I have always been interested in the history of World War 2, recently I began to read more and more about this and of course I immediately had the desire to have a watch that would refer to those inconceivable for us – modern people times. Of all watches of the 2nd World War, there is probably no more recognizable and more often recreated than watches of German pilots called B-uhr (short for Beobachtungsurh and translated into Polish – navigator watch). Currently, you can find hundreds of models of watches from various companies more or less inspired by these amazing timepieces.
The watches were produced by 5 companies – Laco, Stowa, Wempe, A. Lange & Sohne and IWC.
The specification of these watches was imposed officially and they all looked the same regardless of the manufacturer:
– 55mm wide case
– Black dial with white indices painted with luminescent mass without any manufacturer’s markings or other signs to obtain maximum readability.
– large, protruding crown
– a long strap that allows you to fasten the watch on your jacket or even on your thigh
– very accurate meovement
– The case back also has no outside markings, this information was on the inside of the case back
– the identification number of the watch placed on the side of the case – FL23883
The watches were not owned by pilots – they received them during the mission and afterwards they had to return them.
B-uhrs had two versions of the dial depending on the production period, and so it was version A which had on the dial only hourly markings at the indices:
And version B with minute and hour markings on the additional internal index circle
* I received permission from the owners of the original B-uhrs photos to use them in the review, for what I thank both gentlemens 😊.
Because I really like simple, raw watches, I’ve been experimenting with various kinds of pilot watches for a long time. In the choice of a watch that I will describe here, Tomek also had his unconscious participation, he bought some time ago Laco Rostock and he praised it very much, saying that it is a company with tradition. That’s what made me start reading about the history of Laco and the B-uhrs itselves, and went to Laco to review the available models. It’s not like I didn’t know Laco before … I knew, but I usually only saw watches on Japanese Miyota movements. So I went to the Laco site, immediately choosing the “original” and bum! Was there for me … apart from modern versions of pilots I found there such models as Replica 55 and watches from the Erbstück series, something that is not offered by any other watch manufacturer – deliberate aging so that the watch looked like the original from the 40s (Erbstück in translation into Polish is a heritage/ fall)
I wanted the watch to look like the real B-uhrs, but at the same time I was aware that the size of the original that would not allow me to wear it.
I chose the model B version with the parameters that were closest to the original watches of German pilots – antiqued Dortmund Erbstück with an case in size 45mm and a hand winded movement.
A new watch costs more than PLN 9000 and you have to wait for it about 2 weeks from the time of order due to the fact of manual aging. So I ordered a watch and after a dozen or so days a big packet arrived to me. I invite you to read review of what was in it 😊
The white cardboard box contains a wooden chest of considerable size. The chest is made of light waxed wood prepared in such a way that it looks used. It has eco-leather ecru (?) lining in the middle. The vibe of the chest definitely fits with what we find inside and its quality immediately makes us understand that we are dealing with a premium product.
It’s not as massive as I expected, to be honest right after opening the box and see the watch I was convinced that they sent me a 42mm version. However, after a long inspection and measuring the case, it turned out that it is as it should be – equal to 45mm. The watch is also not thick (and it probably affects its visual size the most), it is 13mm thick, of which the case has 11 and 2mm is a doomed glass so it really looks even thinner, especially with such a large width of the case. Dimension Lug to lug which I was most afraid of is 53.5mm so it also fits in the range that my wrist can bear. In short – the dimensions of the watch are just right for me, it could be even slightly larger and it would still be ok for me (I will remind you that my wrist measures 18cm) 🙂
The case has a very simple construction (like the real B-uhr), it consists of three parts – a flat case back, a body and a bezel which the connection with the case clearly stands out. There are no additional surfaces, notches, different types of polishing. There is nothing in it that could be considered as beautiful and yet it’s beautiful … It is beautiful in its simplicity. I would dare to say that it is the most beautiful case I could imagine, but it is also a merit of the whole vibe that has a watch and the case itself. This vibes was created by the intentional aging of the case that was made great. I’m very curious how Laco aging watches like this, but I know that this idea was in their case a bull’s-eye. Steel is dirty, discolored or hmm … blackened? it looks like it was lying in the ground for several years. In places where the dirt should be rubbed, it’s rubbed (eg between the lugs, the corners of the case and the bezel).
The case also has real dents and scratches. In the place where the case back opens, there are dents that would be created by opening the watch by watchmaker many times. On the side of the case there is an engraved designation of the watch model – as in the original it’s FL23883. The vintage vibe of the case also adds the lugs (also like a real b-uhr) which are very simple and give the impression of being welded halfway up the case. None of the watch companies operating in modern times would release the watch with such lugs 🙂 they are extremely inelegant. They look like they have only one goal – to combine an case with a strap … In principle, it is difficult to determine what is the quality of the case, you can assess the quality of the case aging and it’s sensational.
The appearance of the original also reproduces a crown that was large and elongated so that the pilots could easily operate the watch in the glove. Of course, the crown works perfectly and despite appearances, it doesn’t stick to the hand.
The watch is powered by the Swiss Eta 2801.2 movement in the elabore version. The movement itself is very good, it works with a frequency of 28,800 beats per hour, has a 50-hour power reserve, hack second and is well adjusted because my copy does +3 seconds per day. But I would not be myself if I didn’t dare a little bit … the DUROWE movements installed in the original Laco B-uhrs were huge and therefore loud (it occupied the whole space inside the case), DUROWE worked with the frequency of 18,000 beats per hour. The movements of the Eta is silent and works in too high frequency to add the watch more taste that would have with, for example, Unitas with a central second which work could be heard from 2 meters.
After all, the huge advantage is the fact that Laco gave the opportunity to choose a movement with a manual winding.
The photo of original DUROWE movement
It is a representation of the original b-uhrow dials with all the details. Closer to the central part there is a circle with 12 luminous dots, at each of the dots there is a digit indicating the hour. Further on the outside of the dial are minute markings. Important memories are the fact that only the markings of full minutes (10, 20, etc.) have a luma. This is a detail which is often overlooked in contemporary reproductions, and the original B-uhrs had the luminous mass just like this. The dial is also aged – it has a patina and the indices that have the lume look yellowish from old age. This is not an ordinary effect of old radium lume because yellowing is not even, the dial resembles a paper covered with coffee which was also lying on the desk for a dozen or so years and turned yellowish – something beautiful.
Hands- minute and hourly in the shape of swords are thermally blued with a luminescent filling. Hourly, just like in the original, is very short – it reaches only to the rim with hour markings, but reaches for them ideally, up to a millimeter. The minute hand, on the other hand, is very long – it reaches the very end of the dial, ends with the minute indices. Both hands are sensational, the luma in the middle is aged and, as on the indices on the dial, yellowing is not even. The biggest impression on me, however, was the second hand which looks like it was an old, simple stick with a black counterweight. Authentically you can see on it is the layer of old, dirty powder luma.
What is most revealing from the external appearance, that the watch is really new is a sapphire, doomed glass with an internal anti-reflective. At first I thought I would prefer plexiglass with some features but it would be an exaggeration, because finding such a watch in the basement, for example, the only thing I would do with it would be fixind the movement and just replaced the glass so that the watch was waterproof and readable. I think, therefore, that the choice of sapphire glass was the most correct in the end the watch is supposed to look old but also have all the advantages of a new watch.
Dial and hands perfectly harmonize with the case, nothing looks here for the younger or older … nothing looks too artificial, it gives a measure of the quality of this watch, you really need to take care of the details to get this effect.
Full, flat case back. Exactly what the watch should have and the one that suits it best. The original B-uhs had only the serial number engraved on the case back, while on the inside of the case back there were information such as type (bauart), production number (gerat-nr), producer of the movement (werk-bez.) Model number (anforderz.) and producer (hersteller). This information has been transferred to the outside of the case back and it was a very good idea. The case back, of course, is also aged and looks great.
Here Laco also made a good job – the strap is smaller and, above all, a shorter version on which the Luftwaffe pilots wore their Watches. I will not describe its design in words because everything can be seen in the pictures, I will write for it’s great quality, it’s thick, soft and smells of an old leather bag. You can smell the scent of the strap not only when you smell it up close – when I wear my watch, I realize that I feel it all the time 🙂 Believe it or not, it’s very comfortable to wear, the strap was very soft from the very beginning after a few days of wearing, he softened even more. It’s also easy to put it on because it creates a closed ring all the time, in which we simply put our hand on.
The metal accessories of the strap are also of great quality, these metal buckles are the whole element sewn into the strap, it cann’t be removed without cutting the strap. The only minus of it is the thickness from the bottom of the wrist – it is bigger than the watch itself. But let us not kid ourselves, no one will wear it to the suit. The strap perfectly complements the vibe of the watch and I cann’t imagine carrying it on another. Important note – on my 18cm wrist I fasten this belt on the first hole and it’s slightly loose for me, people with smaller wrists will have to think about another strap.
How many times have I written about the vibes of this watch? I will write again … this is the most atmospheric and at the same time probably the closest to the original reproduction of German B-uhrs that exists on the market. To a person who is not familiar with the subject I could without the slightest problem, tell that the watch is 80 years old and was on hand of German navigator when he was dropping bombs in World War 2…. because this watch looks like that!
In my personal feeling ,with this watch all other vintage styled watches can hide because Laco went a step further and it worked out sensational.
It is an ideal watch for people who like old, time-stamped watches but are afraid to use them because these watches are more susceptible to damage due to their age. The Erbstück models do not have this problem because they combine the appearance of an old watch with all the advantages of a new watch, such as decent stainless steel, a new movement, sapphire glass, possible trouble-free access of original parts. It’s also important that it is precisely Laco, which these watches were produced 80 years ago and has the full right to create reproductions and historical references.
Well … I’m delighted.
I wonder how this watch will look like when it really will be 80 years old 😊