Germany’s Laco isn’t a brand we frequently feature in this series. Part of the reason for this has to do with the brand’s relevancy in the American market, while another part has to do with its being overshadowed by numerous other German brands with stronger messaging. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean Laco isn’t offering good watches, and I would argue, in fact, that it released two of its most underrated pieces so far in 2019: the Navy Cuxhaven And Bremerhaven.
The two new watches are inspired by two different models, a 1940s pocketwatch and a another model “resembling the watches of the crew on board the U1 submarine” (that is, a German U-boat). Laco doesn’t actually call out the specific references or offer photography of either model, but 1940s war-era German watch designs are some of the best known in the history of watches, so spotting the similarities isn’t an arcane exercise.
The new Navy models use a 42.5-mm polished and sandblasted case, with an attractive fluted bezel and matching textured crown. On the dial of the two watches, differentiated only by the Bremerhaven being black and the Cuxhaven being white, you’ll notice an outer railroad-track minute ring punctuated with Super-LumiNova markers at teach of the hours, and further punctuated with printed Arabic numerals within those. At the bottom of the dial is a sunburst-finish subdial that contrasts well with the main dial’s more matte finish. At the top of the dial is the classic script Laco logo, with two sword-and-syringe hands passing over the face to tell the time.
Inside the two watches is the manually wound Laco 98, which is a Laco-finished ETA 6498.1 Elaboré, with a 46-hour power reserve and visible through a sapphire caseback. Currently the watch is on sale through Laco’s website or at an authorized dealer, for just below $1,200.
The watch clearly employs some vintage references in its design, as one can see by the railroad minute track, the hour-marker accents and numerals, and the somewhat pilot-inspired crown. It’s a relatively simple design overall, but it nonetheless is effective in recalling World War II-era motifs. The most obvious vintage styling is seen in the hands, which — while uncommon in their look both historically and in today’s watch world — help recall the sword style common during the era that inspired the watch.
I have read some commentary about the watch that the manually wound movement and the watch’s size also recall vintage attributes. That the movement does so is obvious: automatic movements didn’t enter major popularity until the late 1950s, so it would’ve been off-beat for the two new models to veer away from the older style. Yet the sizing— 42.5-mm — isn’t large enough to honestly replicate a pocketwatch sizing, and isn’t small enough to recall a 1940s-era field watch; it’s primarily a modern diameter, seen very rarely in time-only pieces prior to the last few decades.
Other modern elements in the new pieces are in the fluted bezel — which, while existing as a trait in vintage watches like the Omega Constellation and Rolex Datejust series since their releases in 1945 and 1952, respectively, was very unlikely to be seen on functional-only, pre-golden-era military models. The final contemporary advancement is in the overall quality of manufacturing: the edges are clean, the dial is precisely executed with great contrasting between the main dial and subdials, and the caseback is sapphire, displaying a modern workhorse movement.
I understand why Laco doesn’t regularly gain major attention among media and consumers. Many view it as a more budget-focused brand with designs very similar to those of larger, more luxurious counterparts like IWC and Sinn. However, the Laco brand nonetheless has a strong history of its own— it is much older and more well-established than Sinn (established 1961), in fact. Offerings like these new Navy models clearly demonstrate why the brand is still in the metaphorical “game,” offering consumers a good value proposition in price and quality, from a legacy brand that is not going away anytime soon.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we take a look at the Yema Rallye Andretti Limited Edition and compare it to its historical forebearer, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.