Most people associate Laco with pilot's watches modeled after timepieces from the 1940s. However, this company from the southwestern German city of Pforzheim has much more to offer, including modern sports watches and chic dress watches.
Located in the southwestern German town of Pforzheim, the watch manufacturer Laco has been an established part of the German watch scene since 1925. They've always been most famous for their pilot's watches. In fact, their current catalog dedicates three collections to this type of watch: Original, Basic, and Special Models.
All three collections share robust stainless steel cases ranging from 39 to 55 mm in diameter, durable leather straps with rivets, and dials inspired by pilot's and deck watches from the 1930s and 40s . What's more, Laco also produces pilot's watches modeled after the on-board displays of legendary aircraft, such as the Spirit of St. Louis, Ju-52, or DC-3.
The top pilot's watches are powered by automatic or manual elaboré-grade Swiss ETA movements. Entry-level timepieces are outfitted with either automatic Japanese Miyota movements or quartz Swiss Ronda movements.
However, Laco is not a one-trick pony. Their product range includes retro navy watches, various chronographs, modern sports watches, and mission timers. Laco even crafts chic, Bauhaus-style dress watches.
|Replica 55||3,900 USD||ETA 6497-1 (elaboré)||Manual winding, 55 mm in diameter|
|Münster Erbstück||2,200 USD||ETA 2824-2 (elaboré)||Artificially aged|
|Seven Seas||2,200 USD||ETA 2824-2 (elaboré)||Pressure resistant to 100 bar, date, helium escape valve|
|Cuxhaven||1,100 USD||ETA 6498-1 (elaboré)||Manual winding, small seconds|
|Spirit of St. Louis||610 USD||Miyota 821A||Small seconds|
|Augsburg 42||380 USD||Miyota 821A||Baumuster A|
|Zürich||270 USD||Quartz Ronda movement||Date, day|
If you're looking for the most authentic recreation of a pilot's watch from the 1940s, look no further than the Original collection. These watches range from 39 to 55 mm in diameter, have an oversized crown, and feature dials laid out according to the Baumuster (types) A and B set out by the former German Imperial Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministeriums, or RLM). On the type A, you'll find luminous line indices for the hours and minutes, as well as luminous Arabic numerals and a triangle at 12 o'clock. The type B has an additional hour ring in the middle of its dial. The large sword hands, which are also coated in luminous material, meet historic specifications. Other than the minute scale, this Pforzheim-based manufacturer adds no labels or inscriptions to these timepieces, as was the case with the original models.
The current standard model with a matte black dial comes in three sizes: 39, 42, or 45 mm. Plan to spend between 1,000 and 1,200 USD on one of these timepieces. The 55-mm Replica 55 is markedly more expensive, with a list price of 4,190 USD. Fans of vintage watches should enjoy the models in the Erbstück (heirloom) series. These watches cost around 2,300 USD and have been artificially aged using chemical and mechanical processes , giving them a distinctly vintage feel. The Blaue Stunde (blue hour) series offers the exact opposite. Deep blue sunburst dials and gray textile straps make these timepieces decidedly modern. These watches sell for about 1,100 USD.
The Basic collection serves as an affordable alternative to the Original collection. While optically identical to their more expensive sister models, they are only available as 39 or 42-mm timepieces. However, the main reason for the lower price comes down to movement specification. Basic models are powered by either an automatic Miyota or quartz Ronda movement. You can easily recognize these models by their smaller crowns and the Laco inscription on their dials. These watches sell for anywhere from 270 to 590 USD.
The watches in the Special Models collection have slightly different designs. Here, Laco gathered inspiration from the on-board instruments found in iconic aircraft. What's more, there are even models with dials resembling the outer shell of the Ju-52. The Special Models collection also features watches with an automatic Miyota or quartz Ronda movement. Prices for these models are just above those in the Basic series, ranging from 330 to 620 USD.
You'll also find plenty of original Laco pilot's and deck watches from the 1940s on the pre-owned market. Manual calibers from Durowe (Deutsche Uhrenrohwerke, a German watch movement manufacturer) power these timepieces. At the time, Laco and Durowe had a close relationship. Well-maintained, these vintage watches are popular among collectors and demand prices of 4,500 to 13,600 USD.
Like pilot's watches, navy chronometers have a long history at Laco. The Navy Watches collection continues this tradition with watches based on marine chronometers from the 1930s and 40s. Their dials are just as clear as those of Laco's pilot's watches, but feature a railroad minute scale and syringe-shaped hands. At 36 to 42 mm in diameter, their stainless steel cases are moderately sized.
You can purchase this collection's top models for around 1,100 USD. These watches feature a refined version of the manual elaboré-grade ETA caliber 6498-1 with a small seconds dial at 6 o'clock. Models with a central second hand and an automatic movement based on the ETA 2824-2 also fall into this price range. Those powered by an automatic Miyota movement are significantly less expensive and demand between 390 and 540 USD.
In addition to wristwatches, you'll find a handful of marine-inspired pocket watches in this collection. Their 58-mm stainless steel cases house the manual ETA caliber 6497-1. What's truly special about these timepieces is their dials, which put black numerals against a light background coated in luminous material. This means the entire dial glows in the dark rather than just the numerals. Set aside 1,100 to 1,300 USD for one of these deck watches.
The Laco catalog also contains a whole series of interesting chronographs. While pilot's watches have heavily influenced the design of most of these watches, there are also some models inspired by classic racing chronographs. Calibers based on the proven Valjoux 7750 are the driving force behind a majority of these timepieces. These movements come with a date display at 3, a small seconds at 9, a minute-counter at 6, and an hour-counter at 12 o'clock. These chronographs cost between 2,000 and 4,000 USD.
You can save around 340 USD by choosing one of the chronographs with a quartz Miyota movement.
Fans of sports and the outdoors will find what they're looking for in the Squad Watches / Sports Watches collection. As the name suggests, these watches are meant to accompany you on possible athletic endeavors. They are especially well suited to life in and on the water with their diving bezels, screw-down crowns, and increased water resistance of 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft), 500 m (50 bar, 1,640 ft), or 1,000 m (100 bar, 3,281 ft) . Some models are even appropriate for saturation dives thanks to their helium escape valves.
These robust watches have a design that's as modern as it is functional. Luminous material on the hands, indices, numerals, and rotatable bezel guarantees optimal readability in all lighting conditions. In fact, the contrast between the colorful SuperLuminova coating on the minute hand and the white coating everywhere else makes telling the time even easier. Elaboré-grade ETA 2824-2 movements lend these timepieces their date display, precision, and accuracy.
Prices for watches in this collection begin around 1,100 USD and go all the way up to 2,200 USD for top models.
The Classics collection is devoted to Bauhaus-style watches. Their tidy dials focus on the essentials and ooze elegance and harmony. You can choose from a number of dial colors, including black, white, or gray. There are also blue, brown, or green sunburst dials if you'd prefer something with a splash of color.
You can purchase an entry-level timepiece with an automatic Miyota 9015 movement for as little as 500 USD. On the other hand, the version with a refined ETA 2892-A2 caliber and tempered blue hands sells for around 1,400 USD.
Frieda Lacher and Ludwig Hummel founded Laco – short for "Lacher & Co." – in the southwestern German city of Pforzheim in 1925. Initially, they focused on importing basic Swiss movements, which they then constructed and used in their own watches. This changed in 1933 when Ludwig Hummel left the company to found Durowe (Deutsche Uhrenrohwerke) and manufacture his own movements. The companies maintained a close relationship, and Laco began using Durowe calibers in their watches.
Laco was one of five watch manufacturers producing watches for the German Air Force during World War II. Near the end of the war, an allied air raid destroyed nearly all of Pforzheim, including a large portion of Laco's production halls. Despite this setback, Laco and Durowe were already producing watches again in 1949. The US Time Corporation (known as "Timex" today) acquired Laco-Durowe ten years later, only to sell the company to the Swiss movement manufacturer Ébauches S.A. in 1965.
Laco fell on hard times during the ensuing quartz crisis, which didn't end until the late 1980s. Executive manager Horst Günther secured the brand's name and logo rights in 1988, and began producing high-quality watches under the Laco name. However, the company had to declare bankruptcy in 2009 and landed under control of Kienzle AG for one year. In 2010, Laco successfully relaunched under the guidance of Horst Günther's son, Andreas.