German watch makers A. Lange and Sohne and Laco are well known for having produced watches for pilots and navigators during the 1940s (no prizes for guessing which side). Examples of those large-diameter, hand-wound models have become highly coveted among military watch collectors, who appreciate the patina that speaks of them being worn in combat.
Laco resumed manufacture of the ‘Flieger’ style some years ago, making it possible to get the wartime look in a new watch – albeit one that’s clearly a modern-day interpretation of an original due to its pristine appearance.
But recently the Pforzheim-based brand began to answer a demand for new watches delivered in a way that’s the very antithesis of the perfect finish usually associated with high-quality horology – you can now buy Laco Fliegers that have been artificially (but brilliantly) patinated to make them virtually indistinguishable from the aircrew-worn originals of almost 80 years ago.
Each watch is ‘distressed to order’ in a process that adds a couple of months to the delivery time and can be specified in one of three levels, with ‘level three’ being the most extreme. It results in a scratched and dented case, a faded dial and lume and an artfully worn back. There are even mud-like deposits embedded in the crown and lugs.
The official Erbstuck (or ‘heirloom’) range consists of time-only watches based on original, wartime designs – but now UK Laco dealer Page & Cooper has commissioned a limited-edition run of just 25 chronograph models called the ModellG, an interpretation of what such a watch might have looked like had it been produced during the German engineering renaissance of the 1970s.
Each ModellG is medium-aged as standard (although greater or lesser degrees of patination can be specified) and supplied on an Italian-made leather strap along with a set of additional NATO-style bands. Buyers also get one of automotive illustrator Guy Allen’s high-quality A3 prints that’s number-matched to the relevant watch.
The Laco/Page & Cooper ModellG will be made in a strictly limited edition of 25 pieces at £2,495. pageandcooper.com
If British patriotism prevents you from buying a Laco, it’s worth knowing that Breitling has created special Royal Air Force-themed versions of its Avenger GMT II, Aerospace and Colt Skyracer models to mark this year’s RAF centenary, each in an edition of 100 and respectively costing £3,750, £3,650 and £1,800. There’s also a limited edition of 25 Navitimer chronographs, number one of which will be auctioned during the RAF 100 benefit event on October 10, with the other 24 being on general sale as of now.
One of the most coveted of all dual-time watches is the Rolex GMT Master, developed in 1954 for Pan Am pilots flying the first long-haul routes. Its red and blue bezel is known as the ‘Pepsi’ among watch fans and has been synonymous with the model for more than 60 years – so it caused a stir at the Baselworld watch show in March when Rolex stablemate Tudor pulled the wraps off a new GMT version of its smash-hit Black Bay, complete with ‘Pepsi’ bezel, in-house automatic movement and a very tempting price tag.