We’ve selected two watches that are without a doubt icons in their own right. Both demonstrate the art of creating an iconic timepiece that is loved by many across decades even though it reflects the character of the era it was first introduced in. Both watches have also had a role in establishing Jaeger-LeCoultre and Rolex as brands that are known to create watches that become true classics.
From Jaeger-LeCoultre, we’ve selected the Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931 that was introduced in 2011 at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. This watch commemorates the 80th birthday of the Reverso collection. From Rolex, we’ve selected the Rolex GMT-Master II. Here, we’ll focus on what is known as the “modern” GMT-Master II, which was introduced in 2005.
Though these watches differ substantially in appearance, they are both easily recognized as icons.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931
The Reverso watch makes a classic statement and therefore can be worn as a dress watch. If you look back at its history, however, the watch was actually developed to solve a very practical problem. In the 1930s, polo players needed a solution for the broken and scratched crystals on their timepieces. Jaeger-LeCoultre came up with the idea of flipping the case on the wrist, thus protecting the watch and its fragile glass. As the watch was designed and introduced in 1931, it is a true representation of the Art Deco movement. At its peak in the 1920s and 30s, the Art Deco movement represented luxury, glamour, excess, and a firm belief in social and technological progress. It seems only logical that a luxury watch is one item that characterizes that period of time.
In 2011, the Reverso watch celebrated its 80th birthday, which inspired Jaeger-LeCoultre to look back at the original watch from 1931. The Grand Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931 uses the hand-wound Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 822. The watch is very close to the original, however, it is larger than the historic forefather. The steel case measures 46.8 mm in length, 27.4 mm in width, and an exceptionally thin 7.2 mm in height (hence “ultra thin” in the name). The 46.8-mm length might seem large, but keep in mind that a rectangular shape wears totally different than most circular watches, and the 7.2-mm height ensures it’s a very sleek and elegant watch.
The watch comes with a classy black dial featuring luminescent markers, the word “Reverso,” and hour and minute hands. The matte black alligator leather strap adds to the watch’s simple, elegant, and beautiful look. As stated, you can slide and flip the watch case, making the highly-polished backside a perfect place for a personalized engraved inscription. The brushed finish on the case back offers nice contrast to the high polish and has practical information engraved on it. Overall, the watch is a very stylish statement that could perfectly complement your business or formal attire.
Rolex GMT-Master II
If you’re an active sportsman or you just want a watch that’s a bit more practical for attire other than a formal suit, you may be better off choosing the Rolex GMT-Master II.
The original GMT-Master was developed in the early 1950s, an era when people started crossing multiple time zones in a short period of time. Legendary airline Pan Am asked Rolex whether it would be possible to develop a watch that would allow the wearer to check the time in the departing time zone as well as the destination time zone. This feature is especially practical for pilots. In 1954, Rolex introduced the GMT-Master as an answer to their request. Over the years, the watch became a true icon that was worn by many celebrities including Pablo Picasso, Che Guevara, Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I., and of course, James Bond.
In 2005, Rolex introduced the modern Rolex GMT-Master II in an all-gold version. This new GMT-Master II uses the in-house developed and manufactured Rolex calibre 3186, which has the same functions as previous GMT-Master movements. The GMT-Master has always featured the regular hour, minute, and second hand as well as an additional 24-hour hand to display a second time zone.
The design of the watch, however, has seen significant changes: an all-new “Maxi Dial” carries fatter markers and the new ceramic bezel has newly designed graduations. Other changes include a larger Triplock crown and a new bracelet with polished center links and Easylink extension. The polished center links have created quite the debate among watch purists. However, this hasn’t stopped Rolex from using them again on the steel version that was introduced in 2007, the gold and steel (or bicolor) version that came out in 2006, or the white gold version that was introduced in 2014.
Another aspect of the watch that has been the subject of much discussion is the ceramic bezel. It took Rolex eight years to introduce the first bicolored bezel in a blue and black configuration that is now known as the “Batman” version and has turned out to be hugely popular. A color configuration that has only been introduced on the white gold version of the watch is the legendary blue and red “Pepsi” bezel; a bezel that many would also like to see on the steel version of the watch. The colors of the bezel look different from the older GMT-Master models which have aluminum bezels. The blue color in particular is less bright and some suggest it has a purple hue.
Has any of this stopped the watch from becoming popular? Absolutely not. It has already made its premiere in a high profile movie: Brad Pitt can be seen wearing an all-gold version of the watch in Ocean’s Thirteen. It’s probably only the first of many appearances to come. As the new version of an old classic, the modern GMT-Master II brings the Rolex GMT-Master into a new era and is on its way to becoming a classic in its own right.
These two watches are suitable for very different activities and occasions. However, they do have one thing in common: both are iconic pieces. If you are looking for two watches with long histories full of remarkable stories, this pair could be the way to go.