August 10, 2020
by Ariel Adams
One of German Laco’s latest GMT watches is this lovely Laco Frankfurt GMT that blends both modern and historic tool watch design elements. The Frankfurt GMT extends the brand’s long history of producing pilot-style watches into a contemporary product intended for both pilots and travelers who enjoy the functionality of a second time zone 24 hour GMT hand. Laco has upped the ante both in terms of design and little things like the packaging — which, in this case, supply the Frankfurt GMT with two straps and some accessories in a metal housing. While the Laco Frankfurt GMT isn’t about breaking new ground, technically, it does offer a very pleasant blend of style, value, and functionality that will no doubt have great appeal to a lot of timepiece enthusiasts.
The biggest quirk of the Frankfurt GMT watch isn’t related to the product itself but rather with the two versions Laco has made available. One is the Frankfurt GMT Shwarz (reference 862120) with a black dial, and the other is the Frankfurt GMT Grau (reference 862121) with the gray dial. OK, that seems straightforward enough ,but the amusing part is that it is nearly impossible to know which is which in person if you haven’t seen both of the watches. I believe that that I am reviewing is the Laco Frankfurt GMT Gray, but I am actually not sure. Laco sent us just one of the pieces and without being able to compare the black and gray dials side-to-side, I can’t definitively determine which one I am reviewing. Sure I could ask Laco directly (and no doubt they will clear it up after aBlogtoWatch publishes this review), but I am not asking them for clarification on purpose. Why? Because normal consumers would not necessarily have that type of access when trying to make a decision to purchase remotely online. In a world where more and more watch sales are happening remotely online, versus in-store where items can be inspected in advance, interesting issues like this can come up.
Whether the dial is black or gray according to Laco, the Frankfurt GMT is a gray-tone watch punctuated with two different orange colors on the dial. Otherwise, we have a somber blend of matte gray surfaces that give the Frankfurt GMT a very urban feel that seems to go well with pavement and skyscrapers. Laco pulls from its history-making pilot watches when it comes to the Frankfurt GMT’s dial and hands. The hands, especially — in blue-toned steel — are the most obvious nod to classic German flieger watches.
Modern elements include the gray sandblasted steel case and parts of the dial including the inner rotating 24-hour indicator. This particular feature allows the wearer to expand on the GMT functionality by offering a rotating scale that can allow the user to track the time in a third time zone. The inner rotating bezel is operated by one of the two screw-down crowns and works quite nicely. This isn’t the first watch to offer such functionality, but GMT watches with inner rotating 24-hour bezels are a bit uncommon.
Overall case construction is pretty good. Sometimes sand/bead-blasted watches can reveal manufacturing defects or can leave cases feeling a bit imprecise given how the technique can literally blast off edge details. Here we have a very finely constructed case with good detailing and edges for the price. The precision-cut aviator-style double crowns are a nice detail that helps give the case a high-end feel.
The steel case is water-resistant to 200 meters and is 43mm-wide by 12.5mm-thick. The lug-to-lug distance is 50mm and, overall, it wears quite comfortably. I do prefer to wear the Frankfurt GMT on the supplied NATO-style strap for comfort. The gray strap has a fashionable orange racing strip down the middle of it. On the rear of the watch is a decent vintage fighter plane motif and on the other side over the dial is a double domed and AR-coated sapphire crystal. Glare is present, but it isn’t too bad, and the Frankfurt GMT watch is very legible. A big reason for that is correctly sized hands and other dial proportions, as well as the use of matte surfaces that are contrasted only with the lightly polished blue-hand edges.
The lume view of the Laco Frankfurt GMT is exciting. The hands, hour markers, and inner rotating bezel are all painted and, in the dark, the dial really comes alive. Speaking of the dial and returning to the question of gray versus black (as Laco makes two options), I am actually curious why Laco released two models with similar dials at the same time. Is there a functional or marketing reason for this or did Laco prototype a gray dial and a black dial with both offering satisfactory visuals? Maybe Laco just decided the world needed the Frankfurt GMT both in gray and black dial forms.
Inside the watch is a movement Laco calls the Laco 93. It is the Swiss Made ETA 2893-2 automatic. This 4Hz, 42-hour power reserve movement is a relatively slim GMT workhorse uses in a lot of watches, many of which are at least double the price of the Laco Frankfurt GMT. Laco actually offers two versions of the movement in the Frankfurt GMT, revealed if you look closely enough at the website. The standard movement in the watch is the medium-grade Elabore version of the 2893-2. For $150 USD more you can opt for the “top-grade” version, which has some aesthetic and material upgrades, along with some slight performance advantages. It is hard to say which movement will work better in a real world environment, but the $150 price difference really isn’t too bad and is probably very close to what it actually costs Laco for the nicer movements. I’d recommend that people who are going to wear the Frankfurt GMT as a daily watch or quite often to consider the nicer movement. That said, since this watch doesn’t have a caseback (and you can’t visually see how the movements differ), for people who are going to wear this watch as part of a later rotation, I’m not sure getting the upgraded movement is necessary.
Watch lovers with a penchant for affordable, classic brands will no doubt take interest in the Laco Frankfurt GMT. It is specifically designed for people who want a traditional watch-wearing experience, but for contemporary tastes in a package that does not look like anything else on the market. Laco’s greatest achievement in a watch like this is the company’s ability to get multiple things right at the same time. The Frankfurt GMT feels familiar, even though it is new. It feels like something we know and yet it hasn’t existed before nor does it immediately look like anything else. It also skillfully blends the old and the new in a satisfying way.
None of this is easy to do, even if the resulting product doesn’t truly illustrate the design challenge inherent in a product such as this. It is this reason why it can be nice to purchase products from established brands that have the internal culture to even make watches like this possible. Niche and proud, the Laco Frankfurt GMT is a fun tool watch with a modern spirit and vintage soul. Price for the Laco Frankfurt GMT Grau (862121) or Shwarz (862120) is $1,990 USD. Learn more or order at the Laco website here.
>Model: Ref. 862121/862120 Frankfurt GMT
>Price: $1,990 USD
>Size: 43mm-wide, 12.5mm-thick, and 50mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: The sober gray tones make for a handsome and functional urban-dweller’s watch with an aviation personality.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: German GMT (UTC) lover who wants something familiar-looking, yet novel, with a fair price and decent quality to match.
>Best characteristic of watch: Manages to be a novel design that looks as though it should have been around all the time. It feels like a tool watch first, which is what many timepiece enthusiasts are seeking. Nicely finished case and practical dial. Good luminant.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Laco requires you to be in their head to understand what inspired the Frankfurt GMT watch or who they envision wear this model, as opposed to their many other pilot watch models. Thus, consumers could easily take the long route to appreciating this product.