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Laco - The 6 Best Affordable Watches from Germany

Posted on July 20 2021

The Best Laco Watches

German watchmaking has had a tough time. That's especially true of a brand like Laco. They have nearly 100 years of watchmaking history.

There's a lot that has happened in Germany over the last century.

The big one for watch brands was the Allied bombing of Pforzheim during WW2. 80% of the watchmaking city was flattened - including all the watch factories.

But it's this type of history that makes for great brand stories.

Because losing their factory to British and American bombs wasn't enough to finish off Laco. Instead, they came back stronger.

So let's have a quick look at that history and then I'll show you the best watches that the brand currently has to offer.

A Brief History of Laco Watches


I don't want to get too bogged down in the history of Laco. Like many well-established brands, it's a story of innovation, growth and changing ownership.

The company traces its roots to Pforzheim in 1925. The city was famed for its watchmaking.

By the beginning of WW2, Laco had a successful business that was producing 30,000 movements a month. But that wasn't to last.

Allied attacks during the war left Pforzheim in ruins.

Using the Marshall plan, Laco was able to quickly get back into business. By the 1950s they were housed in a new five-story factory and were employing nearly 1500 staff.

The first big change of ownership came at the end of that decade. Laco was sold to American company Timex.

That lasted until the mid-1960s when the company was sold to Swiss owners. Like most watch brands, the introduction of quartz watches had a massive impact on the business. Laco didn't survive as a brand.

The Laco name was revived in the 1980s, only for the company to go into liquidation.

The Laco that we know now was relaunched in 2010 as a modest enterprise. The business consisted of eight employees and a vision to return the brand to its roots.

That's where we pick up the story.

Where are Laco Watches Made?


Laco watches are still made in Pforzheim, Germany. Laco watches have those three important words at the bottom of the dial - Made in Germany.

Are Laco Watches Good Quality?


The consensus is that Laco makes good quality watches.

There are two major points to consider. Firstly, their watches are made in Germany. That counts for a lot. In general, German manufacturing has a very good reputation.

German watchmaking specifically, is very highly regarded. There aren't many nations that produce their own watches. Germany is one of the countries that do and it boasts brands ranging from Archimede to Zeppelin.

So you can be confident that German-made watches are of good quality.

Laco uses a variety of movements that are modified in-house. The bases for their mechanical movements come from Japan and Switzerland. Laco calibres are built from Miyota and ETA movements.

Taken as a whole and based on my own experience with German watches, I'm happy with the quality.

The Best 6 Laco Watches


Laco made its name producing aviation and pilots watches. And German pilots watches have their own unique styling. Known as Flieger watches, it's a watch template that you're probably familiar with.

I don't want to only show you a list of Flieger-style watches. Laco now offers more than that.

My list - the best of Laco - includes a variety of styles. But of course, an aviation aesthetic is at the core of the brand. So let's start with an example of a Laco Flieger before we move on.

Laco Basic Rom Flieger Watch

Of the many Flieger models that Laco produce, this is my favourite. It's the Flieger style at its most basic. And it benefits from that simplicity.

Flieger, or observer watches, were made by several German brands during WW2. Laco supplied these watches to the Luftwaffe along with A. Lange & Söhne, Stowa, Wempe, and IWC.

The style is very functional. It consists of a large case, clear numerals on a contrasting black background. Most Flieger models also have an oversized crown. They have two dial types and the Basic Rom is an example of a Type-A dial.

On this particular watch, the case is a comfortable 42mm. That's a lot smaller than a WW2-era version. I find this is much more realistic for users who aren't going to be involved in dog fights.

The same applies to the crown. While still prominent, it isn't the large onion-style crown seen on many German pilots watches.

These small tweaks make this a very attractive watch and the stainless steel bracelet reinforces the modern styling. It's powered by a Laco calibre, based on a Japanese Miyota automatic movement.

If you want a piece of Laco's history, start with a Flieger.

Laco Basic Rom

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 11.5mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 


Laco Cuxhaven Watch

The Cuxhaven represents another strand of Laco's history. Navy or Marine watches were also in demand during WW2. This model takes its design cues from that period. When wristwatches were replacing pocket watches.

So it has the styling of a vintage pocket watch but transferred to a wristwatch. It works for me. It's slightly ornate, with delicate numerals and syringe hands. And like a pocket watch, it's hand-winding.

But like the Basic Rom, it has been updated for a modern audience. So there is an exhibition back - the movement is built from a Swiss ETA base - and a 42.5mm case.

It also has a sapphire crystal.

The colour palette is spartan, with the blue hands consolidating the Navy aesthetic.

This is a gorgeous vintage-influenced piece. It blends the designs of previous eras with modern German and Swiss watchmaking knowledge.

If you want something obviously German, but less obvious than a Luftwaffe watch, take a closer look at the Cuxhaven.

Laco Navy Cuxhaven 862104

  • 42.5mm Diameter
  • 10.7mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Handwinding Swiss movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance


Laco Cottbus Bauhaus Watch

When you think of German watches, one of the first things that should spring to mind is the Bauhaus movement.

Founded in 1919, the Bauhaus school was influential in popularising minimalist design. German brands like Stowa and Junghan's released influential Bauhaus watches and it's a style that has remained in vogue. Recently, Hong-Kong based Dufa built their whole brand around the Bauhaus style.

The Cottbus is Laco's take on this clean, utilitarian watch design. It's available in both 38mm and 40mm variations, with the 38mm feeling more authentic. That smaller case really captures the Bauhaus ethos.

Like the Basic Rom, the Cottbus houses a Japanese based automatic movement. That keeps the price down and makes this a very affordable German-made watch.

The design is quintessential Bauhaus.

It has a simple, round case with straight lugs and an unintrusive crown. The dial is clean, with simple numbers and slim, baton-style hands.

The colours are delightful, with the pale shades giving the watch an artistic vibe. It's a sharp contrast to the militaristic and functional style of other Laco watches.

Bauhaus is an influential art movement, created around the time that Laco was launched. A Laco Bauhaus watch feels like a winner.

Laco Classic Cottbus

  • 38mm Diameter
  • 10.3mm Thick
  • 18mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


Laco Atlantik Watch

The Atlantik is a departure from Laco's house style. It's a colourful, modern-looking dive watch. It has 300M of water resistance and a Swiss ETA based movement.

Despite the contemporary styling, the Atlantik fits well in the Laco range. Many of their watches are designed to be practical and functional - two features that this model shares.

Laco markets this as a sports watch and that is appropriate. The chunky bezel, rubber strap and colourful accents make this a fun watch. It doesn't have the versatility of a Submariner style diver. Instead, it looks like it was built for an active lifestyle rather than the office.

With that in mind, all the specs are as you'd expect. As well as the Swiss automatic movement and water resistance, it has a double-domed sapphire crystal.

There is also a screw-down crown that is protected by substantial crown guards.

This isn't as refined as the Cottbus or as iconic as the Basic Rom. It's a very modern, durable sports watch - ideal if you want the latest Laco design.

Laco Atlantik 862108

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 13.4mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300M Water Resistance


Laco Aachen Blaue Flieger Watch

The Aachen Blaue is another classically styled watch from the Basic line. It's another Flieger, this time with a colourful Type-B style dial.

It takes the iconic German aviation watch and adds a splendid blue. The result is stunning. A watch with vintage inspiration that is ideally suited to modern tastes.

Again it's mid-sized. It has a 42mm case and a substantial crown that is toned down from that on the original Flieger's.

Once more, the movement has a reliable Japanese base. And it has a sapphire crystal on both the front and back.

There's not a great deal to add in terms of design and features. If you prefer the busier Type-B dials, then this ticks that box. It also has good specifications for the price.

Where this watch differs from others is in the colouring. It's blue. And not just any blue, but a very bright blue.

It's not your typical pilots watch, but that is also its main selling point.

Laco Basic Aachen Blaue

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 11.7mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


Laco Engadin Chronograph Watch

The final watch that I'd like to highlight is a special edition quartz model. It's recognisable as a pilots watch, but has the additional chronograph functionality.

The styling is restrained and it has a black textured dial with two neat sub-dials. It does two things that I want in a chronograph dial. It is roughly symmetrical and the sub-dials don't cut through the numerals.

The black dial is paired with a black PVD case, giving the watch a military edge. This is reinforced with the brown numbers and hands and the brown leather strap.

Again, this watch gives the impression of being a tool. The design feels practical and functional.

To keep the watch firmly in the affordable bracket they've opted for a quartz chronograph movement. It also has a mineral, rather than sapphire, crystal.

It's a nice watch to round out this list. Like the Aachen Blaue, it takes inspiration from the past but brings the design up to date. It's another Laco watch that will work well if you're not after a vintage style model.

Laco Engadin 861976

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 11.2mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

Conclusion


Laco specialises in aviation watches. To be even more specific, they specialise in German Flieger watches. They were one of the original pioneers who supplied the Luftwaffe with watches during WW2.

Whilst that is great, and it's what many watch fans demand, I wanted to show you more.

I put this list together because I wanted to highlight their other watches. The classic styles - military, navy and Bauhaus.

As you'll have seen, Laco has produced a series of different styles of watch. Yet they still remaining recognisably German.

There should be something on the list for you. It could be an iconic Flieger - Laco does a wide selection including Type-A and Type-B dials. Or it could be a traditional marine watch.

Dig in and have a closer look at their collections. Then come back and let me know your thoughts below.


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