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Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch

Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch Hands-On

When discussing influential dealers in the luxury watch community, Topper Jewelers seems like an unlikely candidate at first glance. This small, family-owned retailer in the San Francisco suburbs has become a prolific creator of rare and unique collaboration pieces since 2015, however, designing bespoke limited editions with brands including Nomos, Oris, Zodiac, and Seiko. For Topper’s eighth limited edition timepiece, the retailer has partnered with German manufacturer Laco to create the stunning Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition. Blending Laco’s traditional A-Uhr pilot watch sensibilities together with marine chronometer cues and the world’s first use of heat-blued applied hour indices, this latest Topper collaboration raises the bar for the retailer in terms of creativity and craftsmanship.

Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch Hands-On

Revealed during an exclusive celebration at Topper Jewelers in Burlingame, California on December 7, the Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition was an immediate hit with the crowd. When it came time to handle the watch, it was easy to see why.

Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch Hands-On

The word that comes to mind while examining this piece is “elegance.” That’s a rare word in the flieger watch vocabulary, but here it’s surprisingly apt. While the crisp, legible forms of the classic A-Uhr flieger dial are still present here, Laco and Topper have thrown out the military matte black look in favor of something more unique and luxe. Starting with Laco’s traditional blued hands, the Flieger Limited – Topper Edition adds a base of glossy white lacquer and the watch’s signature dish, the heat-blued applied hour indices. Bluing steel is a notoriously temperamental process, one that demands precisely controlled and meticulously applied heat to ensure an even color throughout the finished piece. While the flat surfaces of watch hands or the tops of screws are challenging enough, the decision by the brand to use indices standing a full millimeter above the dial surface made the process truly daunting.

Laco USA sales head Chad Tsagris estimated that for every twelve perfectly finished indices made to complete one dial, there were nearly fifty rejects. After such tight quality control, the results speak for themselves. These indices, along with the blue of the hours, minutes, and sub seconds hands, are clean and restrained in most light conditions, allowing the simple layout of the dial to fly under the radar during regular wear. When the light is just right, however, all these elements flash like blue lightning, and it’s then that the decision to give the indices that extra millimeter of dimension makes perfect sense as the additional light play gifts the watch an extra layer of visual dynamism. It’s worth mentioning though that finding that right angle to produce a flash can be tricky, even unpredictable at times (which makes photographing the dial a real challenge).

Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch Hands-On

With the unique design collaboration at play here, Topper Jewelers Vice President calls the end result “a new take on the idea of a California dial.” While the original California dials were a product of a special order by a California based Panerai retailer, the dial of the Flieger Limited – Topper Edition is a true Californian design emerging from Caplan’s office in Burlingame.


Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch Hands-On

What might be a point of contention for flieger purists, however, is the sub seconds at 6 o’clock. While in some ways this defeats the purpose of a pilot’s watch by making precise timing of events more difficult, in practice this element offers a chance for more intricate blued elements as opposed to a simple blued central seconds. Beyond that, this element offers an additional tie in to the marine chronometer inspiration begun by the blue on white color scheme and elevates the watch beyond simply being a new colorway for an existing timepiece. Lastly, the use of a sub seconds dial shaves off overall thickness.

Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch Hands-On

This thinner dial and movement combination ties back well into that central idea of elegance. While appropriately pilot watch sized at 42.5 millimeters across, the Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition measures in at a solidly svelte 10.7 millimeters thick. This makes for a pilot that easily slides under cuffs, adding extra daily-wear appeal. Other than the thickness, however, the overall case design is very much classic Laco flieger.

Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch Hands-On

The movement at the heart of the Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition is the handwound Laco 98, based on the ETA 6498 base. Viewed through the broad display window, it’s a handsomely decorated specimen with plenty of blued screws to match the dial and solidly executed Côtes de Genève. With a slow beat of only 18,000 bph, the Laco 98 is able to offer 46 hours of power reserve. The massive, geometrically edged plates of this movement also play an important visual role in bringing back some of the purposeful Germanic sensibility this modified Laco might otherwise lack.

Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch Hands-On

While the prototype of the Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition is shown on a 22 millimeter tobacco brown strap signed by Rios, the final production model will use a similar leather strap signed by Laco themselves. As an indicator of what to expect, however, this strap is a handsome and versatile pairing. The decision to delete the standard flieger style rivets here in favor of a cleaner look does wonders to dress up the overall design while reflecting the somewhat altered overall purpose of the watch compared to its more standard pilot counterparts. With the versatility and ability to dress both up and down that this limited piece has, this could be a viable candidate for the fabled “one watch man.”

Hands-On Debut: Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition Watch Hands-On

One of the attractions of Topper’s limited editions for collectors is the factory authentic aura of each design. Topper watches have always felt like natural extensions of the parent brand’s own product line, and this latest Laco is no exception. The end result is certainly unique and eye-catching, but still respects Laco’s timeless design language overall while adding elegance and one of a kind craftsmanship. The Laco Flieger Limited – Topper Edition will be limited to only 100 pieces available exclusively through Topper Jewelers. Watches will be available to pre-order on Topper’s website starting December 9 for $1,895 with an expected delivery date of February 2020.

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  • Raymond Wilkie

    Very nice indeed. Some may say verging on boring but it’s refreshing at times to see a watch doing what it’s meant to do well. No stupid tie-in to some heart wrenching charity. No having to look at it sideways or figure out what inner dial to look at for the hours and minutes. It’s just a watch. Simple.
    Yes i do like to see variations, I like when people use a bit of imagination but at times they try too hard and loose sight of what you want. What bloody time is it !
    Here is a lume shot before Miss Fox beats me to it. ©Watchonista

    • Have you ‘Photoshopped’ the image, Ray?

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Yes to make it a little clearer but I gave the proper creditation.

  • SuperStrapper

    >pilots watch
    >subsidiary seconds

    Pick one.

  • all74

    Beautiful; a handsome take on a tool. I’d like to see the price a little lower, but other than that it’s great.

  • Mikita

    Nice watch. Paper-white dial + heat blued hands always work. Add here a perfect hand cranker 6498 in top finishing = win in my book. However, the price seems on a higher side for Laco. There are cheaper options from Stowa, which look very (I mean it) similar and cost much less.

  • Schön. gut. wahr.

  • Svetoslav Popov

    My Dorthmund is iconic and love it, this one at almost double price, not so much.

  • Craig A Clark

    The price is too much, but I really think this is a gorgeous watch. Other options are half the price, and while I could forgive it being more than other similar options, it’s just a little too far north for me.

    Lovely eye candy though, I do love a nicely finished 6498 🙂

  • Jon Heinz

    Quite easy on the eyes. Digging all the heat blued bits too.

    • egznyc

      Nice – what is it?

      • BNABOD

        Thanks. Some secret sauce . I built it , German made case, flamed blued hands and dial from France . Swiss made 6498 w swan neck . Runs like a charm too.

        • egznyc

          You put this together yourself? Very impressive.

  • Paul

    I may be displaying my ignorance here, but I thought a “California” dial had a mix of Arabic and Roman numerals.

  • Gary Mark

    “the world’s first use of heat-blued applied hour indices” – does this have heat blued markers:

    • Jon Heinz

      (squinting) The hands, probably. The indices, I don’t think so. Really dark and really…blue. And, no mention in that watch’s review…actually just says a vague “really blue” or something along those lines…

    • Nicolaj Nissen

      Yup D. Dornblüth & Sohn have been doing heat blued hour markers for years too. A dangerous statement to say something is a world first…
      They also seen to vastly exaggerate how hard it is to heat blue the markers, deliberately loosely wording that they “estimated” how many would fail the proces. Based on what? I can’t see how it can be THAT much harder to heat blue a piece of steel because of a different shape.

      • Correct – it’s not a world-first, and we clarified with Rob that his remarks had been taken a bit out of context. The story has been amended as such – thanks!

  • Independent_George

    Price is a bit dear, but otherwise it looks like a solid Laco flieger.

  • egznyc

    Either that or its dark-dialed sibling, the Bremerhaven. Both very tempting choices!

  • egznyc

    Two things:
    1) Where’s the lume shot?
    2) Nice enough but I don’t care for the (off-) white hour numerals within a white dial – as the black borders are just a little too thin. Legibility (in my opinion) suffers. Otherwise a handsome watch.

  • ray h.

    By big H do you mean the dinkee HO ? When people say the “sell out” I think of it another way.

  • NaJo

    You mean “living”? I know your category now! Haha

  • Craig A Clark

    Valid points there, thanks for the reply. It does show as a consequence of another in a long long line if nice pieces from various brands needlessly (dependent on POV I know) released as limited run models. I assume that economically it works out better from a business view, and that’s the bottom line when all said and done. Doesn’t detract from what is a lovely time piece.

  • egznyc

    That and the sibling, the Bremerhaven, look quite nice in photos. (Too bad only one has a lumed seconds hand.)

  • Raymond Ha

    Saw the prototype in person today (I live locally), and am blown away. I reserved one, but there are only a few left as of today. In person it’s stunning. I was considering Stowa, but this is special and unusual. Get one before it’s too late.

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