This Laco Erbstück pilot’s watch is not a vintage watch, despite the image at the top of this article can easily make you think that. It is a watch that commemorates one of Laco’s historical timepieces. Without further ado, let’s have a look.
Laco was one of the five companies that supplied Flieger (pilot’s) watches to the German Luftwaffe (air force) in the 1940’s next to brands such as Wempe, Stowa, IWC and A.Lange & Söhne. The government commissioned them to produce watches for their air force personnel. These pilot’s watches were large, even by today’s standards (55mm). Two types of dial variations came to light; The A-Uhr production spanned from 1940 to 1941 and the B-Uhr form 1941 onwards (differences between the A and B-uhr are explained here). Other significant external features were the large onion crown (for ease of use while wearing gloves), the FL23883 marking on the case back and the specially designed leather strap. All of that you can find on the watch we have here today; the Laco Erbstück.
Some brands like IWC and A.Lange & Söhne became moguls in the industry and ended up to be part of a large luxury group (Richemont). Others like Laco (Lacher und Co.), stayed small and independent. Laco is still residing where their history started, in Pforzheim, Germany. Regardless of their size or place in the industry, the company is still known as one of the original five and stays loyal to their heritage. This is how the Laco Erbstück (Heirloom) came to life. When we visited the brand during BaselWorld this year, we saw their latest bronze models, we talked about them earlier. However, we also want to show you where Laco got its inspiration from. Laco was so generous to send one of their Erbstück models over for a review. I chose the 42mm, hand-wound, A-Uhr version, the Laco Erbstück Memmingen.
The idea behind the Erbstück watches is to produce timepieces that look like the original Flieger watches. And of course for an attractive price. Laco made eight types of watches and you can have any combination of the following: 42mm or 45mm case, hand-wound or automatic movement and an A-Uhr or B-Uhr dial variation. Each has a different name representing a German city, like Westerland, Saarbrücken, Paderborn and so on. I thought a 42mm, hand-wound watch would be a great option and as I fancy the simplicity of the A-Uhr dial version I went with that. The watch came in a large wooden box, with a small manual and warranty card, polishing cloth and all. The packaging is very nice and something I would have not expected at this price point.
The most obvious aged feature of the Laco Erbstück is the case. Laco uses new stainless steel cases then individually “age” them. The proportion is identical to the original but “shrunk” from 55mm to 42mm and 45mm. The thickness of the case is 13mm. Just like the original vintage Flieger watches, you can find the FL23883 inscription on the side of the watch. This was the identification number of these timepieces. FL stand for Flieger (pilot), 23 is a code meaning that the device bearing this number is a navigation/flight monitoring device. The last 3 digits’ purpose was to show what institute was responsible for these watches.
The case back of the Laco Erbstück has the information of the watch that the vintage watches had on the inside of the case back. This gives you further info on the timepiece like; the manufacture of the movement, serial number, movement number, manufacturer etc. Moving this little chart from the inside of the case back to the outside is a nice little detail and while not entirely correct historically, please keep in mind that this is a reinterpretation of the original Laco Flieger watch, not a 100% copy.
Just like the cases, the dials and handsets also have (faux) patina. Dials and hands are aged together, so when the watchmakers install them into the Laco Erbstück they are matching. As I said above, Laco uses the original design of the A-Uhr and B-Uhr dials. I’m sure you have seen this numerous time so I do not wish to dwell on it for too long. I like the simplicity of the A-Uhr when a Flieger comes to mind this is the dial I associate it with. If you fancy a more cluttered look (or you need to see the minutes) you can select the B-Uhr dial.
The blued steel hands as well as the indexes and the numbers on the dial glow in the dark thanks to the Super-LumiNova coating. If you want to go one step further, Laco even can crack the luminous material on the hands (by request) to develop a more vintage look. The watch dial of the 42mm version is easy to read and actually wears larger thanks to the thin bezel. The sapphire crystal is domed with anti-reflective coating.
While the old Beobachtungsuhren (translates to “navigator watches”) had high quality pocketwatch movements like the Durowe caliber D5 in case of Laco, the Erbstück comes with an ETA 2801-2. This is a simple manual winding 3-hand caliber with 17 jewels and ticks at 28800vph. The automatic version of the Laco Erbstück is based on an ETA 2824-2. One of the requests from the ministry back in the day was that watch manufactures should use a hacking movement for precise time setting. Just like those in 1940, these ETA calibers also have a hack feature.
The blueprint of the original Flieger does not only detail the characteristics of the watches but also of the leather straps. It is a special design where the 2 parts of the strap are connected, forming a loop. The military personnel had to put their arms through this loop, pull the watch over their jackets and secure it with the strap. The design prevents the watch to fall off the arm. It keeps it in its place so the board crew had access to them at all times. I featured this strap in one of our previous Watch Strap Reviews, there you can read more about the actual design.
It is a bulky strap due to the multiple interconnecting parts. However, it does not bother me when it is on my wrist. This is surely not a dress watch and nothing that can be hidden under your shirt cuff. Yet the watch sits nicely on the wrist and the strap, other than being secure, also adds to the cool vintage-feel. If you don’t fancy this version you can of course remove it and put any other 20mm (22mm for the 45mm version) strap or bracelet on. Laco offers a variety of straps in their on-line shop.
One thing I have not talked about is pricing, other than calling these Laco watches affordable. Laco distinguishes the prices between various Erbstück model based on the sizes. If you prefer any of the 42mm version Erbstück models, let that be automatic or manual, A-Uhr or B-Uhr dial you have to pay €1648. If you prefer the larger 45mm models the price is €1798. Prices are without shipping, so you have to add a bit of extra depending where you are located. You can order your watch on-line from Laco. It usually takes a good few weeks for the orders to be ready for shipping.
Some of you might not be happy with faux patina. I hear you, but on the other hand if you go for a reproduced “vintage” you should go all the way. In my opinion, the Laco Erbstück looks very good on the wrist. The aging is unified throughout the entire watch. If you are not familiar with the Erbstück you could think that it’s actually a vintage piece. If you don’t fancy buying a real vintage watch but you want a (wearable) watch that is as close to the original 55mm Laco Flieger as possible, this is the watch for you. This year, Laco introduces this watch in bronze, and I can’t wait to try it on.
More information via Laco on-line.