Before the brand, there was an idea. Or, rather an object: the jerrycan.

Initiated during the 1930s, these handheld metal petrol tanks were invaluable tools in wartime logistics, ensuring jeeps were fueled, tanks topped up, airplanes ready to take off and fight. They remain synonymous with smart and robust industrial design, and are still used by the military today. For the watch company Reservoir, though, the jerrycan is an allegory: for any action, energy is essential.

After all, Reservoir means “fuel tank” in French.

So when the brand launched, it used the markings found on the sides of jerrycans as an emblem. It was a clear indication that Reservoir wasn’t afraid of doing things differently. Combining French savoir-faire with Swiss-made mechanical expertise, its debut timepiece concept proved uniquely imaginative yet endlessly adaptable. Dispensing with the usual three-hand approach to time-telling, this watch featured a retrograde minute hand, a jumping hour function, and a 37-hour power reserve, amounting to an ingenious reimagining of horological convention.

Tiefenmesser (Ref. RSV03.TM/330-23)

The Tiefenmesser in bronze pays homage to the underwater and diving realm, with Reservoir’s signature retrograde minute dial and jumping hour display.
The Tiefenmesser in bronze pays homage to the underwater and diving realm, with Reservoir’s signature retrograde minute dial and jumping hour display.
Combine a French flair for design with Swiss watchmaking internals and a unique display based on a customized module, and you get the ingredients for a successful watch brand.
Combine a French flair for design with Swiss watchmaking internals and a unique display based on a customized module, and you get the ingredients for a successful watch brand.

Technical Specifications

Movement

Retrograde minute, jumping hour, power reserve

Case

Bronze

Strap

Vintage brown leather strap, additional NATO strap

Price

US$4,350; Reservoir-Watch.com

Just a little over five years after entering the super-competitive luxury watch market, the upstart brand has managed to fix its identity and take off. Creative thinking is the norm at Reservoir. Rules simply do not apply. For Bruce Pask, Men’s Fashion Director, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, this unorthodox approach was a large part of the appeal in carrying Reservoir at his stores.

“Our specialty is fine vintage watches, so for us to bring in a new brand was a long and thoughtful process,” Pask says. “I advocated for [Reservoir] because I think it comes down to quality, plus this aspect of design that felt very singular. I love the reference points that relate to gear and instrument panels, and that they’re purpose-driven, not purely aesthetic, and that the design supported this purpose. I think referencing marine, aeronautics, and automotive details, done with complications that supported the styles, for us, was a great match.”

It’s within these three distinct categories that Reservoir defines itself further; a host of design elements allow that same basic jump-hour, retrograde concept watch to be adapted for different specialties and inspirations. An automotive-themed collection includes the GT Tour (sports cars), Longbridge and Supercharged (classic cars), and Battlefield (WWII all-terrain vehicles). The Tiefenmesser (submarines) and Hydrosphere (diving) pay homage to the underwater realm, while two Airfight watches (propeller and early jet planes) recall the skies. The diversity of products means Reservoir isn’t just for aero fans or battleship enthusiasts. It’s for anybody who appreciates beautiful, analog instrumentation.

Battlefield D-Day (Ref. RSV01.BF/230-62)

The Battlefield D-Day, with its military-styled design codes, celebrates the important day on Omaha Beach.
The Battlefield D-Day, with its military-styled design codes, celebrates the important day on Omaha Beach.

Technical Specifications

Movement

Retrograde minute, jumping hour, power reserve

Case

Stainless steel

Strap

Khaki leather strap, additional NATO strap

Price

US$3,980; Reservoir-Watch.com

To that end, Reservoir’s strength comes in the combination of these design elements with a proprietary module of complications, which makes the watches work exactly like a speedometer or a depth gauge. (The usual wristwatch layout—two hands working on a 360-degree basis—isn’t found in real-world cockpits or dashboards, save for the atypical altimeter). The jump-hour and retrograde minutes utilize an ETA 2824-2 movement, handmade in Switzerland, at La Chaux-de Fonds, in compliance with traditional craftsmanship to qualify for the “Swiss made” label. The patented, 124-component module, oscillating at 28,800 alt./h, is created exclusively for Reservoir.

The brand took care to do things right—hardly surprising when you consider the team responsible. The founder, François Moreau, is a 25-year veteran of international management in the banking industry. He established Reservoir to further his passion for watches and watchmaking. François Nakkachdji brought sales and distribution expertise, sharpened by decades of developing business in China, while François-Marie Neycensas added his knowledge of global marketing strategy and communication.

Pask, the Neiman and Bergdorf fashion director, remembers meeting the three François in Paris. He knew their backgrounds in the luxury industry would be relevant, but wanted to understand their viewpoint, to ensure the watches could stand up to customer scrutiny “at the intersection of design and fashion,” where Neiman and Bergdorf stake credibility. Suffice it to say, Pask left the meeting impressed.

Hydrosphere Blackfin (Ref. RSV03.HY/130/12)

For the launch of the Hydrosphere in 2019, the brand headed on a diving trip with the watch; the Hydrosphere Blackfin also comes with a rubber strap.
For the launch of the Hydrosphere in 2019, the brand headed on a diving trip with the watch; the Hydrosphere Blackfin also comes with a rubber strap.

Technical Specifications

Movement

Retrograde minute, jumping hour, power reserve

Case

Stainless steel

Strap

Stainless steel bracelet, additional rubber strap

Price

US$4,300; Reservoir-Watch.com

“We love that, as far as a watch brand goes, Reservoir is designed with such integrity. It’s certainly at the forefront of this brand, it’s really what sets it apart,” he says. “This integrity made perfect sense as a watch and accessory that had a very respectable history, with respectable people involved. A thoughtful approach to the design component, it just seemed like a great match for our luxury accessory customer.”

Starting with a solid foundation and a valuable understanding of the luxury trade, these three men were able to disrupt the category. In a few short years, Reservoir watches have even caught the eye of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève: the Longbridge British Racing was nominated in the Challenge category in 2018, and the Hydrosphere Blackfin was a contender in the Diver category last year. Like those hero racers and pilots always going higher, deeper, faster, Reservoir wants to continue pushing boundaries. But the team is happy to let its keen awareness of the past inform the brand’s future.

Longbridge British Racing (Ref. RSV01.LB/130-62s)

The Longbridge British Racing, in the namesake color, was previously nominated for a GPHG award in 2018.
The Longbridge British Racing, in the namesake color, was previously nominated for a GPHG award in 2018.

Technical Specifications

Movement

Retrograde minute, jumping hour, power reserve

Case

Stainless steel

Strap

Green calf leather strap, additional NATO strap

Price

US$3,980; Reservoir-Watch.com

“Of course, we love all the pioneers in watchmaking, such as Gerald Genta and its Fantasy collections, the iconic Rolex, the fabulous history of Zenith or IWC, etc. But we also love vintage cars and planes,” says François-Marie Neycensas. “Take Avions Voisin. They probably made the most remarkable cars in human history, really. Or the gorgeous Italian cars from the’ 50s—Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lancia—which are today more pure art pieces than just cars. Jaguar or Triumph also made fantastic cars, both in performance and designs. Look at a dashboard of an E-Type and you will see … I can’t have it in my garage, but I absolutely love the iconic Mustang P-51, the ‘Cadillac of the Sky.’ What a plane!”

GT Tour (Ref. RSV01.GT/131-12)

The GT Tour in steel, inspired by legendary car races.
The GT Tour in steel, inspired by legendary car races.

Technical Specifications

Movement

Retrograde minute, jumping hour, power reserve

Case

Stainless steel

Strap

Perforated black calf leather strap, additional NATO strap

Price

US$4,150; Reservoir-Watch.com

Neycensas says national identity plays into Reservoir’s products, too. He points to France’s long history of industrial, car, aeronautics, and space development, particularly brands like Avions Voisin and Farman, which innovated across automotive and aviation. Combine that with a strong fashion and design culture and you’ve got what Neycensas calls “the French touch!” He and the other two François plan to continue working hard, to make the brand resonate through its collections, to go beyond storytelling and into a feeling, and speak to the various and numerous inspirational worlds.

“Of course, we don’t know what the future will bring us,” Neycensas says, “but I am convinced genuine passion is the most powerful factor of success.”

Supercharged Sport (Ref. RSV01.SC/131-12)

The Supercharged Sport takes inspiration from vintage car dashboards.
The Supercharged Sport takes inspiration from vintage car dashboards.

Technical Specifications

Movement

Retrograde minute, jumping hour, power reserve

Case

Stainless steel

Strap

Black calf leather strap, addition NATO strap

Price

US$3,980; Reservoir-Watch.com