Sealing The Deal: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss & Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Nonantieme
World of Watches’ Ashok Soman picks his favourite timepieces — the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss and Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso.
To get right into it, as promised in the introduction, I am indeed doing two different sorts of selections here. I knew that there was a chance that the editor of WOW Thailand, Ruckdee, and I would be writing about watches we actually bought, and this presented problems and opportunities. The problem is of course that my pride and joy this year is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss, and you may not believe much that I have to say about how I bought it. As for the opportunity, well, that lies in the possibility that you will gain something from my story. I will present this as an opinion piece, before moving on to my second piece, which is not a watch I purchased but is instead very much part of a series that I have been drawn to for more than a decade.
You may have read recent statements from Rolex about the current market situation, and we are certain that anyone interested in buying a Rolex would have been. Actually, it still applies so all tenses should be present — see HODINKEE and WatchPro for the original news and subsequent follow-up. Here at Luxuo and WOW, we were conflicted about this, primarily because we had just done an extensive series on Rolex watches available at prominent retailer and authorised Rolex dealer The Hour Glass. While that was all sponsored, it felt strange to be promoting watches that might be unavailable. I had a purely personal solution though, which I was holding in reserve. To put it simply, I planned on buying one of the models listed in the stories, from the same retailer in Singapore.
As you might have guessed, some disclosures are required in a story like this one. Before I get into the watch I bought, it is important to note that no special privileges were used. The Hour Glass staff certainly know me, and Rolex was also aware that I was in the market for a specific watch. Beyond this, everything proceeded as it would in the normal course of buying anything. I did make enquiries at other authorised Rolex dealers about the same watch, but only The Hour Glass responded, which was serendipitous. So, for those of you who complain that retailers do not pay attention to you, there might be something to it.
This brings me to another disclosure, or rather a note. My experience is just that. My experience. It is entirely anecdotal and does not speak to market realities as a data-driven experiment with rigorous parameters would. I offer my story as a counterpoint to the many accounts of people waiting a year, and maybe longer, for otherwise standard Rolex watches (that means everything other than certain more complicated models). Indeed, some of you are still waiting.
And now, a relevant point that relates to special privileges and the actual watch in question. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss has been on my hit list for some time now — more than 10 years in fact. My watch is the reference 116400GV, for those of you who think in terms of such numbers. This version, with Z-Blue dial and green sapphire crystal, speaks to various needs in my own collection. Those of you following my Conversation series with WOW Thailand editor Ruckdee Chotjinda might remember that I do not have a watch with a blue dial. This remains a bit of a shocker to everyone who learns this fact. It is almost scandalous in fact, if I do say so myself. Just to be a little irreverent here, this Milgauss is all the green I need in a watch, although my second run at selecting watches for this feature might make a liar of me.
Back on point, it took some three months from the moment I registered my interest to the point it actually became available. This does not seem egregious at all, and I was pleasantly surprised. I did not have to buy any other watch, much less watches, to get my Milgauss. Neither I nor The Hour Glass suggested anything of the sort. While the Milgauss is not the hot ticket that a Submariner or Sea Dweller is, it still retails for above list price pre-owned. This is true even in Singapore, as you can discover for yourself. You will understand why I am quite pleased with myself then for actually getting this watch at an authorised dealer for the retail price.
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Opinions will be divided here, but bragging rights are important with some watches, vulgar as it may be. I am typically against this sort of thing, but I will allow that it is par for the course for professional or sports Rolex watches. A watch such as the Milgauss is as much for the wearer as it is for the observer, in other words. The fact that I have one while others might struggle financial means aside — is very much a feature of this watch, although on this point the Milgauss is certainly not in the same league as some other models.
I will end this with a note about this specific Milgauss. It is one of only a few current Oyster Perpetual watches that has not received a movement upgrade — you need only look to its power reserve of 48 hours to realise this. The signature claim of the Milgauss is its ability to resist the deleterious effects of electromagnetic fields, but current generation Rolex movements can do this job even better. While the new watch will likely be very impressive indeed, reference 116400GV is the one I wanted, and the launch of the Oyster Perpetual Explorer this year gave me pause. It is possible that the Milgauss will be much changed in its new form, and the current version will of course no longer be available. That last point sums up my decision to pull the trigger on this watch.
Jaeger-Lecoultre Reverso Nonantieme
For my second timepiece here, I will leave the area of showy practicality and head into the realm of elegant secrecy. If I spend a little less time here than with the Milgauss, that is because I have not bought this next watch. It remains on my list though, and some version of it has graced almost every version of this sort of list that I have written in the last 15 years. The trouble with selecting watches to celebrate 2021 is the awful reality of our present moment. You might feel this most keenly if you enjoy Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille and Hublot timepieces. The solution is something that sends a message of refined restraint yet holds in reserve another aspect just for you. Of course, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is the watch of choice in this area.
Though I have selected the Reverso Nonantieme for this story, any Reverso Duoface works if you like the idea of a party in the back, as they say. As the world’s best designed reversible watch — no series-produced watch offers any competition — the Reverso is a unique proposition that allows Jaeger-LeCoultre to experiment with presentations of time as well as watchmaking decorative arts. While the Duoface feature certainly allows the Reverso to at least showcase time in multiple locations, this is not the charming bit. What I am after here instead is an opportunity for poetry, which the Le Sentier manufacture has been systematically leaning into since at least the 80th anniversary of the Reverso. For the curious, the manufacture tells us that complications only began appearing in the Reverso in the 1990s, after its 60th anniversary.
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The Reverso is, as we have written before in issue #55, the world’s first true sports watch, designed as it was for polo players in 1931. As such it remained purely functional for decades, but we like to think that the manufacture understood the possibilities here, including resurrecting an aspect of the pocket watch. Like the pocket watches of old, the Reverso has a practical side, but also offers hidden delights for the owner. This might be a miniature painting or an engraving, but might also just be an exhibition caseback. The beauty here is that one does not need to take the watch off to enjoy these additional facets to the watch. In 2021, with travel out of the question for most of us, I found that
it is useful to keep track of time in at least one other location, as a reminder of the Before Times. The Nonantieme, and really any Reverso Duoface, allows one to do just that. It is comforting to know that life goes on elsewhere too, and that even if you cannot visit, you can still be connected in a physical and visceral way.
This year is of course the 90th anniversary so that calls for a special twist, which the Nonantieme delivers. Nonantieme means ninetieth in French, which is a nice touch from JaegerLeCoultre, and the watch offers a first for the Reverso collection: the semi-jumping hour on the flipside of the case. The standard face of the watch — what Jaeger-LeCoultre calls the front of the watch — features a standard display of time, with the addition of a double-window date and moonphase. Nothing especially unusual there. On the other side, the display of time is arranged in a figure of eight shape, with the hours up top and minutes below. Hours and minutes are separated by a day/night indicator and a three-quarter plate hand-lacquered in blue. This entire arrangement, including the work of the Atelier des Métiers Rares at Jaeger-LeCoultre, is both poetry and good horological fun. By fun here, I mean the sort of party trick you only do for watch collectors, at a gathering for watch collectors. At any other time, it is like telling a joke from Swann’s Way — in any company.
On a serious note that always emerges from any reference to the Remembrance of Things Past, the digital face of the Nonantieme will serve you well as a reminder of any place you desire. It will do this quietly and reliably — unlike any other dual time watch, you need never show it to everyone. In our current age, discretion is more valuable than ever. You may have some concerns about the semi-jumping hours, but if you only need the watch to keep time in the background, it is not a deal-breaker. Indeed it might be a rather attractive quirk.
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