Laco Paderborn Erbstuck

Angus Davies gets hands-on with the Laco Paderborn Erbstuck.

The Laco Paderborn Erbstuck is a sympathetic replica of the original “B-Uhr” timepieces issued to Luftwaffe personnel in the 1930s and 1940s.

Laco Paderborn Erbstuck

Germany has a rich history crafting pilots’ watches harking back to the 1930s. It was about this time that the German Air Ministry established a standard for pilots’ watches, authorising a handful of companies to make timepieces for military use. The watches were termed “B-Uhr” timepieces, Beobachtungsuhr, meaning observation watches.

The companies selected by the German Air Ministry included IWC, A. Lange & Söhne, Stowa, Wempe and, most pertinently in this instance, Laco. The watches measured 55mm in diameter, were worn over the sleeve of a flying suit and featured the reference FL 23883 on the reverse of the case.

The “B-Uhr” timepieces were used for navigational purposes, measuring the time taken to travel between landmarks observed from the flight deck. The watches were extremely accurate chronometers, featuring a triangular index at noon and a hacking seconds facility.

Now, Laco offers a collection of replica “B-Uhr” timepieces, wonderfully featuring patination on their dials and cases. Original “B-Uhr” timepieces contained hand-wound pocket watch movements, while the Paderborn Erbstück features an automatic movement; a concession to modernity. Moreover, another sop to modern tastes is the sizing of the Paderborn Erbstück. It measures a comparatively modest 42mm in diameter.

Eager to get my hands on a touch of faux history, I readily accepted the opportunity to get hands-on with the Laco Paderborn Erbstuck and establish whether it appealed to my horological sensibilities.

The dial

The black dial features a minute track around its circumference. Minutes are assigned greater importance than hours, which was especially relevant for short sorties. The hour track is positioned in the centre of the dial.

Laco Paderborn Erbstuck

The hour and minute hands are lined with luminescent fill and glow in dim light, similar to the Luftwaffe issue watches of yesteryear.

Every 5-minute integer is marked with Arabic numerals. Positioned in between each 5 minute integer are one-minute markings which aid the interpretation of time.

Laco has faithfully captured the aesthetic of the B-Uhr timepiece by featuring an arrow-lie index at noon.

Where this dial excels is in the distressed, antique-like appearance presented. At the fulcrum of the dial, the surface appears slightly corroded / faded.

The B-Uhr was an exemplar of lucidity in its day and this modern watch proves no different.

The case

As previously, stated the Laco Paderborn Erbstuck is much smaller than its historical counterpart. Measuring 42mm in diameter, this watch is a more practical ownership proposition than the original 55mm Luftwaffe issue.

Laco Paderborn Erbstuck

The case has a height of 13mm, allowing it to sit neatly upon the wrist without protruding too much or snagging on objects.

Once again, Laco has distressed the case, featuring corroded areas to portray a life of historical cockpit use.

The crown is large with a fluted grip. Originally the crown was intended for use with glove-clad hands. However, in some cases a large crown can rub against the skin marring wearer comfort. Thankfully, no such problems occurred while the Laco was in my care. Indeed, wearer comfort is very impressive.

Laco Paderborn Erbstuck

The strap is similar in style to the B-Uhr of the past, although it is shorter. The original straps were worn over the sleeve of a flying suit, whereas its modern counterpart is worn against the wrist.

Laco Paderborn Erbstuck

The reference ‘FL23883” appears on the case-band and case-back. In addition, further period text is presented on the dorsal flank of the case.

Laco Paderborn Erbstuck

Laco has wonderfully captured the essence of the original B-Uhr and imbued the watch with a magnificent quotient of vintage details.

The movement

Unlike the original B-Uhr watches, the movement within the Paderborn Erbstück is self-winding. Indeed, it is a modern-day movement, the ETA 2824.2.

Ideally, the Laco Paderborn Erbstuck would be a chronometer and contain a vintage movement, however, this would inevitably increase the cost of the timepiece. The price of this watch, another key attribute, is £1405 (RRP as at 18.7.2017), representing fantastic value for money.

Closing remarks

Original examples of B-Uhr watches are incredibly rare and attract very high prices at auction. The Laco Paderborn Erbstuck captures the essence of the original watch but proves more accessible. Moreover, the watch is more wearable when affixed to the naked wrist.

Laco has imbued the Paderborn Erbstück with an assemblage of period details, including the dial design, oversized crown, text on the case and magnificent patination to bestow an antique-feel to the watch. However, this timepiece is a practical ownership proposition with its highly legible dial, modestly sized case and impressive levels of wearer comfort.

I lament the omission of a chronometer certificate and the absence of a vintage movement, however, I do admit the convenience of a self-winding movement does offset these minor gripes.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Laco Paderborn Erbstuck is that it delivers so much for comparatively so little. Indeed, this is a bargain, imbued with a tasteful dose of nostalgia.

Technical specifications

• Model: Laco Paderborn Erbstuck

Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42mm; height 13mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.

• Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds.

• Movement: ETA 2824.2; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 25 jewels.

• Strap: Closed brown calfskin strap with pivots.

• Price: £1405 (RRP as at 18.7.2017)

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I would like to thank Page & Cooper for kindly providing access to this remarkable timepiece.