To be honest, I am not a big fan of “Flieger” watches. I have been collecting watches for many years now, but mostly divers. There are some (few) dress watches in my collection and I do have a Seiko Flightmaster (SNA411). But I didn’t have a real Flieger, which means a watch designed more or less in World War II in two variations: Baumuster A and Baumuster B. You can read something about the history of these two dials here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beobachtungsuhr (German).
In summary the Baumuster A has a triangle instead of a number 12 while the other indices are arabic numbers, Baumuster B has the minutes 5 to 55 instead of the hour indices. They were not worn by pilots, but by the navigators. Both designs are highly legible, especially Baumuster A is hard to beat if you want to read the time with a very short glimpse. Baumuster B in my eyes looks a little bit strange und uncommon with its big arabic numbers for minutes, while Baumuster A still looks very modern: a legible, clear, no-nonsense design. So, the few times I was looking for a Flieger it was always Baumuster A.
Being a watch collector for me the historical background is always important. So let’s move back in time and take a look which companies produced the Flieger watches back in the forties.
Five companies have been chosen by the Ministry of Aviation to produce these watches and all five are still alive today, some had vanished and rose again, some are part of a bigger company now and some are still or again independent. Four of them have at least one Baumuster in their portfolio today. So when I decided to buy a Flieger it had to be one of this five – and that’s the historic point in this article.
Let’s have a closer look at the fore mentioned five:
First: A. Lange & Söhne:
A true German company based in Glashütte, not existent for decades and rebuild after the downfall of the GDR by a descendant of the Lange family is now a true luxury company with many complicated and expensive watches. It’s also part of the Richemont company, one of the biggest names in watchmaking industry today. But it’s also the only company of the five that doesn’t have a Flieger in its portfolio today. So if you are in for a Lange it has to be a historical piece. Good luck and be sure to hit the lottery jackpot first.
Second: International Watch Company IWC
IWC (also a part of Richemont) on the other side has many Flieger watches in their Portfolio, including the famous “Le Petit Prince” and “Spitfire”. I think the “Le Petit Prince” was the first blue Baumuster A on the market, an eyecatcher for the connoisseur. They don’t sell Baumuster B, but that’s not my problem because a blue “Le Petit Prince” would be fine for me. But there is the price point: IWC is also a company with luxury watches like Lange (not that exepensive as Lange though) and the cheapest Flieger in their portfolio has a price tag of 4.500 Euro. Way too big for what I was willing to spend. So let’s move over to the third company.
Wempe, widely known as a retailer of luxury watches, has a long history in watchmaking. For more than 100 years they manufactured highly precise marine chronometers. This history continues today in the Sternwarte Glashütte, where they certify watches according to the German chronometer norm. They have a few Flieger watches in their portfolio (also no Baumuster B) starting at 1,500 Euro. I do like this so called “Zeitmeister” watches because of their excellent finishing, but that was still too much money for my Flieger (remember, I’m more the diver type). But there are two more and smaller companies left, both based in Germany
I love this company – I have a Stowa Marine Original in my collection which is truly one of my favorites. I love the service and the heart for the customer, ask them something via telephone or email and you see. So this was the obvious choice for my Flieger watch Baumuster A (and to add: They also sell Baumuster B). Still you have to pay about 1.000 Euro ( a little less) but that would be ok for me. They only problem remaining: I was in love with the blue dial of the IWC “Le Petit Prince” and Stowa didn’t offer any blue dials. And besides that, 1.000 Euro is still a lot of money, what if it’s not a long time love with my Baumuster A? So let’s take a look at the fifth company.
Fifth: Laco 1925
Laco offers the widest range of Flieger watches of all five companies, including Baumuster A and B, different color dials and different qualities. Colors include black (of course), taupe and blue. Yes, blue! And a real nice sunray blue dial it is! And they offer them in their simpler quality for only 340 Euro. For this amount of money you get a sandblasted, originally shaped case in your choice of size (39 or 42mm), a sapphire crystal, a see-through bottom (I could live without that) and a Miyota 821A movement (not hacking, but handwinding). The Miyota got a custom rotor and is regulated to an accuracy of -10/+20 sec by Laco.
Laco names its watches after (mostly) German cities and the Baumuster A with Miyota Movement and blue dial is called “Laco Augsburg Blaue Stunde” (blue hour, which is late afternoon). Of course the blue dial is nothing but historical correct, but I highly recommend this eye catching colour. The 42mm model has a height of 11,8 mm, a length of 50 mm and a lug width of 20 mm. I think you can hardly get a better looking Baumuster A at this price point. Ok, you can go for a Chinese brand, but I don’t know why to do this if you can get a superb looking watch from one of the original companies for 340 Euro. And that’s the affordable point in my article.
Any downsides? Yes, the strap. The watch comes with a silver grey Nato strap of simple quality. To my opinion the watch deserves a better strap. Laco offers to deliver with a different strap and according to your choice you may have to pay extra money. I didn’t ask. I replaced the strap with an affordable leather strap Flieger style. I have tried several colours but liked black the most. Maybe you prefer a brown one.
For me now, my wish for an affordable historic Flieger comes true with this beautiful watch!
|Movement||Laco 21 (Miyota 821A)|
|Lug width||20 mm|