All The Watch You Need
Ever since I started writing about watches in 2020, I catch myself wondering if any of what I do matters, makes sense, or is viable as a solo enterprise. I worry that I will get bored writing reviews and profile stories or that I won’t be able to make ends meet. Whenever I’m stuck in this mindset, I realize one thing: perhaps all of this work was meant to get me in front of the right watch. Not watches plural, but watch singular. Perhaps I needed to switch from being a watch enthusiast to a watch journalist for a few years in order to find the perfect watch so that I can go back to being a watch enthusiast. Like making a big circle, or detour if you will, to give myself the opportunity to fine tune my horological tastes and get myself in front of the right timepieces.
Well, believe or not, I feel that the past three years have brought me to the Lorca Model No.1. I had a few exchanges with Jesse Marchant, the brand founder, and I never dared to admit the following to him: he designed my perfect watch. It has the right proportions, the right looks, and the right complications. It is truly all I need and all I care for in a watch. The Model No.1 became an instant phenomenon within the watch community for one simple reason: it’s all the watch you need. And its popularity can further be explained by the fact that it looks different from anything we’ve seen before and because you won’t have to mortgage your house to own one. It retails for $1,450 on pre-order (valid through April 4th, 2023) and $1,750 after that.
When speaking of the “perfect watch” people can refer to one of several things: the size, the design, or the specifications. The Lorca gets it all for me and is a joy to wear. Correction: it feels at home on my wrist and that’s the best indicator that a watch is The One. To further explain this, let’s look at the dimensions: 36mm in diameter (37mm at the bezel,) 44mm lug-to-lug, 11.2mm in thickness, and 19mm lug width. For once in my life I do not care for the odd lug size because it was necessary for Jesse to achieve the perfect visual balance between the case and bracelet. A few compromises must be made in order to get the right proportions of a watch. Although it might be invisible to most, getting the right proportions for each element of the watch is no small task.
And too often watches look odd because one of the many elements that make up the whole package has the incorrect size.
Within these modest proportions one will find the Soprod C125 R4 caliber. “R4” seems to refer to a higher grade movement and this one runs at -4/+4 seconds per day. Well within COSC-specifications, well within anyone’s ideal range. (Note: getting the movements chronometer certified would have unnecessarily raised the price tag of the Model No.1) Further specifications of the C125 include 42 hours of power reserve and, naturally, a GMT complication. What’s impressive is that Jesse managed to squeeze all of this goodness within a 37 x 44 x 11.2mm case and to endow the Model No.1 with 200 meters of water resistance thanks to a screw-down crown and case-back.
If Sean Connery or Sir Edmund Hillary or Sir Ernest Shackleton were still amongst us, they would have most certainly sported a Lorca Model No.1 on their adventures.
Remember my little spiel about proportions and design? Well, the bracelet is a masterpiece in and of itself. It has the overall look of a vintage IWC Mark XII, a style of bracelet rarely seen nowadays. I’m the first one to say that it would be impossible for anyone to truly invent something new when designing an everyday watch, and more often than not, those who get it right are those who know what to add and what to not add. This style of bracelet fits the style of the watch just perfectly. Like adding the right sauce to a beautiful sirloin steak or matching the right tie to a shirt. Oh, before I forget, it has solid links and end links, a 9-link construction, double-pusher deployant clasp and four holes of micro-adjustments.
Well, since we are talking about the bracelet, let’s use it as a way to explain how thoughtfully designed the Lorca Model No.1 is. Each link is rounded off and brushed on top, while the outer links (which are wider) have polished sides. This alternation of finishing means light can reflect on different sides of the bracelet in different ways. It also guarantees that one does not get blinded when looking at the watch straight down since the top portions of the bracelet are brushed. There is also a small gap between each link which reduces the visual real estate the bracelet would otherwise occupy, which also aids in making the bracelet comfortable to wear during the summer. (Or everyday if you were to live in the tropics!)
This alternation of finishes is repeated on the case that comes with an almost shy profile. It curves from one lug to the other but it is thin and discreet, probably due to the fact that Jesse opted for a brushed mid-case. Brushed surfaces can also be found on the top of the lugs, the top part of the case-back, and the fixed bezel insert. While polished surfaces can be found on the chamfers which inhabit a small piece of land between the lugs and the mid-case. The underside of the curved bezel and edges of the case-back are also polished. As you can tell, the case is very interesting to look at.
The dial is the icing on the cake for me. The choice of stubby brushed Dauphine hand is genius, even more so when paired with the brushed applied baton hour markers. These hour markers are quite high and hard to miss (in a good way.) They give out an impression of quality and longevity, two core attributes any everyday watch should have. And this combination is particularly legible in any lighting condition, something reinforced by the long and thin painted minute markers. To be useful, a tapering rectangular date aperture sits comfortably at the 3 o’clock and is made of a white disc and black printed numerals in a script font. (I love the vintage touch here.)
The GMT time can be read thanks to a fourth hand equipped with a rhombus-shaped lumed pip which almost touches the edges of the bezel. The GMT hand points to the 24-hour scale engraved on the fixed brushed bezel insert. Putting the rhombus so close to the bezel means reading the time in a second time-zone is as natural as it is to tie your shoes or check your sideview mirror while cruising on the interstate. The rhombus element is repeated where “24” should be on the bezel. The even hours are indicated by Arabic numerals made with a script typeface and sit upright, while the odd hours are indicated by dots.
This whole GMT scale on the bezel is genius as it is legible and stays visually tucked away.
The Heart of the Matter
At the heart of the matter is the fact that Jesse Marchant entered the watch scene with a bang by offering us watch enthusiasts and one-watch-collection seekers a fabulous option for under $2,000. The Model No.1 is all the watch one needs—yes, that includes even you admirers of perpetual calendars and moon phase aficionados—as it tells the time, indicates the day of the month and time in a second part of the world whilst fitting perfectly on the wrist. It has the looks of vintage watches from the past—the types of watches that got all of us in this hobby in the first place—while offering something different. A different combination of hands and hour markers, a different type of bracelet paired with a rarely seen type of case. And a different approach to indicating time in a second time zone.
Does Jesse have balls? He certainly does.
And I would argue that Jesse also has impeccable tastes in horology and an affinity for proportions. Although I do not have the horological experience of a James Stacey or a Zach Weiss, I have come across more than a few watches in the past three years that were given odd proportions. A bezel that is too wide, a dial opening too small, lugs that are too long and look like spikes to hurt one’s wrist, a bracelet that is too massive, a clasp that is too bulky. You can only take my word for it but everything works and fits nicely on the Model No.1. In other words, one could think that Jesse has been designing watches for the past 20 years as only someone with that kind of experience could have gotten it right on the first try.
But no. The Model No.1 is Jesse’s first release, first watch design although I’m sure it went through many drafts and iterations before looking the way it does today.
And Jesse got many other things right: choosing the right type of movement for this type of watch, endowing the watch with 200 meters of water resistance and a sapphire crystal (oops, forgot to mention that before!,) putting just enough lume for (realistic) everyday use—note the lume plots on the outside of the hour markers and the lume line at the 12 o’clock—and going as far as choosing a script font for the date aperture, the 24-hour scale on the bezel, as well as the text on the dial. Overall, the Model No.1 works. It just does and I’m so glad I was able to get my French mittens on what I believe to be the best watch release of the past couple of years.
If you read this review before the end of day on April 4th 2023, go check out Lorca’s website here to benefit from the early bird rate. If not, dishing out $1,750 is more than reasonable given the looks, specifications, and dimensions of this watch. What’s more is that the Model No.1 looks like nothing I’ve seen before which itself could justify fetching a higher price tag. And writing this review following a week full of luxury releases during the 2023 edition of Watches & Wonders reinforces my personal conviction that micro and independent brands can offer much more value than Swiss and Japanese luxury brands can.
Thanks for reading.