To mark 90 years since the birth of the Reverso, Jaeger-LeCoultre will present a major exhibition tracing the history of this remarkable timepiece. Opening in Shanghai this summer, the Reverso Stories exhibition will travel to Paris later in the year.

Created in 1931, the Reverso is a design of rare longevity – a legend born from the challenge to create a wristwatch that could withstand the rough and tumble of the polo field. Ingenious in conception and perfect in execution, the Reverso quickly transcended its original purpose and was adopted by tastemakers from all walks of life. Deftly synthesising form and function with its unique reversible case and pure Art Deco lines, it has become one of the world’s most recognisable wristwatches.

The Reverso Stories exhibition explores the creative and cultural universe of this exceptional design through four themes, leading visitors on a journey through 90 years of timeless modernity.

A Timeless Story in Four Chapters

The journey begins with the Story of an Icon, retelling the tale of the Reverso’s origins through rarely seen archive materials and heritage documents from the Jaeger-LeCoultre collection, and a selection of milestone Reverso watches, from the first 1931 model to the latest Reverso Tribute piece. A specially commissioned film transports the viewer inside the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre, tracing each step in the creation of a Reverso through the words of the artisans and watchmakers themselves.

Story of Style & Design examines the Art Deco roots of the Reverso. Visitors will discover how, following the principles of Art Deco design, the distinctive rectangular form of the watch was dictated by the original concept – that the case should flip over. An artfully curated selection of timepieces for both men and women traces the stylistic changes through which, over the course of nine decades, the Reverso has gained the status of a design icon.

At the heart of the exhibition, visitors will encounter Spacetime, a new art installation specially commissioned by Jaeger-LeCoultre from the American artist Michael Murphy. Through this work, the artist explores the relationship between the three physical dimensions of space, and the fourth dimension of time. Murphy has become celebrated for his fusion of classical art-making techniques with digital processes, inventing an entirely new formula for rendering two-dimensional images as suspended, three-dimensional mobiles. Depending on the viewer’s line of sight, these anamorphic works may appear as a seemingly chaotic jumble of shapes or a highly organised form.

For those viewing Spacetime, its fascination lies in the subjective experience of moving around the work, observing its changing form as it coalesces from apparently random complexity into a vision of one of the world’s most recognisable timepieces. In this new work, Michael Murphy has captured the beauty and precision of time-keeping and time-making in an original and uniquely fascinating way.

Story of Innovation explores how the Reverso embodies Jaeger-LeCoultre’s eternally inventive quest for technical advancement. Beginning with the revolutionary idea of a case that could be flipped over, to the ingenious design by Rene-Alfred Chauvot, patented in 1931, the story traces the introduction of high-watchmaking complications, such as the first rectangular minute repeater, a unique retrograde chronograph and the Gyrotourbillon, the invention of the double-face and dual-time concept, and the use of new materials. It culminates with the extraordinary four-dial Reverso Quadryptique introduced this year.

As the exhibition’s finale, the Story of Craftsmanship celebrates the skills of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s enamellers, gem-setters, engravers and guillochage masters, revealing how they have unleashed the full potential of the Reverso as a canvas for artistic expression and personalised messages. From historic timepieces, such as those belonging to Amelia Earhart and General Douglas MacArthur, to modern-day High Jewellery and miniature-painted models, these pieces provide special insight into how the Reverso has itself been telling the stories of its owners, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

The Reverso Stories exhibition will be presented from 9th to 18th July 2021 at Modern Art Museum Shanghai, open daily from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm