Review: Lorier Hydra Series II

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Lorier, in a relatively short period of time, has become one of the hottest small brands in the community that we cover here on Worn & Wound. Their brand ethos is straightforward, and frankly not unlike many other brands: vintage inspired watches that are accessible, can be used in the field, and could conceivably be any owner’s “one watch” collection. This focus on a classic aesthetic with a priority placed on functionality has led to a series of watches that hang together nicely as a group in the Lorier catalog, and get that great balance of “looks old” and “works new” just right. The Hydra, in its new Series II iteration, is another solid entry into a lineup full of watches that are, at this point, exactly what you expect, and do not disappoint. 

Lorier’s strategy, in these first few years of the brand’s existence, seems to be to build out their catalog with their spin on classic tool watches. They’ve made a dive watch, a chronograph, and recently added a classically styled sports GMT into the mix. The Hydra is a bit more niche, and in my opinion is in more of a direct conversation with the watches of a previous generation, largely because the watches that inspired it are so much of a particular time period. Divers and chronographs have been constant staples for decades, but the supercompressor cased divers that preceded the Hydra II had their moment in the 1960s and then faded from popularity. As those vintage supercompressors have begun to increase in value in recent years, lots of brands have been quick to release tribute watches with a dual crown layout that mimics the look of the originals. 

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It’s important to note here before we dive much deeper that the Hydra II is not a “true” supercompressor, as the case isn’t built in a way such that water resistance is strengthened as pressure is exerted on the case. (For a great summary of supercompressor history and an explanation of how the tech works, check out this guide by our own Christoph McNeill). Lorier has borrowed key aesthetic cues from supercompressors, notably the dual crowns at 2:00 and 4:00, and plenty of other smaller details that we’ll get into as we discuss the case and dial layout. Let’s jump in. 

$499

Review: Lorier Hydra Series II

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
Miyota 9015
Dial
Blue
Lume
Superluminova BGW9
Lens
Plexiglass
Strap
Stainless steel bracelet
Water Resistance
100 meters
Dimensions
39 x 47mm
Thickness
10.5mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Screw down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$499

Case 

At this point, Lorier’s 39mm case probably looks familiar to many of you (and their new 36mm case, seen in the Falcon II reviewed by Ed Jelley, probably looks familiar but just a tad smaller). While the total thickness changes from watch to watch depending on the movement being used and water resistance levels, the general lines of Lorier’s vintage inspired case remain the same. This is a good thing, in my view, as it lends a coherence to their lineup across models.

The Hydra II’s case has the same gently angled lugs and beautifully polished bevel running down the flank as Lorier’s other watches, and the 39mm diameter is still a Goldilocks-perfect size, but the height of this watch is a bit thinner, and even though it’s a small difference, you can really feel it on the wrist. I’m the owner of a Lorier Gemini, which has the same 39mm diameter as the Hydra II, and also measures 47mm lug to lug. The Gemini, however, is 10.2mm thick, while the Hydra measures just 8.3mm. Both have domed acrylic crystals that add additional height to the case, but the case itself is what you really feel when you wear it, at least in the case of these watches by Lorier. While I always felt the Gemini cut a slender profile, the Hydra II beats it in a very real way. The Hydra II is also dramatically thinner than the original Hydra, which measures a little over 15mm thick with the crystal taken into account. The earlier Hydra, though, is an altogether different kind of watch, a much more traditional diver, and carries double the water resistance rating of the Hydra II’s 100 meters.  

Without the crystal, the Hydra II measures just 8.3mm thick

The functional element that distinguishes the Hydra II from its predecessor is the rotating bezel being moved inside the watch. The 3:00 side of the case is thus equipped with two crowns. At 4:00, you’ll find the crown that winds the movement and sets the time and date. It screws down and is easy and straightforward to operate. The crown at 2:00 rotates the inner 12 hour bezel, which is useful for tracking a second time zone. This crown does not screw down, and has a pleasingly smooth rotating action in both directions. The movement of the interior bezel feels precise and solid. I’m sometimes asked by prospective buyers of watches with similar inner rotating bezels if there’s a risk of accidentally moving the bezel as the case flank bumps up against your body throughout a normal day of wear, and I don’t think that should be a concern with the Hydra II. There’s plenty of resistance to keep the bezel in place. 

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I reviewed the Bulova A-15 earlier this year, and I commented that that watch’s triple-crown setup did me little good as a lefty who doesn’t have easy access to those crowns when wearing the watch on my right wrist. The troubles inherent in southpaws continue with the Hydra II, rendering the 2:00 crown and its ability to time an event on the fly somewhat hobbled. That’s ok – it’s just one of those things you deal with wearing a watch on the right wrist. Even though the intended functionality is somewhat lost, I still very much enjoy the aesthetic of a dual crown set up, with a rotating bezel under the crystal. But if you’re truly planning on using this for timing something on a regular basis and you wear a watch on the right wrist, it’s something to be aware of. 

There’s not a lot left to say about Lorier’s case that hasn’t been said already by almost everyone who has the chance to handle and wear one – it’s an extremely attractive, vintage styled case (in the best possible way) that can be worn by anyone. Finishing, for the money, is quite good, with that previously mentioned bevel being, in my estimation, the most important distinguishing characteristic of the design. It’s just wide enough to be easily noticeable and clearly places the watch in the landscape of 1960s sports watches that the team at Lorier is obviously so fond of. The tops of the lugs and case sides are nicely brushed, as is the thin outer bezel set just below the crystal. It’s a beautifully simple case, and I’d be quite satisfied if Lorier just stuck with this basic design, making only small, incremental changes along the way. 

Dial 

Lorier is making two versions of the Hydra. One with a black dial and gilt accents, and the other, seen here, in a deep blue. The date window at 6:00 is cut in a trapezoid shape and is well executed in my opinion. It roughly matches the shape of the hour markers, and feels fairly unobtrusive. As previously mentioned, the bezel is in a 12 hour format, but conveniently has minutes marked individually for the first 20 minutes, making it suitable for timing short interval events with minimal math involved, and only slightly more math if you want to time something lasting closer to an hour. The blue shade of the bezel matches the dial, but is set at an angle, giving the watch just a small sense of depth. 

While Lorier’s cases have a certain similarity throughout the product line, the dials don’t follow any particular standard. For the Hydra II dial, Lorier took cues from dials of the dual crown divers that influenced this watch’s distinguishing characteristic. The Lorier website has a helpful graphic that shows how the Hydra II’s long, thin, minute markers have been borrowed from watches like the LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm and Longines Compressor. In fact, for watch enthusiasts who enjoy the look of the Longines Legend Diver but balk at its unwieldy size, the Hydra II offers a similar aesthetic in a much more manageable size (and far lower price point). They’re not exactly the same thing, of course, but they’re certainly related, and it’s interesting to compare and contrast the values and virtues of each. 

The Lorier handset has become a signature, with a minute hand that has a rounded base and extends to a sharp point, and an hour hand with the same characteristics, but topped with a small arrow. The seconds hand is long and thin, and has a proportionally longer and thinner arrow at the end of it. It’s a well thought out design that borrows a little from classic broad arrow and Alpha hand styles, with each hand easily identifiable at a glance. I found the whole package to be highly legible and coherent, with the 6:00 date window providing some welcome symmetry. 

Straps & Wearability 

As nice as the watch looks, at least through my eyes, it really all comes together on the wrist. It has to, right? No matter how attractive a watch is, if it’s not enjoyable, on some level, to wear, I’d bet you’re not going to wear it. By the same token, I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of having a great wearing experience with a watch that isn’t our aesthetic ideal – maybe because it has an unorthodox case shape, or an unusual color. In any case, a watch’s ability to “disappear on the wrist,” to use a phrase that is used too frequently, can’t be underestimated. 

The Hydra II is quite simply an extremely comfortable watch to wear, and I also found it to be versatile through a selection of straps. My review unit came to me on a simple gray NATO strap, and this was a great starting point for getting to know the Hydra II. A fabric strap takes advantage of the Hydra II’s lightweight, compact nature. I’m a person who generally doesn’t wear a lot of NATO straps because of the increased bulk caused by multiple layers of fabric, but with the Hydra II’s small and thin case, this problem was mitigated somewhat.

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I also found that the blue dial pairs well with a variety of leather strap options, including (my personal favorite) gray suede, and rustic browns. Because of the watch’s vintage and sporty vibe, I’d stick to straps that are on the more casual side, and that have some texture to them. I have an old brown calfskin strap that I bought new years ago, but have worn out to the point that it’s developed a distinct, multi-colored patina, and while I worry about the integrity of the leather and stitching at this point in its life, it brings a ton of character to any watch I try it on, including the Hydra II. If you have a strap like that in your collection, it’s probably a good match for this watch. 

If you buy the Hydra II new from Lorier, it will ship on their excellent bracelet. This is a really well designed, and very comfortable, flat link style bracelet, that serves as a perfect complement to every watch in the Lorier collection. It’s remarkably thin and lightweight, and the links are held closely together and fully articulated, which results in a perfect drape when the bracelet is sized correctly (which can be accomplished easily as they’re locked in with screws). Very often with watches at this price point, the bracelet is an afterthought, but like the case and handset, Lorier has set out to make a bracelet that, at least in part, defines the brand. What we’re left with is distinctive, comfortable, and for my money the best bracelet on a watch under $1,000 that I’ve had the chance to wear. 

Movement

The Hydra II is powered by the automatic Miyota 9015. Miyota’s “9” series movements are their highest spec, and thought to be comparable in stability and robustness with the ETA 2824 and Sellita SW200. Most importantly for the purposes of the Hydra II, the 9015 is thin, measuring just 3.9mm. This is what allows for the watch’s sleek proportions, and I’d make the argument that wearability and accessibility easily win the day over being able to print “Swiss Made” on the dial. This movement isn’t glamorous or exclusive, but it allows Lorier to properly execute on their vision for the Hydra II, which is vastly more important in the long run. 

A Note on the Crystal 

I’ve noticed in discussions about Lorier’s watches in the Worn & Wound comments, and on Instagram, a topic that comes up again and again is the crystal. Lorier has used a simple, old-fashioned plexiglass crystal on all of their watches up this point, and judging by this detailed explanation on their website, it seems unlikely that they’ll make the switch to sapphire anytime soon. 

I think that’s a great thing. The Hydra II (and Lorier’s other watches) would be robbed of much of their charm if a sapphire crystal had been used. If you’ve spent any time wearing vintage watches with highly domed, plastic crystals, you probably have a good idea of what I’m talking about. The optical qualities of plexiglass are very different from their more modern sapphire counterparts. Plastic is less reflective, for one, and when AR coating is applied to sapphire it produces an almost “too real” effect. In my mind it’s similar to when a new TV has motion smoothing turned on – everything is technically hyper clear, but you lose the nuance and character. A filter between the dial and your eyes has been removed, and it’s like the crystal isn’t even there. That might seem appealing, and it might even be technically impressive, but aesthetically I much prefer warmth and subtle distortion of plexiglass. 

I have to applaud Lorier here for sticking to their guns and embracing plastic. Frankly, I wish that more brands who are in the business of making watches that are meant to evoke timepieces of the 1950s and 60s had the gumption to go with plexiglass. It seems like when a brand goes down the “vintage style, modern features” route, it’s often the crystal that gets time-warped, with either a flat or double domed sapphire included, meant to look like old school plexi, but with all the scratch protection you get with modern materials. 

To that I say: bring on the scratches! As Lorier points out on their site, the tool watches that inspired them all had plastic crystals, and they were no less usable underwater, on a mountainside, or even quite literally at war. The users of these watches in their heyday weren’t concerned with the completely removable scratches that an acrylic crystal is bound to pick up, and modern consumers who buy these watches to wear at their desks in these closing days of 2020 shouldn’t be either. If you simply must have a scratch free plexi lens, all you need is a tube of Polywatch, an old t-shirt, and about five minutes. But I have come to enjoy the look of the small micro-scratches picked up by my Speedmaster’s Hesalite crystal, my Lorier Gemini, and the plastic crystaled vintage watches in my collection, and don’t feel the need to remove them unless it really inhibits my view of the dial. 

If you’re still hesitant about purchasing a watch like the Hydra II (or a vintage watch, or a Speedmaster, etc.) purely because of its crystal, my humble recommendation is to simply give it a chance, and really ask yourself why you need, or want, sapphire. Remember that while sapphire is very tough to scratch, it can certainly chip, and even shatter. If you look at enough used watch classified listings on the forums, you’ll see many watches with sapphire crystals that have tiny little chips, particularly around the perimeter. Significant damage to plastic crystals, beyond removable scratches, is fairly rare, even on watches that are 50 or 60 years old. 

And look, I’m not here to say that brands should fully adopt the use of plastic crystals on their brand new watches. I own and enjoy a bunch of watches with sapphire crystals – my Tudor Pelagos would look very weird with a highly domed acrylic crystal. But I do think there’s plenty of room for both materials, and in the realm of watches that are really trying to capture a look and feel of a previous generation, I think plexi is the clear way to go. 

Conclusion 

Spending some time with the Hydra II has illuminated a truth about Lorier that I think is key to their success: their products across the board are incredibly consistent. Not just in terms of build quality and price, but the style cues and design language throughout the catalog are distinctly “Lorier” in a way that is predictable and reassuring, which is a pretty significant achievement for such a young brand. The case, handset, and bracelet are all easily identifiable as their own, and they fill in the gaps with tasteful details that do a great job of reminding us of the vintage watches that we all admire so much. 

The Hydra II, with its dual crown layout and internal bezel, is a bit funkier than the other Lorier watches, and plays to a smaller crowd. It’s less conventional, and perhaps requires a bit more of an understanding of vintage watches to really “get it,” but if you’re open to the way it looks, I imagine this would be a rewarding watch to own. 

I have to say, it’s a little ironic that Lorier strives to produce watches that are suitable as a “one watch” collection, because for me, as an enthusiast, I kind of want to collect them all. There’s something appealing to them as a series, as slightly different expressions of classic vintage watch forms, that they really get right. For someone like me, with a collector’s mentality, that’s like catnip. An affordable price point (the Hydra II sells for $499) makes it even easier to desire multiples. 

But Lorier really caters to customers coming to them, and watches in general, for the first time, and that’s definitely something worth pointing out. Their website is filled with contextual information that helps you appreciate their watches and the story of the brand. Most brands do something similar, of course, but the depth of information within Lorier’s website is uncommon for brands at this price point. These watches might be suitable as a one watch collection if pressed, but the folks at Lorier want you to have a great experience with their product, and become an enthusiast, just like them. The Hydra II is the kind of watch that can send a new mechanical watch owner down the rabbit hole, which might be the strongest way to recommend it. 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.
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