Let’s be honest, we all spend too much time looking at watches. Day in, day out, it’s a constant onslaught of little round devices with three hands that tell us where we currently are in our rotation around Earth’s axis. It can get a little monotonous, and a bit of burnout is inevitable. But, every once in a while, a brand comes along with something new and fresh to shake you out of the haze and take notice. Something different enough to be interesting, but not so out-there that it becomes absurd. Reservoir is one of those brands, and we are going to take their Hydrosphere dive watch to sea and put it through the rigours of the depths.
Launched in France in 2015 by ex-banker François Moreau to offer a creative and accessible alternative to luxury watchmaking, all Reservoir watches take inspiration from instrument dials and gauges of the past, from race cars to airplanes, and all have one thing in common: the retrograde minute and jumping hour complications. For anyone unfamiliar with a retrograde complication, it simply means that the minute hand jumps back to zero after completing its minute count, rather than continuing around in a perpetual circle. This allows the 60-minute hand to take up less dial real estate and be expressed in more creative configurations than a continuous circle.
In Reservoir’s design, the minute hand counts up clockwise around a 240° radial until it gets to the 60-minute mark, where it magically and instantaneously jumps back to zero, and starts the process all over. At the same time the hour marker, an Arabic numeral on a disc, shown through a slightly magnified cyclops aperture at the 6 o’clock position, instantly jumps forward to the next hour. It’s a rather unique and interesting way to tell the time, and certainly uncommon in the watch world.
The watch we are diving with today is the Reservoir Hydrosphere, the brand’s dive watch offering. And not just any Hydrosphere, this is the bronze Greg Lecoeur edition, a collaboration with the award-winning underwater photographer. If you are unfamiliar with his amazing work, you can check it out here. Greg and Reservoir have teamed up to bring out a limited edition of the bronze Reservoir Hydrosphere, with a vibrant blue dial that evokes the colours of the sea. As a very cool bonus, purchasers of this limited edition of 50 watches were offered a half-day dive with Greg Lecoeur in the Port-Cros national park in France back in September. It’s nice to see brands and their ambassadors personally interacting with their customers in ways like this, and hopefully, other brands will take notice. That day surely created a lifelong memory tied to the watch, and isn’t that what watches like this are all about? Kudos to Reservoir and Greg Lecoeur for making that happen.
The Reservoir Hydrosphere On land
Like other watches in the Hydrosphere collection, this is a 45mm diameter, 15mm thick tool watch, meant to be used and abused. Within reason, of course. It is perfectly spherical in shape, keeping with the instrument theme, and made entirely of bronze (minus the caseback in stainless steel, as no one wants a patinated wrist). The dial has a lovely sunburst blue design, with a small Greg Lecoeur signature at 3 o’clock, a nice and subtle way to indicate the collaboration without throwing it in our faces. The dial also features fully lumed numerals every 10 minutes and indices every minute. The minute track is decorated with red, green and blue areas in 20-minute intervals, much like a fuel gauge might be to indicate varying levels of fullness.
The wristwatch version of a fuel gauge, the power reserve indicator, is a thin curved bar down at the 6 o’clock position with a white dot that moves along the same blue/green/red track to indicate roughly how much of the 37-hour power reserve you have remaining. There is also a small spinning disc around the centre of the dial that functions as a running indicator. Knowing that your watch is running becomes quite important when timing things underwater.
Speaking of the power reserve brings us below decks to the movement. The retrograde minute and jumping hour complications are made possible by a proprietary and patented 124-component module, created by Reservoir and assembled in Switzerland; it’s used in all of their watches. This module is powered by the ETA 2824-2 automatic movement, which is about as tried-and-true a movement as you can get these days.
On the wrist the Hydrosphere wears much smaller than its 45mm measurement would have you believe. It is not small by any measure, but probably wears a little more like a 42mm watch, thanks in no small part to the complete lack of lugs. The nice royal blue nato strap is held in place by a small buckle that is attached to the case with two screws. You can remove the screws and the buckles to directly screw in the included black rubber strap, but given the integrated nature of the strap system, you will be limited to the rubber or any 22mm nato strap. Luckily there are hundreds of different varieties of those out there.
The Reservoir Hydrosphere At Sea
Before we take the Hydrosphere in the water, let’s talk about its timing bezel. You might be thinking, “Hey, there’s no way that bezel can time correctly, what with the retrograde complication and all!” And you, sir or madame, would be correct. To address your most astute observation, Reservoir has implemented a clever little bezel trick. There are two separate timing tracks, coloured red and blue. If your dive is beginning before 45 minutes have elapsed in the hour of the day, you simply read the red track, but if your dive is beginning after 45 minutes have elapsed you switch over to reading from the blue side after the retrograde jump. If it sounds a little convoluted, it surely is, and it is honestly my only real complaint about the watch.
The bezel only has pips for timing up to 30 minutes, which is effectively useless in a modern diving scenario, where dives routinely go 45 minutes or longer. There is also only a numeral for “15” on either scale, red or blue. This means that you have to count forward or backwards from 15 to figure out where you are in the timing, and when you have to jump back and forth from red to blue scale and before and after the retrograde jump it can be a little confusing. If my quick Photoshop mockup is correct, there would be a way to make the bezel time up to a full hour, no matter where you start, by utilizing a dual scale and repurposing the bezel real estate that is currently being taken up with the word “Hydrosphere”.
I understand the design concerns, and the bezel looks very cool, but in a dive watch, I will always choose a little more clutter if it adds functionality. As it stands, the only way to truly time a dive with the Hydrosphere would be to start your dive right on the hour, or just set the watch back to the hour, losing the ability to tell time. Neither are very ideal options. You could certainly use the Hydrosphere to time decompression stops, or any other shorter underwater intervals, but as a full dive timer, it falls a little bit short.
Bezel woes aside, this is one serious chunk of kit. I wore it on the nato strap and it was perfectly comfortable and secure in the water. Both the nato and the rubber strap fit nicely on my small 16cm wrist, but also have enough extra that they would easily fit over a wetsuit. The scuba diving environment is where the Reservoir design language really sings. Between the boats that take us out into the deep blue yonder, and all the gear we don before submerging, scuba diving is silly with gauges and meters, and the Hydrosphere fits right in. Definitely don’t set it down in the engine room of an older boat or you will never find it again.
Underwater the watch looks fantastic, conjuring the feeling of a steampunk “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, or “The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo” if anyone remembers that old cartoon. If we are being honest, I think that is the underwater world that all divers, secretly or not-so-secretly, want to live in. The diving world of yore, a world of minimal equipment and maximum exploration and wonder. I daresay the Hydrosphere is the only modern dive watch that belongs in that world, and that is a high compliment. The bronze is a perfect fit with the old-timey maritime motif, looking like a matching set with a steam gauge or sextant or a marine chronometer, and the blue of the dial melds right into the colour of the sea.
With a few small tweaks to the bezel, the Hydrosphere would be on a very shortlist for my single, permanent diving watch. It would never replace a computer for 21st-century diving, but it has the exact right elements of whimsy, nostalgia and modern toolishness, in the exact right quantities to make it an absolute joy of an underwater companion.
Availability & Price
The Reservoir Hydrosphere Greg Lecoeur Limited Edition will be produced in 50 pieces. It is priced at EUR 4,850 and is still available for orders on the brand’s website here.