Musings on Watch Faces / JLC Reverso Duo

Posted by Ed Hahn on November 04, 1998 at 13:57:15:

Bulletin Board Post Number: 149

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I’m writing this post about a month after purchasing and wearing regularly a JLC Reverso Duo (SS/Ostrich Strap), which is pretty much identical to the one reviewed by MJ. (In fact, the two images below are from that review – hope you don’t mind MJ!)

Above you can see the two faces on the Duo. Similarly to MJ’s experience, when I first saw this watch in ads and in real life, I was completely taken by the black face of this watch. The guilloche work, delicacy of the hands, polished hour markers, and 24 hour indicator were such that I just had to have the watch. And so, I’m a bit poorer now.

However, after a few weeks of wearing the watch to work every day, I have noticed that I almost never have the black face turned up. Even more strangely, I’m struggling to figure out why! (I’m ruling out bi-polar disorder for now…)

Aesthetic Reasons

I have to admit that the white face has really grown on me as time has gone on. When watch was new, I really didn’t look at the white face very often. But as time goes on, I have come to really appreciate the craftsmenship that has gone into making the crosshatched area inside the rectangle of numbers. Also, perhaps the most intriguing feature of the white face is the row of “dots” at the extreme perimeter of the face – this really has to be seen in real life.

Finally, the white face has a subtle softness to it. It literally looks like a soft but solid piece of silver with the finishing delicately sculpted onto it, rather than the thin piece of silver that it really is.

Don’t get me wrong; the black face is as gorgeous as ever. It’s just that the guilloche work on the black side is more formal, with what looks like sharper edges on all of the finishing elements. Nothing is crude about it, but it’s more like looking at the surface of an extremely well-finished file – no softness here!

I guess as part of aesthetics, we come to the fashion “accessorizing” end of things. Unlike MJ, I do have occassion to wear a dressy watch every day at work, as I’m usually wearing a white dress shirt and tie. However, I do not wear a suit on most days, and don’t wear a jacket around the office. The white face seems to go better with the business formal-but-not-too-formal environment here. On casual days, I’ll definitely wear it white face up, if I’m not wearing another watch altogether.

Backing this theory up is the fact that when I do have to meet with clients, and thus wear a suit, I tend to put the black face up.

Practical Arguments

These are pretty easy to tick off.

  • The black face is harder to read, especially indoors with several light sources causing glare off the slightly curved crystal. In contrast, the glare gets lost in the background on the white face. The blue steel hands are way easier to find against white, as contrasted with the silver hands on silver hour markers on the black.

  • The finish work on the white side is easier to appreciate under these lighting conditions. The black face finishing gets lost in the glare.
  • The black face has no minute markings (Engineer/nerd requirement #1)
  • The black face has no second hand (Engineer/nerd requirement #2, although it’s reassuring to see that everything is working properly through seeing the second hand run.)

Psychological Arguments

There is no doubt in my mind that the black face is extremely striking. So striking that one cannot help but be drawn to it before forming a definite opinion on whether one likes it.

This is not to say that familiarity has bred contempt in this case, but I think that since the novelty of the black face has worn off, I’m seeing the drawbacks that the black face has.

This argument was further crystalized (heh) today during a shopping expedition with a co-worker. He was looking for a watch with relatively conservative styling, similar to the Rolex Cellini. What he spent the most time looking at was a GP Richeville with a black face, large curvy arabic numbers, and curved-to-fit-the-wrist casing.

While this is a nice watch, it violated his one conscious requirement, which was that he should be able to read it without his glasses on. Fortunately (?) he did not actually purchase it, but instead looked at a Cartier Tank, some JLC Reversos (he likes mine) and Masters, and a Blancpain 2100 series with small seconds and a power reserve indicator. I think that he will now ultimately make a choice which he will feel comfortable with years from now.


I’ll make the bold suggestion that the above experience is not uncommon with people on this forum, and that often the novelty of a striking design will make us unconsciously miss some of the drawbacks that these design have.

I’m glad that the Reverso Duo has two faces; I’ve really grown to like the white face, and still like the black face. Fortunately, I can easily flip the case over at a whim, and change the personality of the watch instantly.