I won’t hide the fact that I like Lorier. To date, I’ve gotten my hands on most of the models the brand has ever produced. My latest Lorier crush is the Astra which just has the right dimensions and looks to tickle most of my horological g-spots. It felt good strapping it on my wrist and I regularly look at the photos I took of it whilst shedding a tear knowing it has left me. A bit like you see in romantic comedies when a man reminisces the good times he had with his now ex girlfriend by scrolling through his Instagram feed. I know, we’re talking about watches here, not human relationships. But we watch nerds do tend to become emotional when it comes to our watches. But enough of that. I thought Lorier would continue to fully embrace the sport type of watches which it has been exploring for the past few years. But, in 2022, the brand surprised me—and many of you—by announcing the Zephyr.
The Zephyr is unlike any other model the brand has released. Yes, it looks vintage and takes design cues from mid-century horology. However, it’s a dress watch, not a diver nor a robust everyday timepiece, or even a GMT. And it’s small and it comes with a sapphire crystal, a first—and logical choice—for Lorier. So we should talk about it. And before we do, it’s confession time: I don’t care for dress watches. Or, should I say, I used to not care for them. I thought I was too cool for school and lived a life that naturally didn’t lend itself to wear one. But, as always, Lorier showed me that I was wrong. As always, Lorier—through thoughtful design and impeccable attention to detail—converted me to a type of watch I didn’t think could be for me.
Elegant watches from the early to mid 20th century were small by today’s standards. Rambo and Terminator didn’t exist back then, and most men looked like me: a skinny Frenchman with small wrists. Looking like oversized lumberjacks wasn’t in style and clothes fit people properly. Consequently, their watches fit their wrist accordingly which is why watches were smaller. So I applaud Lorier and a few independent brands that dare making smaller watches in 2022/2023, although the trend of wrist-worn horological mastodons is slowly waning. What does that mean for the Zephyr then? Well, we’re looking at a semi-rectangular case that measures 31mm across (which the brand describes as being the equivalent to a 35mm round case,) 42mm lug-to-lug, 8mm thick, and coming with an 18mm strap. As you can tell from the photos, it wears appropriately small on my 6.25”/16cm wrist.
Given that this type of watch typically came with two hands, Lorier opted for the premium Miyota 9029 caliber which beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 42 hours of power reserve. In other words, it’s a two-hander movement. The latter measures 3.90mm in height, and given that the watch has a total thickness of 8mm, it leaves us with 4.1mm to complete the watch. Given this information, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Zephyr has 30 meters of water resistance. But you could be surprised to learn (actually you already know so pretend this is the first time you are hearing this) that the Zephyr is equipped with a flat piece of sapphire crystal that comes with seven layers of anti-reflective coating. This means the Zephyr is a mighty little beast! Other key specs include a full stainless steel case and two quick-release leather straps the watch is shipped with.
More than the great specs, the Zephyr shines through its impeccable case and dial design. The case comes with a profile which I’m not familiar with and that constitutes one of its strongest selling points. It’s neither rectangular or round, and appears to be a mix of oblong and oval shapes more than anything else. (Can you tell that I failed geometry in middle school?) From the side it looks like a 1960s Corvette given that its flanks are basically made of two massive polished chamfers that angle in opposite directions. The fixed and polished bezel has the same shape as the case, with rounded corners and straight sections at the north and south points where the lugs are. Unsurprisingly, the sapphire crystal has the same shape and sits perfectly flat atop the dial. (Getting all of these elements made in that shape couldn’t have been easy.)
There is a period-correct crown at the 3 o’clock that is more flat than it is tall, with enough knurling to make it easy to grip and operate. As all Lorier models do, the crown is signed with the brand’s chevron logo. The elegant curves of the case are all highlighted with a mirror-polish which allows the light to bounce from the case at any angle. Looking at the case again, I’m starting to feel that I’m looking at the horological equivalent of a 1960s Riva Aquarama which James Bond—amongst others—would have cruised with on Lake Como while sipping on a glass of Prosecco. Yes, that’s how far one’s imagination can run when looking at such a beautifully designed timepiece.
But the Zephyr is more than great specs and an elegant case. It’s also a magnificent dial that has a lot to show more. (Notice my great enthusiasm when discussing the watch’s design.)
First, and logically, the dial has the same shape as the case and crystal, and Lorier managed to find the right layout to complement it. Starting from the periphery we find a classic-looking railroad minute track, then painted hour markers which are doubled at the 3, 6, and 9 and tripled at the 12. The hour markers are sandwiched between the minute track and the center of the dial, as in they are enclosed by a line which repeats the half oblong/oval case shape. A refined guilloché pattern occupies the entirety of the dial surface which gives life to the cream colored display. Blued Dauphine hands complete the early 20th century elegant design and make reading the time a breeze. (Something not easy to accomplish given the smaller size of the Zephyr.)
The Heart of the Matter
At the heart of the matter is the fact that Lorier took a risk by making the Zephyr. Or, to be more precise, has taken yet another risk. Indeed, at the beginning of its existence, the brand was harshly criticized for choosing hesalite over sapphire for its crystals, the latter being considered the “industry standard.” Lorier stood fast and has continued throughout the years to advocate for its own design philosophy and push the boundaries of what vintage-inspired watches could look like. Though the brand started by making a diver then a multipurpose adventure watch and then a GMT, no one could’ve predicted that Lorier would roll out the Zephyr. It’s a welcome change of direction for the brand and, as always, it delivered something rather special.
While the Zephyr is not the only vintage-inspired small dress watch one can choose from, it is the only one I know of coming from a micro/independent brand. Its uniqueness is what makes it bold and noteworthy of anyone’s attention, even if one is typically not into small dress timepieces. Moreover, if you are familiar with Lorier, you darn well know that the brand prices all of its models rather fairly. And the Zephyr is no exception. Although it is currently out of stock, it retails for $499 and comes in a total of three color variants: cream, black (with gilt accents,) and crimson red. The colors themselves are pretty wild and each gives the Zephyr a different vibe.
At the end of the day, Lorier gave us another watch we didn’t know we needed. I didn’t know, for example, that I needed a 1960s-inspired all-rounder diver (I own a Neptune SIV) until I got it on my wrist. Before this crucial moment, I thought I only needed slightly larger and decidedly more robust dive watches that looked modern. Little did I know I would fall for something very different, and that’s the charm of Lorier. The Zephyr exemplifies the seducing power of a well-designed, well-spec’d retro-looking timepiece, so much so that I’ve fallen smitten for it. If you liked what you saw today, I recommend visiting the brand’s website and signing-up for their email updates to get restock notifications.