PARIS — International tourists haven’t returned in droves to the French capital just yet, but the local retail scene is firing back up and Galeries Lafayette-Royal Quartz Paris seized the moment to host a small watch label and its ambassador, French sailor Maxime Sorel.
In addition to its traditional lineup of luxury timepieces like Rolex and Bulgari, the Paris department store’s watch boutique on Rue Royale, which was refurbished in 2018 with deep-pocketed tourists in mind, was filled with displays by the start-up watch label Reservoir. The brand was established in 2017 by a former finance executive.
As larger labels streamline distribution channels and focus on their own retail networks, multibrand retailers are looking for new brands to sell, noted François-Marie Neycensas, one of three partners in the company.
“These clients are looking for newness, for new brands — there’s room for us to fill,” said the former Nestle executive.
Reservoir, a French label that sells Swiss-made timepieces priced at around 4,000 euros and up, borrows its insignia from jerrycans, fuel containers from the 1930s, and draws on the aesthetic of vintage measuring instruments. It is sold in 30 countries, through retailers including Farfetch and Neiman Marcus.
Reservoir seeks to build interest in its watches through events like the 24 Heures du Mans car race, for example, tucking limited-edition watches into a car competing in the race, and then selling them with miniature car models and a race car ride.
Sorel, who finished 10th in the round-the-world Vendée Globe sailing race, carried 10 watch models on his trip. On hand to talk about his experience, the sailor said the hardest thing about the race was dealing with a succession of hardships.
“They often say, the best part about a race is the departure and the arrival — it’s all hassle in between,” he laughed.
“I never imagined I’d take part in the race so soon, let alone finish it,” he said, rattling off the statics about the race. Referred to as the Everest of the seas, the race is famous for the high proportion of drop outs; less than 100 people have finished the race while more than 500 people have flown to space.