Four Faces Have I: Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 is the Most Complex Reverso Ever


Back in 2006, Jaeger-LeCoultre created the Reverso Hybris Mechanica a Triptyque, possessed of three faces and a multitude of built-in horological complications. The most complicated evolution yet of the Reverso, Jaeger-LeCoulte’s legendary and enduring two-faced timepiece born in 1931, it prompted many of us who cover the watch industry to wonder if the venerable Swiss watchmaker, or any watchmaker, could ever top it. Fifteen years later, in the 90th anniversary year of the original Reverso, Jaeger-LeCoultre has taken up the gauntlet and done just that. Here is the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 — aka “Quadriptyque” — the first Reverso model to boast not two, not three, but four functioning display faces and a staggering 11 complications.

The key to accomplishing this “grand oeuvre” of watchmaking, which was six years in the making, was the creation of the first double-faced case, outfitted with an all-new manufacture movement, Caliber 185, integrated with a double-faced cradle whose indications are also synchronized and updated by that movement. The case itself is in the classic Reverso style, a soft-edged, Art Deco-influenced rectangle, made of white gold, and measures a substantial but very wearable 51 mm by 31 mm. Its 11 complications include a perpetual calendar, minute repeater, flying tourbillon, grande date, and three lunar-cycle indications never before combined in a wristwatch: one each for the synodic, draconic, and anomalistic cycles. In all, Jaeger-LeCoultre has filed 12 patents for the mechanism.

The “front” face of the watch features traditional hour and minutes hands, a seconds display via the one-minute, flying tourbillon at 7 o’clock (“flying” means it’s not anchored by an upper bridge and thus appears to float in its aperture), and a host of perpetual calendar displays, including the day, month, leap year, day/night indication, and the grande date at 5 o’clock, which required a new system of date display disks so this display would fit across from the tourbillon cage at 7 o’clock. The calendar indications are instantaneous, changing at the stroke of midnight, and will remain correct, even during leap years, with no adjustments required due to irregular lengths of months.

Dominating the back side of the swiveling case are another time display, displaying the same time as the front dial but in an unconventional format with a jumping hour and peripheral minutes, and the exposed strikeworks of the watch’s minute repeater. Activated by a sliding lever just above the crown, the repeater chimes a series of low notes for the hour, an alternating couplet of high and low notes for the quarter-hour, and a melodious succession of high notes for the remaining minutes. Framed by plates with a clous de Paris guilloché motif, the chiming mechanism includes several signature technologies developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre over the years for its array of chiming watches, including the patented silent chime governor that eliminates buzzing between chimes; the crystal gongs that maximize the sapphire crystal’s acoustic potential; and the trebuchet hammers, which debuted on 2009’s Hybris Mechanica Duomètre à Grand Sonnerie piece, whicb deliver a stronger, clearer strike than traditional hammers.

The front-facing cradle of the watch hosts its world-first triple lunar ensemble — displays for the aforementioned synodic, draconic, and anomalistic cycles — which together allow the user to determine the timing of both solar and lunar eclipses as well as accurately predict lunar phenomena such as the so-called “supermoons.” The top half shows a Northern Hemisphere view of the moon’s phases, with a blue-lacquered, laser-engraved mobile moon disk that corresponds to the synodic cycle and requires no readjustment for 1,111 years. To the lower left is a 3D rose-gold sun orbited by a hemispherical moon, displaying the draconic cycle that reveals when the path of the moon intersects with the Earth’s orbit around the sun. These intersections occur twice within each cycle, causing solar and lunar eclipses. A minuscule, domed, micro-painted Earth in the lower right, orbited by a hemispherical moon, represents the anomalistic cycle showing the varying distances (from perigee, the closest distance, to apogee, the farthest) between Earth and moon; a “supermoon” results from the lunar body being in its full phase and at its perigee.

Finally, the exterior or rear face of the cradle is a stage for the rare Southern Hemisphere-oriented display of the moon’s phases. (Most watches use the Northern Hemisphere for their moon-phases’ perspective.) In keeping with the rest of the watch’s intricate detailing, this display uses an engraved, star-flecked sky chart in gradient shades of lacquered blue and a rose-gold moon disk. How does a single movement, even one as technically breathtaking as the manual-winding Caliber 185, operate four functional dial displays? The secret is a pin that extends out daily from the caliber, through the main case, at midnight, to activate a mechanical corrector set directly into the case cradle. The latter mechanism has no additional plates of its own, thus allowing the entire watch to maintain an impressive overall thinness of 15 mm.

Jaeger-LeCoultre touts the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Quadriptyque, which is mounted on a blue alligator strap, as “one of the most wearable high-complication watches of our time,” and enhances its user-friendliness by presenting it in a special box with a built-in mechanism that allows quick and intuitive setting of all the timepiece’s calendar and astronomical displays. The watch, as one might expect, is quite limited in production: just 10 pieces worldwide, priced at 1.35 million euros.

2 Responses to “Four Faces Have I: Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 is the Most Complex Reverso Ever”

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  1. Humberto Pacheco

    Kudos to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s marvellous timepiece. This is watchmaking at the very highest level. As a holder of many of Jaeger’s timepieces, I feel personal pride for this state of the art realization.

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  2. Goode

    Amazing and intriguing to say the least. The Reverso has my attention. Blessed will be the 10 owners

    Reply
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