If we don’t take into account a lot of Chinese “plastic”, disposable and not so disposable, there are only a few lighter brands left, with Zippo as the leader. At least if you count in the category of widely available, reusable and more or less universal. Of course, there are Ronson and IMCO, but unlike Zippo they are still to be found. What is the secret of Zippo’s mass appeal and was there a worthy alternative in history? That’s what today’s post is about.
Simplicity, reliability, functionality – these are the main advantages of Zippo now. What else? A lifetime warranty! Although if you need a warranty, then I guess “reliability” can be a problem? And if we remember the history of Zippo, this very warranty arose just because of a low-quality hinge of the case))). Although, the design of these lighters is really simple and there is almost nothing to break there.
So can “simplicity” also be safely put down as a virtue? Definitely yes, as long as you don’t need to replace the wick or the flint))) Well okay with the flint, with a certain care the risk of losing the pressure spring and especially the brass tappet is reduced, but the wick…. It is necessary to have either very thin fingers, or without tweezers this operation is unlikely to be successful)))
And all because of the branded functionality) More precisely because of the windproof screen built into the insert and allows the fire not to go out even in very windy weather. An advantage? Of course it is!
And “faithfulness to tradition” can also be listed as a plus…. Indeed, for almost a hundred years of Zippo’s history, its design has not changed fundamentally. Well, not at all. Minor changes were of course, but in general, nothing has changed in the “mechanics” of Zippo. Of course, one can consider modern replaceable inserts as a “technological breakthrough”, but this “breakthrough” has been realized since the middle of the last century, when the company proposed to use standard cases with a flashlight-shaped insert.
So, thanks for the “loyalty” of course, but to be honest – Zippo is boring, at least to the former variety of models of a huge number of brands of the past it is very inferior. But where are all those lighters? They remain only in history… Speaking of history! Next, let’s consider what alternatives were Zippo, even before the formation of the brand! As a basic example, let’s take the basic functionality, namely the wind screen.
This is an Austrian lighter Orlik model Stormproof Tank Nr. 67. The body contours are very reminiscent of Zippo, and the wind shield is very similar, as well as the insert design itself. Convenience? Well, an interchangeable fuel tank isn’t convenience? Minus, compared to Zippo, probably only one – the case cover is removable, but without a hinge. But this model appeared 12 years before the first commercially successful Zippo.
And this is the German Sarastro lighter, also born before Zippo. Functionality? Much higher than that of Zippo! This is evidenced by the clock mechanism built into the case and the “perpetual calendar” engraved on the back side. But pay attention to the design itself. In addition to the wind protection, which is removable, the “elevator” lever has two plugs that tightly cover not only the wick, but also the wheel of the “tealight”. I’m sure this model was much more efficient. Although significantly more expensive than the future Zippo, the 935 sterling silver case is direct evidence of that)))
The Bruma model from German technicians was definitely cheaper, the body is not made of precious metals and it is hardly more technically sophisticated than Zippo, although it is older than it by five years. What is special about the design? Well, you can see the screen yourself) And it is also a semi-automatic lighter, that is, pressing one button opened the hatch and emitted a spark. Well, and of course there is a similar to the previous model plug saving the owner money on the purchase of fuel. In general, IMHO of course, but “ultra pure” gasoline Zippo I think is needed only so that the user did not smell how it constantly evaporates to nowhere))).
And here’s another lighter from the “pre-Zippo” era – the German Sarastro Auti. What are the obvious advantages? It is semi-automatic, it has a removable screen, and the whole thing is collapsible! Any service can be performed on your knees. But where is Sarastro now? And you can buy a Zippo in any tobacconist’s shop…
Another, in my opinion more successful design than the Zippo from the British brand S&B. What’s so useful about it? A voluminous tank for fuel, a plug for the wick on the lever, a hinged screen for maintenance. It is definitely more convenient than Zippo, and it was sold in those times when nobody knew about Zippo. Although purely economically S&B is not the best example – “interferes” with the case with a gold coating of 9 carats))). By the way, this design, much later, was realized by “nameless” Chinese and the lighter, although without warranty, turned out to be much more efficient and economical than Zippo)).
And this is a “liftarm” from Austrian TCW and also a very successful design. The only difference from the previous ones of similar design is the horizontal location of the chicash wheel. In general, the “elevtarm” system, relative to Zippo, can be “blamed” only for slightly more complex mechanics, but no more than that. Any model with wick plugs was many times more economical than any gasoline Zippo.
I don’t know who and how, but I always liked Ronson lighters better than Zippo. Well, you can see for yourself – the choice of models is huge, the realization of “mechanics” is great, the price… Well, maybe a little more expensive than Zippo, although right now it’s not a fact) This Standard Wind model is very similar to most Ronson pocket lighters, but check out the elegance of the solution! The wind screen here is mechanical, liftable, so to speak – on demand). And the design is its own, honestly invented, not “borrowed” from the Austrians, as was the case with Zippo.
And, to tell the truth, even right now the once Austrian IMCO is many times more reliable and efficient than Zippo. Yes, now these lighters are made in China, yes, the metal has become worse, but the quality of the lighter, its design, historically very successful, has been preserved. And even Chinese IMCOs are now much more economical than Zippo. And if you are not lazy, look for an original Austrian lighter on Ebay or “Bag” – you will not regret it!
If you are interested in the topic – write in the comments and we will continue. Next in line is a review of lighters that are contemporaries of the Zippo, which are hardly inferior in convenience to the Americans.