The Paris-based watchmaker’s instrument-inspired jump hour dials keep wearers staring at their wrists.
It’s not just measuring time that inspires Francois Moreau, the founder of Reservoir Watches. If he sees well-designed numerals, hands and markers on any type of instrument or gauge, he’s all in.
“I have one particular passion with vintage measuring instruments,” he explains. “I love cockpits, dashboards, pressure gauges and manometers and even submarine command rooms. These come with very strong design identities and codes as well as very diverse themes.”
Consider, or example, the wide variety of dial designs found on the dashboards of sports cars, motorbikes, boats and airplanes, he adds. “These designs also differed in various eras, including the industrial revolution, the Art Deco years and even in the 1970s.”
Just a few years ago Moreau drew deeply on this love of measurement design as he was developing Reservoir, the Paris-based maker of affordable, instrument-inspired jumping-hour watches he founded in 2015. A globetrotting businessman, Moreau was also a watch collector who was frustrated at the lack of what he considered innovative timepieces that were also affordable to a broad range of watch enthusiasts. He vowed to develop his own brand to meet these criteria.
The resulting company, Reservoir, has quickly developed a passionate following with like-minded collectors while also making a name for itself well beyond the usual realm of ‘affordable’ brands.
Just this year, Reservoir received accolades from its peers when the green-dialed Reservoir Longbridge British Racing watch (which can be seen on the cover of the Fall 2018 issue of International Watch) was named as among the watches competing for the coveted Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in the Challenge category of sporty, affordable watches. Not bad for a three-year-old watch company.
Moreau translated his love of instrument designs into five primary Reservoir watch collections, each linked to a broad category of historical timekeeping gauges.
The brand’s GT Tour was born to recall automotive racing and its performance-focused dashboards. More specific to the speedometers found on vintage racecars, the Supercharged and the new Monte Carlo/British-inspired Longbridge collections add a more streamlined look to its dials.
The Airfight range takes its inspiration from military aircraft, with its use of black, white and yellow. And finally, Tiefenmesser is about metal, pressure and precision. These watches feature dials that recall the piping, the riveted plates and the tubes seen on submarines.
All Reservoir dials sport the Reservoir logo, which is based on the look of military gas containers known as Jerri cans, first developed in Germany and adopted by troops worldwide.
Moreau feels his designs appeal to a broad selection of collectors.
“I have been surprised to see a remarkably well-balanced mix of collection demand. Indeed the models for which we initially believed it would be a strong success – such as the bronze or the carbon models – do work extremely well. But we are seeing surprising behaviors from consumers with our vintage sport car addicts and for those who enjoy jet aircraft. Our models are made to inspire passion, so it is quite hard to predict which will be a hit.”
But, given the solid sales of Reservoir watches at various retail locations and through the Reservoir website, Moreau has been able to discern a few patterns with his collector base.
“Actually we have several customer types. First, we have watch lovers who enjoy our complications, and second we see many collectors passionate about cars or planes who are not necessarily watch collectors,” he explains. “But these people really love the idea of wearing their dashboard on their wrist. We also see many watch first-timers looking for something radically different.”
Reservoir powers its full line of watches with automatic ETA movements tethered to a proprietary jump-hour module that displays the hours at 6 o’clock and the minutes 240-degree across the dial – like a gauge. The central retrograde minute hand jumps back each hour just as the digital hour flips ahead. A few models include a date indicator.
“When combined together, the result is I believe breathtaking,” says Moreau. Indeed, the unusual hand and digit activity on the dial of every Reservoir watch keeps wearers staring at their wrists.
“This is a radical way to read time, though it’s very easy to get used to it," he adds. “For instance, when you are very close to the hour jump, you tend to stop what you are doing and just wait for the hand to come back. Actually, you can’t see it as it is going to fast.”
Adjacent to this activity, toward the bottom of every Reservoir dial you’ll find a power reserve indicator made to echo the style of the particular collection. On the automotive-linked GT Tour, Longbridge, Airfight and Supercharged models, for example, the indicator utilizes quarter-fuel tank or half-fuel tank marks to indicate how much power remains in the mainspring. The colorful dots in the Tiefenmesser watches are purely mechanical odes to military indicators.
Reservoir works with well-known Swiss specialist Telos to attach the proprietary 124-part jump hour module to an ETA 2824-2 movement in order to power all this automotive-inspired design.
As we have noted previously, jump hour watches are typically found at the higher end of the watch price spectrum. And while a few moderately priced jump hour models can also be found at brands like Oris and Meistersinger, very few models add a retrograde minute hand. Reservoir adds this dramatic dial display to its entire collection. You can find this combination in much more expensive watches, notably on recent models from Bulgari, Chanel and Ulysse Nardin, but most are priced two and three times (or more) the asking price of any Reservoir watch.
Of course, Moreau did his research as he developed Reservoir.
“To my knowledge we are the first watch brand to offer these three high-end complications with a unique design fueled with really cool vintage designs starting below the $4,000 retail price.”