Pilot’s watches are among the more familiar styles of timepieces, and when most people think of a classic pilot’s watch, it is typically something with either a Type A or Type B flieger dial that first comes to mind. As one of the original five brands that produced timepieces for the German Air Force, Laco is often a favorite among collectors who are looking for a pilot’s watch with legitimate heritage. However, one of the greatest challenges for brands that specialize in aviation inspired timepieces is being able to iterate upon this classic aesthetic enough to the point where their products feel fresh and new, despite still following a design that has been around for the better part of a century. The most recent release from Laco for 2023 is a pair of limited edition “Polar” pilot’s watches, which bring crisp white dials and thermally blued hands to the brand’s most affordable entry-level lineup.
Aside from their dials and hands, the two new “Polar” Laco watches are entirely identical, with the Laco Augsburg Polar 42 being the Type A variant, and the Laco Aachen Polar 42 being the Type B version. Consequently, both limited edition models feature the same stainless steel case with entirely brushed surfaces that measures 42mm in diameter by 11.7mm-thick, with 20mm lugs and an overall lug-to-lug profile of 50mm. Similarly, both watches also feature flat sapphire crystals above their dials, large fluted crowns at the 3 o’clock location, and snap-on casebacks with sapphire display windows that help create a fairly standard 50 meters of water resistance. As these models closely follow the overall design of a traditional pilot’s watch, their cases offer little surprises and are simple and straightforward with round profiles, fixed bezels, and zero polished bevels or embellishments whatsoever.
Realistically speaking, these new limited-edition “Polar” Laco watches are all about their dials and hands, which lean into a crisp white and blue color profile for a unique twist on a familiar aesthetic. On both models, the dial surface is matte white with metallic blue baton indexes, along with a mix of both blue and black printing and Arabic numerals that are finished with blue-glowing C3 Super-LumiNova. On the Type A “Augsburg” model, it is just the hour markers and triangle at the 12 o’clock location that are luminous, while the Type B “Aachen” version has both its internal hour scale and larger outer Arabic numeral minute track finished with blue glowing lume for a slightly more dynamic display in the dark.
To complement their white and metallic blue dials, both of the new limited edition Laco “Polar” watches are fitted with a set of genuine thermally-blued hands. Although the seconds hand on both models is just a simple luminous shaft with a matte black paddle-shaped counterweight, the hour and minute hands are both heat-blued and appear as different shapes on each of the two watches. The Laco Augsburg Polar 42 with its Type A Flieger dial is fitted with a set of elongated diamond-shaped hands, while the Laco Aachen Polar 42 and its Type B dial is completed by a sword-shaped set, with a significant difference in size between the hour and minute hands. I’m often a stickler about minute hands not reaching the markers of their minute tracks, although that isn’t a problem on either of these Laco models at all, and both have hands that extend well beyond the tips of their corresponding minute markers.
Just like the Arabic numeral markers on the dial, the hands are also finished with blue-glowing C3 Super-LumiNova, which compliments their thermally-blued metallic borders. However, since the hands are actually heat treated to achieve their blue color, while the hour markers are not, the finish on the hands has a deeper color than the bright and highly metallic finish of the hour markers. Minor color differences aside, the fact that Laco is offering genuine thermally blued hands-on models that are priced firmly on the affordable side of its catalog is something that should be encouraged, as this premium detail is often reserved for timepieces that cost multiple times the price of these new limited-edition “Polar” pilot’s watches.
Powering both the Laco Augsburg Polar 42 and the Aachen Polar 42 is the Laco 2S automatic movement, which is the brand’s version of the popular Miyota 82S0. Running at a frequency of 21,600vph (3 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 42 hours, the Miyota 82S0 is very much a known quantity within the industry, as it is the time-only version of the popular Cal. 8xxx series that is partially open-worked to permit a dial-side view of its balance. While this movement was originally designed for skeletonized watches and open-heart models, it naturally has a time-only configuration, which means that there isn’t a “phantom” position when you pull out the crown to set the time. The Cal. 8xxx series is Miyota’s entry-level lineup of mechanical movements, and while it is entirely inauspicious from a horological standpoint, it is also unanimously reliable and a big part of the reason why these new models are some of Laco’s least expensive models, despite having genuine thermally-blued hands.
Given that both of the new “Polar” Laco models are identical from an external case perspective, both watches are fitted with the exact same strap. Crafted from brown calf leather and featuring a double rivet design, the straps taper from 20mm at the lugs down to 18mm where they connect to the signed stainless steel pin buckle. Just like most modern versions of this strap, the rivets don’t actually extend through the material itself, and I’m fairly certain that they are just for decorative purposes. However, the benefit of this approach is that the interior of the strap remains completely smooth and free from any protrusions for greater comfort on the wrist. The leather used for the strap is quite soft and comfortable right out of the box, although individuals who have small wrists should be aware that I have to wear the strap on the smallest possible sizing hole, and my wrist has a circumference of about 6.5 to 6.75 inches.
Laco produces a fairly wide assortment of pilot’s watches, with the vast majority of its models priced somewhere north of a thousand dollars. However, the Augsburg and Aachen from its “Basic” series offer classic Type A and Type B flieger dials at roughly half the price of the brand’s second least-expensive offerings. While the new “Polar” variants are slightly more expensive than their standard-production siblings, the Laco Augsburg Polar 42 and Laco Aachen Polar 42 are both accompanied by an official retail price of $540 USD, which still represents a strong value within this segment, especially considering that they are fitted with genuine heat-blued hands. Additionally, both of these new “Polar” models will be produced as limited editions of 250 pieces, with each watch featuring its unique number engraved upon its caseback. All things considered, Laco’s new limited edition “Polar” models represent rather compelling options for those who are in the market for an affordable pilot’s watch, and they offer a twist on a classic design, while still retaining much of the aesthetic versatility that has made this style of timepieces a favorite among collectors for decades. For more information on the Laco Augsburg Polar 42 and Laco Aachen Polar 42 watches, please visit the brand’s website.