Reservoir translates the measurement of sound into time with the Sonomaster Chronograph

This bi-retrograde watch inaugurates the watchmaker's first chronograph.

Sonomaster Chronograph (All photos: Swiss Watch Gallery)

First established in 2017, Reservoir’s timepieces have a unique feel because they are inspired by measuring instruments, taking aesthetic cues from counters, manometers as well as automobiles, aeronautics and marine gauges. The French-designed Swiss-made watch brand combines horological complications — the retrograde minute at 240° recalls the R.P.M. counters, the jumping hour is reminiscent of mileage metres, and the power reserve display looks like fuel gauges — to create high-performance timepieces that tell spirited stories. The recent Swiss Watch x Reservoir Novelties launch at Ultime Atelier & Boulangerie, Kuala Lumpur was the perfect setting to explore some of the newer releases as well as a few past pieces.

Taking us through this year’s novelties was business development director and partner Francois Nakkachdji. The key collection is the Sonomaster Chronograph, which applies the measuring of sound to the measuring of time. Taking inspiration from the volume unit (VU) meters of vintage audio amplifiers, this collection truly investigates the journey of sound and musical exploration.


Swiss Watch brand manager Louis Lai (left) and Francois Nakkachdji

The history of the VU meter is interesting. Recording and broadcast industries once used mechanical meters that could not keep up with the speed of sound and so were unable to accurately capture its specific level. Well-versed engineers with trained hearing were the only ones who could read these devices. It was only in 1940 that the VU meter emerged as a more precise method to measure electronic signals, from the strength of a radio broadcast signal and power output of an amplifier to the volume or loudness of the sound.

This invention was brought to life by numerous organisations in the US, such as the Institute of Radio Engineers, Bell Telephone Laboratories and broadcasters, NBC and CBS. In 1942 the VU meter was standard, found in almost every type of audio equipment. Today, it remains an iconic electromagnetic device that marks the pre-digital age.

On a VU meter, the slim needle that pivots the scale, drawn in an arc or straight line, lends a nostalgic or retro aesthetic. This action is similar to a retrograde hand in a watch, which swings back and forth rather than go a full circle. Naturally, as Reservoir’s signature feature is its retrograde hands, the aim with this new piece was to incorporate subdials in a unique way, staying away from the age-old cluster of round counters. The solution came from the Luxman M10 Mk II power amplifier, a vintage hi-fi system that sports two large cream VU meters with black needles.


Reservoir’s 2022 releases, the Sonomaster Chronograph and Kanister

To implement these dials, Reservoir simply turned them on their sides to be read vertically. Thus the Sonomaster Chronograph features what Reservoir calls a Bi-Retrograde display, which is two half-moon-shaped counters for the date and real-time seconds. Also like the hi-fi amplifier, these dials have an accented red segment for the “danger zone”, a feature common in VU meters to indicate the onset of distortion, overload or other issues.

While the black dial with cream bi-retrograde displays has a vintage aesthetic borrowed from its original inspiration, the other colourway — silver dial with black displays — has a sportier and modern feel. Other elements inspired by old audio amplifiers include the crown, which looks like a control button, and the push buttons that take after bass and treble buttons. Balancing out the dial, the central seconds and 30-minute counters sit at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock respectively. Beating within the 43mm 316L stainless steel case with a tachymeter bezel is the Calibre RSV-Bi120, boasting 60-hour power reserve, which can be viewed through the 360° open case-back. The Sonomaster Chronograph is complete with a black leather strap that has white stitching and a stainless steel butterfly folding clasp.

Guests also had the chance to take a closer look at Reservoir’s latest Kanister collection, inspired by the 356 Speedster’s RPM counter said to embody that sense of freedom from the 1950s. Past models on display include the limited ‘The Maldives Edition’ 2021, the GT Tour timepiece, the Tiefenmesser collection and the Hydrosphere, which takes aesthetic cues from scuba diving manometers.


This article first appeared on Aug 8, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.


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