Lorier Hydra Review: Calling Off My Search For A Vintage-Inspired Diver?

by Baird Brown

If anyone actually takes the time to read the blurb at the bottom of this watch review next to my ugly mug, it clearly states that I’m in love with dive watches from the 60s-70s era. There’s just something about the character of those watches. They just seem to ooze the mature but playful sex appeal of the era. Thoughts of dock shoes, above-the-knee shorts, and Captain’s hats while knocking back a fifth of rum surrounded by bikini-clad women come to mind. But they also harken to a time when brands like Rolex had not yet really gone “luxury” and could be worn under James Bond’s expensive suit AND on his wrist as he swam around looking for Dr. No.

The watches of those times were instruments to be worn all the time, during any activity, and if you sit up at night hunting the forums and auction sites for vintage divers, they look like they’ve been through the ringer because of that. The boutique brand market is absolutely inundated with vintage inspired models that want to harken back to that time. That’s good for people like me who can’t drop four figures on a vintage name brand, and believe me, when I heard I was getting a Lorier Hydra, I had to really take a deep breath and try to muster all of the strength I had to try to remain objective. When you crack the seal on the box and get your first look at this watch, you realize that being objective is going to be the challenge here.

I first heard about Lorier Watches listening to the Worn & Wound podcast back in February. Yes, I like those guys too, but their voices sometimes put me to sleep. This episode didn’t. It featured Lorenzo and Lauren Ortega who told their story about being teachers with just a few watches in their collection that they loved and leaned on for any activity until one of their Omega watches got flooded. Long story short, they decided to make watches for themselves. Inspired by watches like the Omega Seamaster CK2913 and the Seiko SKX013, they set out to make a watch that could be worn every day, for any activity, and subsequently, grow old with you. Their story was inspiring, and I was interested in their product before I ever actually saw one. If you can find that episode, I encourage you to take a listen. Also, they were nice enough to send both the Black and the Royal Blue versions of the Hydra for my review, so this is a two for one deal.


 
 

The Lorier Hydra’s 39mm Case

This case flies out of the box with vintage proportions screaming loudly like King Ghidorah rising from his icy tomb! Personally, when I’m looking for vintage watches, the 39mm width and 48mm lug-to-lug size are perfect. They aren’t big by any means but aren’t so small that the watch appears dainty or fragile. The height of the case is 12mm, not including the crystal. We’ll get to that beautiful crystal later, but if you count the crystal, the height goes up to 15mm. I found that while the watch case itself would fit under a shirt, the crystal usually did not. This watch isn’t going to hide unless you’re wearing something significantly big for your arm. Surfaces are brushed on all sides, securing the idea that this is a watch to be used every day. The brushing is fine and well done with nice crisp edges. To keep the watch from looking slab sided, there is a beautiful polished edged that runs from lug to lug on each side. This acts as a light catcher and gives the case a slimmer look than it actually has. Without this, I think the watch might look a little bloated given that the case back is a little thick.


The defining feature of this watch that will immediately catch your attention is the domed plexiglass crystal that melts over the flat bezel like a warm blanket. I said I was going to try to be objective, but I’m telling you this, if you love old acrylic crystals (or Hesalite crystals on Omega watches) this is just going to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Sure, it can be scratched within hours of owning it, but it can also be buffed out. It gives the dial a deep look, but distorts at almost all angles. This does force you to look directly at the watch most of the time, as it’s going to be nearly impossible to read the face if you’re not looking at it straight on. With that said, I still love this crystal. Water rolls off it like the Hall of Doom rising from Slaughter Swamp, and the way it plays with the light is something that you just can’t get from a flat sapphire or mineral crystal. It just wouldn’t work here.

Sitting just underneath the crystal is the flat, coin edged acrylic bezel that is made to look like an old Bakelite. The coin edge is sharp, and the edges are crisp, however, they aren’t very deep, nor is the bezel very tall. Also, usually when someone tells you that the 120 clicks are sharp and responsive and there is virtually no play in the bezel at all, you get pretty excited. This time, it kind of works against it if you have rough calloused fingertips. I found it hard to grip and turn at times. The big crown was somewhat the same way, but without those cumbersome shoulder guards, it’s easy to get a good grip. These are clearly first world problems, and if we’re being honest, I know of some $1000 watches that have loose, junky bezels. Not this one.

The Dial: Black and Royal Blue

Both the black and the Royal blue dials are finished in a high gloss that, along with the look of the crystal, give it an almost enamel look. At this price range, I’m sure it’s not, but it definitely looks similar to some of the older dive watches I have in my collection. It’s almost like the dial or the paint isn’t perfectly flat causing the reflections to roll across it like rolling hills. The minute track and logo are both finished in a gilt color, as are the hands while the indices are white.


You know where this is going. Is there any red lettering on the dial designating the depth rating of 200m? You’re dang right there is! It’s the vintage dial trifecta! Instead of numbers, the indices are elongated and lumed in Superluminova BGW9 which glows a beautiful blue color instead of the normal green. The lume on the watch isn’t bad at all. It’s even on the hands and dial and lasts for a good amount of time. Sadly, the markers on the bezel are also lumed but they barely show. Unless you have it under direct light, you’ll probably never notice them. The hands are brushed in the same gilt color as the minute track and are highly reminiscent of Omega Seamasters and are even similar to old Rado Captain Cooks. The arrow hour hand sits nicely between the elongated markers, while the dauphine minute hand reaches all the way to the track. Finally, the white second hand hearkens to Seiko SKX watches and shows up nicely against the black or the blue.

The Bracelet

Sitting between the long, elegant, and flat cut lugs is an all brushed bracelet that is definitely unique in this class. While it has an oyster look, look closer. The links are flat on the outside and fully articulating, so like the treads on a tank, they will wrap themselves around any shape. It’s actually pretty neat, especially if you have that wrist bone that has trouble with bracelets. The bracelet tapers from 20mm to 16mm, which is, in my opinion, ideal and gives the watch a touch of dressiness. Again, this wants to be your only watch for every occasion, and details like that help tremendously.

The links are screw in and the lugs are drilled making bracelet adjustments or strap changes easy for anyone. Lorier is even nice enough to throw in a screwdriver with the watch. The bracelet gives the watch a lot of character for watches in this price range and is extremely well built and comfortable. And while I like the bracelet a lot, I felt a little like it was from a different decade than the rest of the watch. Almost as though it was from a 1980s Seiko rather than a 1960s-70s Seamaster.

Seiko NH35A

Powering the watch is the Seiko NH35A which has become the movement of choice for watches like this and for good reason. It hacks, hand winds, and will provide good service for years to come. With that said, sometimes they can be a little inconsistent. The specs for the NH35 state that they can run anywhere from -20 to +40 a day and be considered “in spec.” Since I had two watches, I compared them both on the timegrapher and against a Bulova UHF. The black watch ran, on average, -2 seconds a day which is incredible. I was very pleased to see this. The blue watch, however, was running wild. It was averaging +35 a day. I don’t know if Lorier has any hand in the regulation of these watches, and it may even be something that isn’t quite feasible at this price, but it may be something worth looking at in the future. The blue watch also had signs of being worn before I got it, whereas the black watch was fresh and new, so it could have had something to do with that.

Final Thoughts on the Lorier Hydra

Lorier has really worked hard to hit all the marks people look for in a vintage inspired watch. The size is perfect, the features look great, and it’s a versatile watch that will serve you on many occasions in your life. Whether it’s a wedding or a whisky filled boat trip, the Lorier will work. It’s definitely not going to appeal to people who don’t have interest in vintage (or vintage-inspired) pieces or are looking for something to show off how big of a “wealth enthusiast” they are. Plus the plexiglass is going to be a turnoff to anyone who is afraid to wear their watches for fear of blemish. But this watch isn’t made for them. It’s made for people who want a great daily watch that takes them back to a time when you only had ONE watch and did everything with it. Lorier prices the Hydra at $399.00 and that’s a little more than offerings like the Dan Henry 1970 or the Spinnaker Bradner. Both of those watches come in at under $300 and offer the same NH35 power.

However, the Lorier looks and feels like it should cost the extra $100. It has the feel of the old Rolex big crown that graced the wrist of Sean Connery during the early Bond films. It oozes with the romance of diving in the 1950s. To me, it legitimately feels like that great vintage you finally score after months and months of research and hunting. This is a watch that will look great in ten years rather than just look used. Sure, it’s more than the Dan Henry and the Spinnaker, but there’s so much more here.

There’s a soul in this watch. It’s not just an homage, or a throwback. It’s the best parts of watches that all of us love in an affordable package. I might go so far as to say this is a more affordable alternative to the new Baltic Aquascaphe. I really tried to keep my head objective in this one, but I won’t lie, this was a watch that was hard to stick back in the box and send back home. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these watches and I’m excited to see what Lorier comes out with in the future. Until then, I’ll just have to keep scouring the forums and eBay for vintage divers that will now have a harder time living up to my expectations.


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