This is a high-precision moon phase display only requiring resetting by one day after 1,111 years.
At the bottom of the inside case back “dial” there are two more displays: draconic (left) and apogee/perigee (right).
The moon is not on the same plane as the earth and sun, orbiting at a slight angle to the plane of the earth around the sun. The draconic display with the sun in the center shows how many degrees the moon is above or below the plane of the earth’s orbit.
At zero degrees, the moon is on the same plane as the earth’s orbit, which means that there is a chance of a full solar eclipse (moon blocking the sun from earth or earth blocking the sun from the moon).
The apogee/perigee display shows the moon orbiting earth in an ellipse indicating how far the moon is from the earth (apogee = furthest; perigee = closest).
At the bottom of the dial is a digital display of the year.
And there’s still one more face to go.
Face 4 (outside case back)
On the outside of the star-studded blue lacquer case back is a Southern Hemisphere moon phase display.
And while that sums up the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185, we are not finished yet. Yes, there’s still more.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Calibre 185 display case
The “problem” with perpetual calendar watches is that if they are not continually wound and working, the date stops updating. Which means that if you want to wear it again with the indications correctly set you must reset the calendar mechanism, usually one push at a time. And if more than a few days out, this can be a real pain.
That’s why many owners of perpetual calendar watches keep them on automatic winders.
While the date of Calibre 185 can be reset with the case band pusher, it also has something much more sophisticated for its owner: the display case has a drawer to place the watch, which automatically quicksets and synchronizes the time and date (thereby setting all of the calendar and astronomical displays).
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque is a fitting watch to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Reverso.
But the ten fortunate collectors who manage to buy one have a bigger (and likely much more expensive) problem in store: the watch that Jaeger-LeCoultre releases for the Reverso’s 100th anniversary!
For more information, please visit www.press.jaeger-lecoultre.com/jaeger-lecoultre-unfolds-infinity-in-four-chapters-with-the-reverso-hybris-mechanica-calibre-185.
Quick Facts Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185
Case: 51.2 x 31 x 15.15 mm, white gold, 30-meter water resistance
Movement: manually wound Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 185 with one-minute flying tourbillon, 50-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Face 1: hours, minutes, seconds (on flying tourbillon), instantaneous perpetual calendar with day, date, month, leap year, day/night indication
Face 2: jumping digital hours, minutes, minute repeater (with system avoiding dead time)
Face 3: Northern Hemisphere moon phase, draconic lunar cycle, anomalistic lunar cycle (apogee and perigee), month, year
Face 4: Southern Hemisphere moon phase
Limitation: 10 pieces
Price: €1,350,000 (approx. $1,600,000)
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