WatchTime India spoke to founder François Moreau about what sets Reservoir apart

Inspired by measuring instruments and mechanical counters, the single-hand Reservoir watches, became available in India in 2022. In 2023, the brand strengthened its presence in the country in with the release of the Popeye watches, and a special India edition.
That the world of automobiles, aircrafts, and marine activities are inextricably linked to watchmaking is a common fact. The need for innovation and precision timing in racing, flying, and diving has ensured that watchmakers are always stretching the limits of timekeeping. But Reservoir watches’ approach to these genres is different, more design led. Inspired by dashboards of cars, manometers, gauges and other measuring instruments, Reservoir watches are characterised by one-hand timekeeping, along with a jumping hours, and feature design elements on the dial taken from measuring instruments -- think retrograde minutes that are reminiscent of RPM counters, jumping hours that reminds one of mileage metres, and power reserve displays akin to fuel gauges.

Watchmaking at Reservoir

Based out of Paris, the brand is the brainchild of François Moreau, whose obsession with dashboards of cars goes back to when he was a child. Launched in 2017, Reservoir already has a very rich lineup of offerings. Divided into ‘Car’ with four sub collections, ‘Marine’ with two sub collections, and ‘Aeronautic’, the brand has also created collaborative pieces that include this year’s limited-to-200 LabelNoir x Popeye watch, and 2021 Blake and Mortimer watch with Dargaud, publisher of the Belgian comic book series of the same name.

The Sonomaster Chronograph Black Thunder, inspired by VU meters

In 2022, the brand’s novelties included the bi-retrograde Sonomaster Chronograph, deeply inspired by the Vu metres from analogue stereo amplifiers; the single-hand Hydrosphere Cenote, which takes after diving manometers and with a unidirectional ceramic rotating bezel with double graduation for reading dive-stop times; and the Kanister Silver, which reminds one of the counter of the Porsche 356 Speedster automobile. 2022 was also the year that Reservoir’s titanium and black-and-pastel-green Kanister won the Red Dot Product Design Award. This year, Reservoir’s repertoire increased to include the Popeye Cricket watch that aimed to capitalise on the cricket fever in the country (read more about it here)

The name Reservoir in French means ‘fuel tank’, and for those who know that connection, instinctively reminds one of a car or plane. The logo is the front of a jerry can (imagine frameS on the side and you’ll see it). Moreau registered it after he found it on the wingdings font.

François Moreau

While being Swiss made, Moreau is clear to explain that the brand has “one foot is in Paris for design and creation, and one in La Chaux-de-Fond for watchmaking, production and operation.” We sat down with Moreau to learn more about the brand.

WatchTime India: The inspiration for Reservoir comes from measuring instruments, speed, and thrilling activities. How did this idea come about?
François Moreau: It comes from two passions. I had been a banker with HSBC for 24 years, and around the age of 30 (I’m 56 now), I started falling in love with watches. Travelling, meeting expats, I started getting interested in watches. I would often spend time looking at showcases in stores, and noticed that prices increased year on year. A started noticing this even before the early 2000s.

My second passion is measuring instruments. I love dashboards – have since I was a boy. When I see a very nice car, I think about what the dashboard is like. They are very beautiful objects – the depth gauge of a submarine is big, with one hand, and it gives you one information. You don’t have to decode it – it’s simple. There there is also the aspect of the adventures behind them. If I go into a Spitfire, I feel the courage of the fighters. Or if I go into the plane that flew faster than the speed of sound, flown by Chuck Yaeger in 1947, the courage to go higher, deeper, faster, really fascinates me.

Add to this the fact that I love the retrograde complication, - it’s a different way of reading time. Three hands at some point becomes boring to me. One day I was driving and was at a red light, and as I revved my car, I saw the retrograde. And I knew I wanted to do watches that had exactly that way of reading. On hand retrograde, a jumping hour, and like the gauges, with a power reserve at the bottom. That very same day I drew five collections, of which four became our first four collections.

At the end of my career with HSBC, I wanted to take my future in my hands. I am quite energetic, ad felt the best way to do this would be to create my own company. And then I thought of watches.

The Kanister Silve

WTI: Reservoir is only six years old but there are a lot of models on offer with a lot of pieces. Can  you elaborate on the manufacturing and the collections?
FM: The design is mine, which is then translated by my in-house design team. We start with the characteristics of, say, a Mustang dashboard, and decide what goes where – font, metal etc. Then we go into prototyping. We already have six-seven collections prototyped.

On the production side, we have partnered with Telos, who do our movements. We use a market movement, and developed the module of complication. They design, we prototype, and then we produced. We used the ETA 2824, and it still is a base movement for us, but we are moving away in progressive, smooth way to La Joux-Perret G100 – it has 68 hours power andbetter accuracy. And then the module on top is ours.

The rest is made by vendors, who are in Italy, France, Portugal, and more. For dials, are vendors are  in France, Switzerland, China, and Thailand. Basically, we get components from wherever the best guys are. Then everything is sent for assemply in Switzerland.

WTI: How many units to you produce each year?
FM: We do not say how many units in a year because the numbers are changing all the time.

WTI: Keeping the price point to below Euros 4000 was important to you...
FM: I wanted to make to keep the watches affordable. It was very challenging because what we make is a very high-end, and we wanted to sell thousands. So, you need to have the know-how of how to develop and conceptualise the module and then at that price you need to know how to make larger series.

How have you curated the collections?
In my brain, it is not divided. But then with my marketing director, we decided we needed to put a bit of marketing structure. We have several approaches – car, aeronautics, marine, and the rest. Then we have another way – racing, exploring, driving. We have bestsellers in almost all collections. The most iconic is probably GT Tour. It’s a steel watch with leather straps and an orange hand, and it encapsulates the spirit of Reservoir. The spirit of the dashboard.

What do people not know about Reservoir?
The jump of the retrograde minutes, which when people see, they go “wow”. That gets them curious about what’s inside. I was at WatchTime’s New York show, where I met a lot of people. And every time, I did the same thing – I’ll show them the watch and then the jump, and they say, oh looks like my Porsche. Then they ask me what is inside, and then I tell them it is ETA or LJP, and show the module. Then they think it must be expensive. But it’s Euros 4000K.

The watches are heavy on design. What do you consider good design?
Design is the reaction or pleasure it procures. I was at a gala dinner, where someone came to me and said that their 17-year-old son had told them that they needed to have the watch to match their Porsche 356 – the guy bought the watch from us. He dreams about the dashboard on his wrist. Good design is when it just talks to people.

Who is your ideal customer?
We have three customer types. First, watch lovers who love complications and nice design. Second is car or plane addicts, who love the idea of racing, love dashboards. A watch that works like the 911. The third are Gen X, younger ppl coming into watches. At WatchTime, I saw how many young people were interested in watches. They are super curious and very knowledgeable.

What are you doing to make your presence in India stronger?
By March 2023 you will see a stronger presence in India. We don’t want t be in 50 stores like we are in many of the markets. Here, if we are in 10 points of sale, we will do a great job. We want to be with the appropriate partners.

Reservoir x LabelNoir x Popeye

Do you collect watches?
Now I collect only Reservoir! [laughs]. I wear prototypes a lot, and I did wear the MoonSwatch for a bit. But now I am bemused with the two hands. You get very quickly used to this way of reading time that’s on Reservoir. But my first watch was a Seiko chronograph, and then I had a Rolex Explorer II. I also love Zenith – the El Primero is a great movement, so I have a quite a lot of those. Another favourite is Jaeger-LeCoultre, not just the Reverso but the Master Control Geographic as well. I keep a balance on watches.

What have been your biggest challenges?
The biggest is raising awareness. If I was Richemont or LVMH, this is easy. If you are a young company, you need to be smart, you can’t just invest a lot. But it’s a fun and exciting challenge. The other challenge is production. You need to plan properly, and match growth with capacity.

This story first appeared in WatchTime India’s Jan-March 2023 issue, and has since been updated to include the latest developments.


Launched in 2012, WatchTime India is the result of a collaboration between America's most-read watch magazine, WatchTime and, India's leading media house, Malayala Manorama. With an aim to popularise and celebrate the evolving watch culture of the country, the publication is your one-stop destination for everything related to fine luxury watches. From the latest tests to reviews, to exclusive features on the history and horological heritage of some of the most spectacular watch brands of the world, the WatchTime India portal has a lot to offer. Stay tuned for an exciting journey, through the fascinating world of watches!

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