We watch enthusiasts can be a picky lot. We tend to obsess over the tiniest details -it might be a case that’s a millimetre too big, a date wheel that’s the wrong colour, or an ugly logo. These things may seem trivial, but we all know that they can make or break whether or not a watch is for us. And, there’s nothing more frustrating than when a watch is almost perfect, but it’s let down by one simple thing.
Fortunately, there’s one brand that’s taken note of how finicky watch nerds can be, and is doing something to address that. That brand is Laco, and with their latest Flieger Pro collection, they’ve created an online configurator that lets you build your perfect pilot’s watch.
If you don’t know much about Laco, the German brand was founded in 1925 and is one of five manufacturers that made watches for the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. This makes Laco one of the original producers of the Flieger, and it’s a heritage that they capitalise on, with the majority of their catalogue being aviation-themed. I’m aware that the fact Laco’s watches were used by the Luftwaffe might be problematic for some people, but it’s not something I want to explore in this review. Many companies have been party to terrible events in the past, and I feel like how that influences our perception of them in the present is a broader discussion for another time.
All The Choices You Have With The Flieger Pro
Getting back to the watches, Laco launched their Flieger Pro collection late in 2021, and there are literally thousands of combinations, which makes this something of a watch nerd’s dream. For starters, Laco offers three choices of case size – 37mm, 40mm, and 43mm. Whichever size you chose, you have the choice of either a brushed or blasted case finish, and either a display or closed case back. There’s also the option to have the crown on either the left or right side of the watch.
For the movement, you can have either the automatic Sellita SW200-1 or the manual wind SW210. Once you’ve chosen which you then need to decide whether or not you want the Elaboré or Top Grade version of the movement. You also get to choose whether or not you want a date window, and whether you want a black or white date wheel. And, as a final touch, you can opt for either a plain or decorated movement.
For the dial, you can have either a Type A or Type B dial, and you can choose to have it either with the Laco logo or sterile. Last but not least you can choose whether or not to have an anti-reflective coating on both sides of the sapphire crystal or just on the inside.
All in all, there are over 14,000 combinations, and with such a plethora of options, it’s apparent that Laco has made a real effort to offer something for everyone. Of course, there are surcharges for many of the options, such as a larger case or better movement, but that’s to be expected. With so many options the price can vary significantly, and the cost of a Laco Flieger Pro can be anywhere between $1,140 and $1,810.
The Quality Of A Laco Flieger Pro
By this point, you might be thinking “this all sounds great, but what’s the quality of the watch like?” Well, Laco were kind enough to send me a sample to try out.
The sample Laco sent me is a 40mm version of the Karlsruhe Pro, which is the Type B dial variant. It has a very reasonable lug length of 47.5mm and it’s also very slim, being just 11.35mm thick. These dimensions will be a sweet spot for many people, and unsurprisingly I found the Flieger Pro to wear very nicely indeed. There’s not much to say about the case design, other than that the finishing is very well done, and that the screw-down onion crown is very tactile and easy to grip. On the left side of the watch is engraved the serial number FL23883, which is the item code given to the original Fliegers. It’s also worth noting that whilst this is a pilot’s watch, it has a 200m depth rating, so you don’t need to worry about getting it wet.
This particular sample comes with a display case back through which you can view the reliable Top Grade Sellita SW200 movement. When a movement is nicely decorated like this one, it’s always a joy to be able to see it ticking away.
A Look At The Dial
The problem with pilot’s watches is that they all follow a rigid design language. The dial is the best example of this, and the dial of this Flieger Pro is the classic “Type B” layout that’s found on many other pilot’s watches. It features an exaggerated minute track that takes centre-stage, with the hour markers relegated to a smaller scale towards the centre of the dial. Because it’s nearly identical to many other pilot’s watches, you have to look very closely at the details to see what sets this Laco apart.
The dial print is practically flawless and exceptionally crisp. There’s also a healthy application of C3 Super-Luminova, so the watch glows surprisingly brightly in the dark. The date window at three has a bevelled edge that frames the date perfectly and stops it from looking like an afterthought. However, the nicest feature of the Flieger Pro is undoubtedly the thermally-blued handset. Its flawless polished surface catches the light from every angle and has a rich blue colour that varies significantly in shade depending on the lighting.
The calfskin leather strap the Flieger Pro comes on is nice and thick, but it’s also supple enough to mould to your wrist, which makes it pretty comfortable.
It’s at this point that I must admit I have a confession to make. I’m not a big fan of Fliegers. And I think that’s because they’re just a bit too sterile for my tastes. However, at the same time, I can appreciate a good watch when I see one, and Laco is a brand that I feel deserves a lot more love. It’s got some fantastic heritage and what it’s done with the Flieger Pro collection is pretty impressive.
There are very few brands that offer such a high level of customisation, let alone at this quality, and the sheer amount of options means that anyone should be able to build their perfect Flieger. The only stumbling block I can see is that these watches are hardly cheap, but as I hope I’ve demonstrated here, I think you get what you pay for.
You can view all the configurable options for the Flieger Pro on Laco’s website here.