The Stowa Flieger Automatik vs. the Laco Flieger Serie 0 Automatik.
Beobachtungsuhren or short B-Uhren (= observation watch) were made for the German air force during WWII by 5 companies: Lange & SŲhne, IWC (both with inhouse movements), Wempe (with Revue Thommen movements), Laco (with Unitas movements) and Stowa (with Durowe movements). Initially they were all made with the type A dial, from 1941 onwards the type B dial was also introduced.
Iíve always been intrigued by the simplicity and straightforward design of both dials. About a year ago I bought the Stowa Flieger with type A dial. Since Iíve always liked the type B dial too I recently added the Laco Serie 0 with type B dial to my collection. Thereís a wide range of B-Uhr homages out there, but I liked to have homages made by one of the original 5 producers. Hence the Stowa and Laco were the watches of my choice. Hereís a small comparison of the two contenders.
The Stowa has a 40mm stainless steel case with brushed finish. The crown is engraved with the Stowa logo. It has a display back and both crystals are sapphire. The top crystal is slightly domed and has antireflective coating on the inside.
The Laco has a 42mm stainless steel case with bead blasted finish. The case design is very close to the original 1930ís design (about the closest you can get), the crown is also inspired by the original design, but proportionally much smaller. The Laco also has a display back and both crystals are mineral glass. The top crystal is domed and this is my biggest issue with the Laco. Because of the domed form it appears to be a lense when looking from the side and from extreme angles the dial canít be seen at all. In my opinion this is a pity, because it makes the watch look cheap.
Although the crown on the Laco screws down, both watches are rated WR=5 bar.
Overall both cases look excellent, but Iíd rate the finish of the Stowa just a notch better.
Dials and hands
Both dials look excellent, but again the Stowa is just a notch better, since the luminous paint on the Laco can be obviously seen (itís thick). The date on the Laco doesnít bother me, although it could be placed just a little more to the right. In the dark, the Stowa really takes the lead: the lume of the Laco is ok, but the Stowa glows really strong Ė among the best Iíve seen so far.
The hands of the Stowa are blued (like on early B-Uhren), the hands on the Laco are painted black. The blue of the Stowa hands is great to look at and can only be noticed from certain angles. In day to day use one doesnít notice at all Ė at a quick glance they appear to be black. The length of the hands is excellent on both watches.
Both watches are equipped with an ETA2824 movement. Laco doesnít offer any choices, the movement itself has not been decorated, except for an engraving on the rotor. Compared to the engraving on the Stowa rotor it looks a little like an applied decal. Stowa offers three choices: at the basic price youíll get a basic ETA2824 with an engraved rotor, like the Laco. Add another 50 Euros (which I did) and youíll get additional blued screws. For another 199 Euros (on top of the basic price) youíll get a chronometer movement with blued screws, Geneva stripes and a chronometer certificate.
I havenít really timed both watches, but the Stowa appears to be running more accurately (the Laco gains ca. 60s in 5 days Ė the Stowa way less).
On the pictures you see here both watches are equipped with optional straps. The Stowa is equipped with a Stowa strap in the original design (no longer available in this color). The Laco is equipped with an aftermarket strap which exactly has the original design of the old straps. The straps the watches came with are both good. The Stowa came with a mid brown strap with 2 rivets. The Laco came with a black ventilated (!) strap with two rivets. I liked the Laco strap a little better.
The Stowa comes in a very cool steel case, which can be used as a travel case. The Laco comes in a nice cardboard box, which allegedly is close to the original delivery boxes.
Prices and verdict
The Stowa costs 499 Euros, the Laco 369 Euros, both are being sold directly on the manufacturers website. The Stowa is now also available without logo on the dial and with an onion crown. The Laco is also available with a type A dial and with different movements.
I like both watches and really wanted to have both in my collection. Although the Stowa is significantly more expensive, Iíd prefer the Stowa if I were to buy only one. The finish is better in small details and one large one: the crystal. In my opinion the Stowa feels like a much more expensive watch than it actually is.