As its latest new release for 2023, Reservoir has added a new collection of pilot watches to its lineup. Building upon the brand’s signature single-handed retrograde minutes layout with a jumping hours display, the new Reservoir Black Sparrow collection offers a vintage aviation-inspired aesthetic and pays tribute to Eugène Bullard, the first African American fighter pilot. While in Geneva last month, I got a chance to preview the new Reservoir Black Sparrow collection while meeting with the brand at Time to Watches 2023, and while new models offer much of the same core aesthetic that is typically associated with traditional pilot watches, they also maintain the distinct design language that defines the brand’s contemporary collection.
As an African American born in Georgia, USA in 1895, Eugène James Bullard ran away from home as a child in the hopes of escaping the racism that was prevalent in America. After initially moving to Great Britain in 1906, Bullard ultimately made his way to France, and on October 19, 1914, he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion to participate in the First World War at the young age of 19. After being wounded in the Battle of Verdun in March 1916 and being declared unfit for infantry operations, Bullard joined the French Air Force in October 1916, where he first worked as an artilleryman before becoming a pilot.
Earning the nickname “The Black Sparrow of Death,” Eugène Bullard participated in approximately twenty aerial combat missions during WWI, during which he shot down at least two enemy aircraft, writing his name in the history books alongside Turkish aviator Ahmet Ali Çelikten, as one of the first two African American fighter pilots in history. In recognition of his accomplishments and service, French President Charles de Gaulle described Bullard as a “true French hero” and made him a knight of the French Legion of Honour, which is the nation’s highest decoration.
Available in either brushed stainless steel or with a black PVD finish, the cases of the new Reservoir Black Sparrow watches measure 42mm in diameter, and it features a unique design with four bolts placed at the corners, which are intended to recall the appearance of cockpit-mounted flight instruments. However, rather than featuring a square profile like most watches that pursue a similar design ethos, the Reservoir Black Sparrow’s case is still circular in its overall form, and the bolts are instead placed at the base of the lugs to create an unmistakable visual parallel, while still feeling like a wristwatch.
Fitted to the top of the case is an anti-reflective sapphire crystal surrounded by a thin coin-edge bezel, while the screw-on caseback is fitted with a sapphire display window that offers a view of the internal movement. While the pre-production samples I saw in Geneva were fitted with standard clear casebacks, the press photos show the new models with a wing and propeller emblem printed on their underside surfaces, so you can likely expect this detail to be on the watches that will be sold to the public. Just as you would expect from a timepiece with classic pilot’s watch vibes, the Reservoir Black Sparrow series features a large onion-shaped winding crown at the 3 o’clock location that offers access to the movement, while water resistance comes in at 50 meters to offer protection against all forms of daily incidental contact.
The dials fitted to the new Black Sparrow collection are available in either black or a warm sandy-cream color, and they feature Reservoir’s signature layout of a single centrally-mounted minutes hand paired with an aperture at the 6 o’clock location for the jumping hours display. Both dial variants feature a large cathedral-style minutes hand that displays the time against Art Nouveau-inspired numerals that are finished with tan-colored Super-LumiNova. On the black dial, small red highlights offer a subtle accent of color, while these same markings appear in golden brown on the sand-colored dial for a properly vintage-leaning overall appearance.
Powering the new Reservoir Black Sparrow pilot’s watches is the brand’s Caliber RSV-240 automatic movement. Based upon the La Joux-Perret G100, the Reservoir Cal. RSV-240 is a Swiss-made movement that runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz), while offering a power reserve of approximately 56 hours. With that in mind, since the standard LJP G100 is a traditional three-handed movement, the Reservoir RSV-240 features an additional 113-component proprietary module in order to provide it with its jumping hour and retrograde minute display. Completed by a rotor adorned with Geneva stripes, the finishing on the Cal. RSV-240 is hardly a point of discussion, although it is still a nice-looking movement and it sits visible through the Black Sparrow’s sapphire display caseback.
The brushed stainless steel case version of the Reservoir Black Sparrow is available with either a black dial and matching black leather strap as the ref. RSV02.PL/135SB, or with a sand-colored dial and a light brown strap as the ref. RSV02.PL/135WH. Meanwhile, the black DLC-finished model (ref. RSV02.PL/135BL) is exclusively offered with a black dial and fitted with a matching black leather strap for a dark and stealthy overall appearance. Along with their standard two-piece straps, all three watches from the new Black Sparrow series come with additional leather NATO-style straps in either black or brown to match their dials.
Regardless of dial color or case finishing, all three of the new Reservoir Black Sparrow watches are accompanied by an official retail price of $3,800 USD, which places them right in line with the rest of the brand’s current offerings. Additionally, while the point of entry for pilot’s watches can as little as a few hundred dollars, the Reservoir Black Sparrow series represents a unique twist on a classic appearance, and despite the fact that it offers many of the same hallmark features that define other aviation-themed models, the brand’s unique jumping hour and retrograde minutes display enables the new collection to still feel unique and special. For more information on the Reservoir Black Sparrow pilot’s watch, please visit the brand’s website.