Jaeger-LeCoultre 1994: Reverso Minute Repeater

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Next Reverso in line from the Pink Gold Limited Edition series of Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso with complications is the Reverso Minute Repeater that was released in 1994.

We all know that the Minute Repeater is the King of complications.

Why? Because it is a complication appreciated not only by our eyes but by our ears as well…? Or is it just because it is much more technical challenging compared to other complications?

I think it’s both but I also wish to believe it is due to romance & nostalgia!

I find the minute repeater complication very romantic close your eyes and listen to your watch playing what time it is for you…

Nostalgic, at least for me – reminds me of my childhood, sitting in the kitchen hearing the full hour tone from the floor clock (Swedish Moraklocka)…

The technical challenge of the minute repeater is indisputable – to make a a watch “talk” is not easily… Just to make sound is one thing, to make a good sound is another…

The tone of the chimes needs to be well balanced, not too high, not too low… And they need to be different enough to be able to hear the difference between hours, quarters and minutes…

AND, you need the volume! The minute repeater needs be loud enough to be heard without amplifier or you putting the watch to your ear.

This last challenge is one of the reasons the Reverso Minute Repeater is so interesting and impressive!

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1994: Reverso Minute Repeater

The Grande Taille case is not a very big sound box – it’s even smaller than it looks as the sound box here is only the reversible part of the case!

If we look back to the pocket watch era, the volume of pocket watch minute repeaters are often much louder than the wrist watch minute repeaters on the market today. Why? Simplified – larger sound box, larger sound.

During the last decade, minute repeaters have in general become larger in size, both in diameter and in thickness, almost as large as old pocket watches. I suspect the volume is one of the reasons for this trend.

So looking at this Reverso minute repeater, even if the sound is not as loud as many others, I find the volume really impressive!

Another trend seen, is to use other materials which helps the sound, different alloys, even cases, hammers and gongs made of crystal…

Again, impressed – as the Reverso use traditional materials.

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1994: Reverso Minute Repeater

But minute repeaters do not just make sounds, they make “no-sounds” as well. The pauses between the chimes are as important as the tone and volume of the chime.

Imagine the presenter on a stage, before the big finale, they always make a pause before the announcement – a too short or a too long pause may ruin the whole show… So the pace between the chimes must be perfectly timed… Same as between the acts – the transmission between the hours and the quarters, from quarters to minutes…

This shot shows how small the Reverso sound box really is. Approx. 30.5 x 26.0 x 8.0 mm – rectangular!

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1994: Reverso Minute Repeater

Round movements often allows much longer gongs which helps the sound…

In the rectangular Calibre 943 there is not much room.

This scan from the 1994 Jaeger-LeCoultre catalogue you can clearly see the hammers and gongs – another thing that blows my mind is that Jaeger-LeCoultre made 500(!) of these.

Yes, I know – Limited Editions you want as low number as possible to make it exclusive, but if we put aside the rarity part – how many “man hours” or actually “man years” must it have taken to make 500 pieces like this?

Then you realise that it can not have been only a couple of watchmakers who made all 500 pieces, it must have been an entire workshop of watchmakers!

Today, minute repeaters are often released in very small numbers – not only to keep the rarity but due to resources. Most brands do not have that many watchmakers skilled to be able to do the Grand Complications…

1994 Jaeger-LeCoultre catalogue – Calibre 943

In below shot you seen the lever on the side of the case which activates the minute repeater.

I love this detail. So very discrete, easy to operate and most importantly – while activating the minute repeater there is no loud mechanical sound!

Some repeaters, when activating the mechanism – you can really hear the parts moving… “scratch, clunk”… Almost like a cartoon when Goofy starts his car!

To me, that kills the sound experience. To fully appreciate the sound of a good minute repeater is very much like enjoying a good wine. It all depends very much on what you eat before and after tasting the wine…

Or in this case – what you hear before, during and after pushing the lever!

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1994: Reverso Minute Repeater

On the wrist… I think words are unnecessary here… This photo speaks for itself:

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1994: Reverso Minute Repeater – on the wrist

But can I say that taking this watch off my wrist was not easy done…

A huge thank you to the Jaeger-LeCoultre Heritage Gallery for letting me listen to this masterpiece!

If you missed the T.W.O first parts of this series, you find them here:
1991: Reverso 60th Anniversary “60ème”
1993: Reverso Tourbillon

Stay tuned for the next Reverso inline of these Limited Edition Reverso with complications.