In spite of the yearly St. Moritz Polo World Cup on Snow, Polo is not the first thought jumping to your mind when you think of Switzerland. I guess you rather dream of chocolate, mountains and watches.
But one specific Swiss swatch is absolutely related to Polo. Bear with me I get to it in a minute.
The United Kingdom is famous for Polo and even some members of the royal family are engaging in this sport. Although Polo has been invented some hundred years ago in Persia from where it spread to Arabia and India it only arrived in the UK in the 19th century. This was the Victorian age and Victoria herself was not only the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland but also the Empress of India. For this reason Great Britain sent business men and military personnel to India. The military officers apparently took pleasure in this sport and brought it to Great Britain.
It also looks as if Polo was and is to this day quite an expensive sport since the rules require that each player has at least two horses in order to protect the animals from harm. I believe that this explains the following watch-story.
The British officers that were based in India were the reason for the invention of the watch model “Reverso” by Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Polo is a fast equestrian sport. Nevertheless, the British officers seemed to be quite relaxed about it since they apparently had enough of capacity to constantly watch the time while playing and could not take off their watches. Hence they frequently found the glass of their watches broken after the game and became tired of it.
So in the 1930ies the Swiss watch manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre developed the “self-protecting” model “Reverso”. The watch itself sits in a cradle and can be turned to either side. In “normal mode” you can check the time and in “protection mode” the glass is turned inward and you look at the steel bottom of the watch. I have seen models with enamel images on the bottom or just the owner’s name engraved.
What was invented for a practical – maybe a bit snobby – reason became the embodiment of ultimate elegance. Quite rightly so.
The following video clip explains the history of Jaeger-LeCoultre as well as some details on the Reverso.