In 2025, German Laco watches will be 100 years old. The brand’s Mission 2025 marketing strategy leading up to the important anniversary starts a couple of years before the actual centenarian occasion.  The campaign has already seen a few models released including the Laco Edition 95, 96, and 97. Late 2023 sees the release of this limited edition (of 98 pieces) Laco Bicompax Chronograph Edition 98, which I look at today. I think it is safe to say that the near future will also see the release of the Laco Edition 99 and the Laco Edition 100. According to Laco, what makes the Edition 98 pilot’s watch special is the luminant application. It is true that compared to similar watches (even other Lacos), the level and application of C3 (color) SuperLumiNova luminant material is on a totally different level. With that said, it would be incorrect to say that the only thing special about the Laco Bicompax Chronograph Edition 98 is the luminant. In fact, this is probably the finest pilot-style watch from Laco that I’ve reviewed yet.

The core watch design is based on the German flieger (aviator) dial which is a product of the 1930s and 1940s. It has been a look that Laco has produced in various forms for, well, nearly 100 years. Historic German pilot-style watch cases and dials continue to be fashionable and compelling. Entire brands like IWC build much of their personality around them. No one owns this core design, and brands who produce them compete when it comes to finer elements of the detailing as well as offering value for money. What Laco has always done well is offer budget versions of the core flieger look as well as still-affordable enthusiast-grade models (often with a variety of customization options). So where does the Bicompax Chronograph Edition 98 fit into that mix?

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A good hint is in the price, which is clearly on the more expensive side when compared to most Laco pilot watches. With that said, once you wear and handle the Edition 98, you certainly will notice that it feels like an even more expensive watch. That’s why I refer to it as the finest Laco pilot watch I’ve handled thus far. That takes into consideration the finishing of the steel case, the movement, and its decoration, as well as (most importantly for timepieces of this type) the dial detailing and style. A nicer or less nice dial easily can make or break a vintage-style pilot watch such as this. Whether they were trying to or not, the overall face design of the Edition 98 has both excellent legibility and detailing — as well as being pretty. It works so well for the theme that it seems to have set a new bar at Laco for a watch of this type.

I don’t think that Laco produces any standard (non-limited) edition chronograph pilot watches at this time. Certainly, Laco has produced other chronograph watches in the past, but there are currently no Bicompax (two-register) Chronograph watches in the standard collection. The movement used is the Swiss Made Sellita SW510BHb. Originally based on the classic Valjoux 7750 architecture (with changes), this movement has some modern upgrades including 62 hours of power reserve, running at a frequency of 4Hz. The movement is offered in “elabore” grade which means more decoration and blued screws, which you can admire through the sapphire crystal window on the back of the case. The automatic movement in this form features the time with subsidiary seconds dial along with a 30-minute chronograph. The dial information is so easy to read thanks to the crisp markers on the dial and the high-contrast hands. Something about the luminant material makes the lighter-color elements of the dial pop better than if they were merely printed in white or another high-contrast color.

It might be hard to notice, but the watch hands are flame-blued steel and not simply black. The color is subtle enough but when you notice it, the primary effect (for me) is to think of how the Edition 98 ties back to its watchmaking legacy and how flame-blued-steel hands have been relied upon for attractive and visible dials for hundreds of years. The Laco Bicompax Chronograph Edition 98 has a double-domed and AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial, which produces relatively little glare. The 43mm wide case wears on the larger side, but is actually quite comfortable on the wrist, especially thanks to the soft, pliable black leather strap. Don’t forget the steel rivets in each strap end, which are today functionally useless, but an important visual style personality component of this timepiece archetype.

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The polished and brushed steel case is (again) 43mm wide, and 14mm thick with 100 meters of water resistance. That is pretty decent considering that the crown and chronograph pushers do not need to be screwed down. If you grew up with blacklight posters, then you might have some idea of the visual pop that you can get from a watch dial that combines a matte black background with glow-in-the-dark elements. I am actually surprised this hasn’t been done before. Given the unique case, movement choice, and overall dial style in the Laco product catalog, I can’t see why the Edition 98 won’t sell out as quickly as the Mission 2025 anniversary watches that came before it. The price for the limited edition of 98 pieces reference 862166 Laco Bicompax Chronograph Edition 98 watch is $3,570 USD. Learn more at the Laco watches website.

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