Hands-On: Get a Little Fancy with the Lorier Zephyr

Over the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the categories that we put watches in. Doing what I do for a living, that feels pretty normal. For practical purposes, we have to divide watches up into groups so that talking and writing about them makes sense. Everything needs, and deserves, context. But as I’ve gotten better (I think) at identifying which slot any given watch belongs to, and the necessary comparison points to make with other watches, I’ve found somewhat paradoxically that I care about these delineations less and less. 

When I started collecting watches, I took what I think is a normal approach for a newbie and tried to check off the boxes: the diver, the daily wearer, the dress watch, etc. Now, when I think about buying a new watch, the category, and how it relates to the rest of my collection, rarely occurs to me. When I bought my IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 in Ceratanium earlier this year, a friend reached out and said he was surprised to see me buy a tool watch after I had so publicly made my feelings known on this genre. It honestly never occurred to me that this particular watch would be classified as such – I just thought it looked cool. 


For me, that’s really what it comes down to when I consider a watch for potential purchase. Every watch I own is utterly and completely unnecessary. They don’t fill a need, check a box, and they don’t even make my life easier. They are luxuries in the most literal sense of the word: little things we don’t need, purchased, owned, and collected to make us feel good. It has nothing to do with price, of course. You can get the same dopamine rush from a $100 G-SHOCK as a dress watch in a precious metal. But it’s that natural high that matters most to me – not the type of watch. 

So when Lorier announced the Zephyr, a small, time only dress watch, earlier this year, I think it took some of us who spend a lot of time thinking about the categories a minute to get our arms around the news. Lorier is a brand that has built an impressive resume over the last few years making what I would describe as fairly traditional sports watches. The design language they work in is heavily influenced by vintage watches that most in our community would consider to be outright and unimpeachable classics, rooted strongly in the mid century heyday of brands like Rolex, Omega, Blancpain, and others.  


Hands-On: Get a Little Fancy with the Lorier Zephyr

Stainless steel
Miyota 9029
Water Resistance
30 meters
31 x 42mm
Lug Width

Sports watches were the exclusive medium Lorier was working in until the Zephyr, but I’d argue that the sportiness was never really the point. Yes, you could certainly go diving with the Neptune if that’s your thing, but that watch, along with the rest of the watches in Lorier’s catalog, function just as easily as purely aesthetic objects. If you’re familiar with the vintage references Lorier is inspired by, the small details and attention to executing on every single one of them is part of the pleasure of ownership. But even if you’re not a vintage watch nerd, the watches have always been easy to appreciate for their simple good looks and well thought out proportions. And while it’s true that Lorier is drawing on the classics, they deserve credit for curation, and picking the right stuff from those vintage pieces and mixing it with their own design language. 

This is just a long winded way of saying that the Zephyr, to me, makes absolute sense alongside Lorier’s other watches because the vibe of the brand isn’t so much “SPORTS” as it is celebrating the vintage watches that speak to them, no matter the category. There’s beauty in these old things that goes beyond their function. In that context, a Jazz Age dress watch with clear Art Deco influences slots in nicely next to the Neptune, Gemini, and other watches Lorier has made their name with. 

I spent a few weeks with a black dialed Zephyr following this year’s WIndup Watch Fair in New York. I’ve often said that I’m a major proponent of dressing down formal watches and wearing them casually, and I wanted to test this with the Zephyr during my time with it. There are a number of things about the Zephyr that make it objectively formal by modern standards. The size, for one, is right on the borderline of what I’d normally consider wearable on my 7.5 inch wrist. The case measures 31mm wide and is 42mm from lug to lug. According to Lorier’s math, it wears similar to a round watch that measures 35mm in diameter, and I’d say that seems about right to me. It’s not exactly tiny, but if you’re used to wearing contemporary watches (in any genre or format) the Zephyr is likely to feel smaller than your current daily wearer, which makes it feel inherently dressy and formal. 

That said, size an indicator of formality in a watch is a construct, just like many other commonly held watch related truisms that we all have a tendency to simply believe rather than question and prod at. As Lorier points out in their promotional materials for the Zephyr, the very idea of a dress watch is a relatively modern invention. Once dedicated sports watches became popular in the mid 20th century, the industry and the public was forced to draw a line between watches that were meant for unusually active lifestyles and highly specific activities and watches that were just meant for life. The latter tended to be on the small side (because they didn’t need to be water resistant) and have the type of decorative design features we mostly associate with dress watches today. Back then, however, guilloche patterns, gilt accents, and Roman numerals found their way to watch dials simply because they looked nice and had their own aesthetic pleasure. 

And the dial of the Zephyr is incredibly appealing, and borrows just the right notes from watches dating back to the 1930s and 40s. The guilloche pattern is particularly nicely executed, and takes the shape of undulating waves emanating from the dial’s center. Naturally the pattern is stamped, but at this price point ($499) it’s hard to complain or ask for traditional application via a rose engine. 

Hours are read through a ring situated between the dial’s inner sector and an outer railroad minutes track. You might expect to see Roman numerals here, but Lorier instead has elected to use simple baton style markers which are doubled up at 3, 6, and 9, and tripled at 12. This small decision alone gives the Zephyr a more casual vibe than it might have if Roman numerals had been used, and to my mind enhances the Art Deco inspiration behind the watch, with a focus on symmetry and decorative decision making being made for the sake of aesthetics alone. 

The most distinctive design element of the watch, and the thing that sets it apart from Lorier’s prior efforts most clearly, is the tonneau case shape. “Tonneau” is French for “barrel,” and the Zephyr’s lines narrow at each end in the manner of a wine barrel. The case has a small step at the bezel, and the lugs protrude straight out from those narrow end points, adding some length and giving the Zephyr just a little more muscle than it otherwise would. The surfaces are polished throughout, which is another big change for a Lorier watch, but it feels absolutely appropriate on the Zephyr. 


If I have one minor complaint with the watch, it’s that Lorier has chosen to use an automatic movement, a Miyota 9029 in this case. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a Miyota, and Lorier has used these calibers before, but if any watch is calling out for a simple hand wound movement, it’s a watch like this. I imagine the decision boiled down to producing a watch that their customers would enthusiastically decide to wear day in and day out (hand wound movements are always a tougher sell), and the 9029 is sufficiently thin that it doesn’t appear any sacrifices were made to the case design (it’s just 8mm thick). Still, as something of a traditionalist who would be happy to hand wind a watch like this on days I decided to wear it, it feels like a missed opportunity. 

On the wrist, the Zephyr is a pleasure. No surprise there: small watches are inherently more comfortable than large watches, sporty or otherwise. You know how watch writers always use the tired cliche of describing a watch as “disappearing on the wrist”? I think we do it because ultimately that’s what we’re seeking – a watch that is so comfortable you just about forget that it’s there. A prerequisite for this is size. Sorry, but I just don’t buy that the 42mm diver you tried out, even the titanium one, disappeared on the wrist, even in the most figurative sense possible. When you have that much metal in the picture, nothing is disappearing. 

There’s not much of a mystery as to how the Zephyr pulls off this disappearing act. For me, the lugs didn’t come close to hitting the edge of my wrists. For some enthusiasts who wear a lot of contemporary watches, this might be a troubling sight, but I think there’s something to be said for leaning in and embracing it. I’ve said it many times before in a number of ways, but the idea that a watch’s lugs need to span the entire length of your wrist as you look straight down at a watch dial is completely made up. It’s not a rule, and we should forget that this was ever held up as some kind of aesthetic or stylistic ideal. Because when a watch like the Zephyr doesn’t fill that span, you know what happens? It actually disappears on your wrist. I’m telling you, if you’re chasing watch comfort, small watches are the not so secret code to getting exactly what you’ve been searching for. 

Of course, it’s a matter of personal preference as to whether you like what you see when you check the time and see something that might be up to 25% smaller than what you’re accustomed to. The argument I’d make here is that for daily wear, unless you absolutely need a dramatic level of water resistance, a small watch that slips under a shirt cuff and is comfortable above all else just makes a ton of sense. And it might as well look beautiful, too. A Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, or a watch of that ilk, might functionally accomplish the same thing as the Zephyr, but I find an appeal in the latter’s attempt to rise to a heightened level of objective beauty. A big part of why we like these objects is because of how they look, after all. 

But the question remains: how does a watch like this, styled to look like an artifact from the 1930s, fit into your daily life in 2022, and beyond. It’s one thing to wear a watch from the 60s or 70s (or a watch that looks like it’s from the 60s or 70s) without even a little bit of irony. None of us are actually that far removed from this time period – for many reading these words, those decades correspond with our parent’s generation. We saw those watches in old family photographs, and might have experienced them as young children. The 30s, though, feels more a part of history. To wear a watch from this era represents a real decision on the part of the owner. It says, on a certain level, that this is a look that you identify with. 

I think what Lorier is tuning into with this watch is exactly that type of intentionality. When I spoke with Lauren Ortega, one half of the husband and wife team that runs Lorier, about the Zephyr, she told me that it came from that familiar pandemic era desire to finally get dressed up and go out. When we were all locked down, essentially trapped in our homes, without even a hope of any type of social event appearing on our calendars, a dress watch seemed more than anachronistic. But as time wears on, you start to imagine a version of yourself that existed before, or maybe never even existed at all, that would make exactly that kind of decision to wear a watch that is so locked in to a period of time only known to us through old movies, stories from our grandparents, and history books. 


My wardrobe has been extremely casual for years thanks to working from home even before the pandemic hit, but in a previous life, I had to wear traditional business casual clothes to a real, physical office. Usually that meant a sport coat of some kind, and it absolutely never meant jeans, which seem to be an office staple now. There are times when I miss the little decisions you have to make when you dress a step above casual. I make none of those decisions now – every casual button down shirt in my closet goes with every pair of jeans I own. I imagine many have a similarly decision free morning routine. The one exception, of course, is the watch. And even if the rest of your attire is somewhat lacking in polish, putting on a watch like the Zephyr can serve as a little reminder of a forgotten part of yourself. It adds a bit of a spark – it’s a nice feeling. 

On paper, the Lorier Zephyr is a fairly specific type of dress watch with heavy Art Deco influences, in a somewhat unusual style of case. But as I alluded to at the top of this review, the category you put this watch in really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter for any watch. What matters, more than anything else, is the way the watch makes you feel when you wear it. Some watches might not make you feel much of anything, and that’s actually OK. There are times (maybe it’s actually most of the time) when you should really be focused on other things besides the watch you’re wearing and the bond you’re creating with it at that very moment. I mean, we have jobs, families, and other things we should all probably be focused on. 

But let’s be honest: if you’re reading this, you’re probably more than a little bit interested in watches as a hobby, and putting on something like the Zephyr is definitely going to make you feel something, even as it, yes, disappears on the wrist. In my case, it made me feel just a little bit elevated from the minimal effort baseline that is my current day-to-day wardrobe. It reminded me of a time in my life when shining and polishing my dress shoes was a cherished part of my Sunday morning routine, and made me realize that it doesn’t actually take much at all to connect to that feeling again. 

I found the Zephyr to be completely charming, and it has me excited to see what Lorier might be planning for the future. Since introducing the Zephyr earlier this year, they’ve also launched a new version of the Gemini with a new bracelet and more refined proportions, and among the dial options you’ll find one in bright canary yellow. They’ve also made a small run of Zephyrs in a shade of blue that is not too dissimilar from that shade most often associated with a famous NYC jeweler. I would never accuse Lorier of being overly sober or conservative in their designs, but between the Zephyr and these new experiments with color, the brand seems to be in a more playful mood, finally ready to get dressed up and have a little fun. As a long, difficult period of precisely the opposite comes to an end, this is a welcome energy. Lorier

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.