We take an in-depth look at the Laco Leipzig, a scaled down model of the original B-uhr Type B. The Leipzig is one of three models inspired by these famous flieger watches used during the war. Other than the more practical size in a 42mm case, it follows the original design and is equipped with a modern handwinding movement.
Our interest was piqued when we studied the press release of the Laco Munchen”Erbstück”, and requested for a review loaner to be sent. We had wanted as original to the B-Uhr as possible, but the watches produced for the war were enormous at 55mm in diameter, and thus not practical for daily wear. After discussing with Laco Germany, we decided on the closest reproduction to the original Type B B-Uhr, but reduced to a more manageable 42mm case. Laco does make an entire collection of the Type B and Type A B-Uhr in various sizes, ranging from 39mm, 42mm, 45mm and the faithful to original size of 55mm. They also had the same basic aesthetics of the watch in either a handwound or an automatic (not authentic even in spirit) movement. And as special models with additional finishing in a hand patina to make the watch look vintage and well used. These are marked as Erbstück, and are fascinating in the degree of attention paid to make these new watches look like weathered ones. We selected for our review loaner the mid-sized 42mm version, handwound of course. Our review model is thus the Leipzig.
Laco Uhrenmanufaktur GmbH (or Lacher & Co) is a German watch manufacturer, founded in 1925 in Pforzheim and were one of the original suppliers to the B-Uhr used in WWII. When the war began in 1939, the demand for pilot watches for military use was very high. The air forces of the warring parties had their own designs, and as governments do, tendered these with specifications out for manufacture and supply. The British had W.W.W, which was the abbreviation for Wrist.Watch.Waterprooof (and not world wide web) supplied by Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, amongst others. The Americans had the American A-11 watches, supplied by Bulova, Elgin, Hamilton and Waltham. And the Germans had their B-Uhr watches, supplied by A. Lange & Söhne, IWC, Laco, Stowa, and Wempe. Among the Germans, Wempe and Stowa used Swiss movements, and only Lange and Laco used in-house German manufactured movements.
The German Observer-Watch, or Beobachtungs-Uhren, were known as B-Uhr, and were originally designed for the Luftwaffe. The Reichluftfahrtsministerium (RLM), the “Ministry of Aviation” in 1933-1945 Germany, defined strict specifications for B-Uhren. There were two basic designs. The Type A (Baumuster-A), which had simple dials – hour markers from 1 to 11 and a triangle at 12 o’clock flanked by two small dots and an outer chapter ring marking the minutes and were made from 1940 to 1941. This was replaced by the Type B in 1941, and had a more complicated dial which included an inner ring with hour markers. The triangle at 12 o’clock looked like an arrow head and the two dots were eliminated. Both were housed in very large cases with soft iron cages for anti-magnetism and measured some 55mm.
Review: Laco Leipzig
Pricing for the Laco Leipzig is set at EUR 980 including VAT and worldwide shipping. The collection is also available in a 39mm case, called the Kampten which is priced at EUR 930, a 45mm model called the Dortmund at EUR1,130 and the faithful reproduction model Replika 55 priced at EUR 3,450.
The case, dial and hands
As a military piece of equipment, the B-Uhr is manufactured to exact specifications of the Ministry. The Laco Leipzig is true to original in all aspects except for the size. The case is in the specified shape, and matte finished in a darkened stainless steel. The dial is black with markings exactly as specified, with the exception that the radium/tritium lume markings on the originals have been substituted for SuperLuminova C3. Within the case, the Leipzig uses a modern Sellita SW210 handwound movement in place of the Laco in-house Durowe cal. 5 movement used in the vintage versions.
On the case side, the text “FL23883” is engraved. This same engraving is also found on the case back, where it is one data element amongst many. The “FL“- Fliegnummer means “Flight number”, meaning that is a piece of aviation equipment; “23” means that this is a navigational device, and “883” is a confirmation that the watch has been tested by the German aviation institute (Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt). This text is found on all the German produced B-Uhr.
The markings on the dial is true to the design specifications of the B-Uhr Type B. On a jet black dial, the white, transfer printed markings emerge. The hands are also per specifications, and are flame blued steel with lume infill. Note that as per the RLM specifications, no maker’s mark is allowed on the dial. Nor is there any other markings other than that essential for time reading and navigation. For example, the dial does not say, “Made in Germany”.
As a military flight watch, the legibility in the dark is an essential element. And of course is part of the specifications that needed to be met before the watch can be passed for use. And the Leipzig shows this to great effect. The Superluminova C3 lume is bright and is very clear and highly legible in poor lighting.
The overall feel of the Leipzig is that this is a very fine watch, matching its intended purpose as a military flight watch. The markings are clear and legible, and the watch performs accurately and reliably. The aesthetics are expected of a watch intended to be faithful to the original B-Uhrs.
The watch carries a closed caseback with military styled engravings. The text engraved is true to the original engraved on government owned B-Uhrs issued to aviators. And carries all the identification marks necessary, including the name of the manufacturer – LACO.
The movement used in the Leipzig is the tried and tested workhorse – Sellita SW210. We did not open the watch to examine the movement finishing, but think it safe to say that it will not carry many high decoration which we are used to in haute horlogerie watches. However, we are confident that the finishing should be sufficiently well performed to be robust, and reliable. During the three weeks the Leipzig was with us, we used it as a daily wear tool watch, without much thought to taking precautions to protect it against abuse. It operated without flaw, and at the end of the loan period, other than the strap which has seen some wear, the rest of the watch remained pristine.
The competitive landscape
The Laco Leipzig is in a comfortable niche of a modern near faithful inspiration of the Type B B-Uhr. It has the added advantage that it carries the heritage as one of the original suppliers of the B-Uhr. Among the original makers which are A. Lange & Söhne, IWC, Laco, Stowa, and Wempe, only Laco and Stowa offer a new watch which look like the original. Lange, IWC and Wempe do not offer an model inspired by the original B-Uhr, though the IWC Pilot’s Watch is a model loosely inspired by the Type A.
Thus, the Stowa’s Flieger Classic Sport Baumuster B (EUR 1,350) is perhaps the closest competitor. Stowa is also one of the original suppliers, and thus can claim the same heritage. The Baumuster B measures 43mm in diameter and carries a very similar Sellita SW215 handwound movement. It too follows the specifications of the B-Uhr Type B to the letter except for the size, movement and the use of non-radioactive lume.
We also see this genre in the Delka Pilot watch 42 mm Type B. Retailing at EUR 720 the Delka is available with the same handwinding Sellita SW210 movement, and generally quality is considered to be quite decent. However, Delka is not one of the original manufacturers of the B-Uhr watches, and purists may flinch at that.
We really enjoyed our time with the Laco Leipzig. It was a worthy companion to our daily wear and abuse routine, and prove to be accurate and reliable. As mentioned, after the 3 weeks or so with us, it was returned in near pristine condition, safe for the strap. It wears very comfortably on our modest wrists, which range from about 6.5 to 7″ (165 to 178mm). The matte finish of the case has a nice tactile feel and does not attract finger prints.
We think the Leipzig is certainly one for the B-Uhr enthusiast, who want a watch which is faithful to the original, yet in a size which is more wearable than 55mm. At 42mm, it carries all the identification marks of the original, yet more practical due to its smaller size, but also modern movement. It is also gets a high recommendation for a tool like watch which looks good, looks authentic, and performs well. For those who insist on an even more faithful reproduction, Laco makes the Replika 55. And for smaller wrists, or larger ones, the 39mm and 45 mm versions are perhaps more suitable.
The Laco Leipzig is photographed in our studio with the Fujifilm GFX 50S II with Hasselblad HC 4/120 and HC 2.8/80 + H26 tube. Profoto strobes.
Laco Leipzig specifications
Made in Germany.
hand winding movement Laco 210
basic movement Sellita SW 210-1
dark sandblasted stainless steel case with “FL23883” engraving, domed and anti-reflective Sapphire crystal, solid case back with engraving
numbers and figures with Superluminova C3
thermical blued steelhands filled with Superluminova C3
brown calf leather strap with rivets
grey watch box with zipper
LUG TO LUG:
up to 10 ATM
91,0 g (incl. strap)
14,5 – 20 cm