Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Laco 1925 Squad Atacama “Ninja” Reference 861632 - A Black Ops Watch With Major Flaws

The company LACO (Lacher & Co.) was founded in 1925 by Frieda Lacher and Ludwig Hummel in Pforzheim. After Mr. Hummel left the company, Erich Lacher took over completely in 1936. The "Erich Lacher watch company" manufactured the legendary Pilot watches of the 1940's under the brand "LACO". The models were DIN certified and famous due to their precision and reliability.

I always admire companies and brands with strong historical past. As my first direct exposure to this brand, I decided to acquire their Squad Atacama “Ninja” model.

Laco’s Squad series are technical watches designed for the rigors of military service. Designed to be stealthy and capable for diving up to 500 meters, I was drawn to these specifications.

The Watch: The Laco Squad Atacama is a tactical style watch designed for military or law enforcement. Made in Germany and powered by a Swiss Made ETA 2824-2 automatic movement with approximately 42 hours of power reserve, the watch uses IP black casing with display screw down case-back. The dial is also black with Arabic numbers and markers.

SuperLuminova C3 is used to paint the Arabic numbers, markers, hour and minute hands to enable ease of reference in the dark. The bezel is unidirectional with a 60-click interval. There is a date complication at 6 o’clock and the crown of the watch is positioned at 12 o’clock. The crystal is sapphire and the rubber strap is 22mm wide. Overall width of the watch is 46mm with a thickness of 13mm. Dive watch compliant and capable up to a depth of 500m.

As a tactical watch, the use of an orange lume for the minute hand is generally accepted in the military and other law enforcement agencies as it gives a reference anchor at a glance. The three level dial provides three distinct orientations for tactical planning. The unidirectional bezel with the necessary lumed pip at the 12 o’clock position allows the watch to be used as a timer or a reference for a second time zone.

There is a bit of play with the bezel. Compared to other makes in my collection, the bezel play on this Laco is obvious. For a tactical watch, this is not acceptable as it could imply it’s easy to accidently turn the bezel if brushed against something relatively solid.

The shape of the watch as well as the lug design is unique. In the following set of photos, the design features of the watch are highlighted. The first thing you would notice is the shape of the watch case which looks like a cone, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. This design was chosen as it provides the necessary strength to sustain 500m of water pressure with the least amount of steel. Also, a narrower end meant a smaller surface area for the display case back crystal hence reducing the force on the crystal at maximum depth. The photos below also show the extension lugs which are required due to the unique shape of the watch case. Unfortunately, the lugs are not interchangeable due to the position of the crown. The top lug has a special notch built into it to allow the crown to easily pass through it. This arrangement is much appreciated as it meant owners can easily source generic after-market straps of the 22mm variety.

The second issue I have with the watch is the crown. Honestly, I love watches with their crown either at the 12 or 6 o’clock position as it makes the watch look symmetric. However, for the Laco Squad Atacama, a design flaw makes such arrangement problematic. It is all because of the need to have an extension lug.

In the picture below, you can plainly see how close the crown is to the edge of the special cut-out lug. One cannot have a good grip of the crown to manipulate it. You need to use one’s nail to manipulate the screw-down crown hence is very difficult to operate. This is a major design flaw which Laco needs to address.

Another flaw to take note of is the weight distribution of the watch. Due to the additional lug extensions, the watch is top heavy. I would suggest a bracelet be better suited for this watch to distribute the weight evenly. To enable wearers to adjust the bracelet size, a bracelet extension mechanism can be incorporated similar to what Seiko has on its Marinemaster or what Rolex has on its Deep-Sea Sea-Dweller.

As it is, wearers must be very cautious when putting it on one’s wrist or it may slip away from you.

The cone shape casing could also be an ultimate issue to some. Its shape makes it a natural hook and could easily snag on anything it brushes against. As such, wearing this watch in a formal setting is troublesome as it often snag on the cuffs. Although I have not served in the military, common sense states that such situation in not acceptable as it could jeopardize a mission especially if one needs to crawl through bushes silently in the dark. Laco should flip the cone shape upside down and this should eliminate the problem.

The watch needs to be worn tight to the wrist. Otherwise, it can start flopping around and this can become uncomfortable after a while.

Looking at the construction of the watch, it should be able to take the expected punishment if used in its attended environment.

However, there are a number of flaws which should be rectified. If I am in military procurement, I cannot accept this watch due to the very high likelihood of snagging caused by the cone-shape design.

Other issues I have highlighted earlier such as the accessibility of the crown, the looseness of the bezel and the ungainly weight distribution of the watch reduces the desirability of this watch as a “tactical watch”.

Nevertheless, this watch does have good things going for it if used on casual or non-professional sports settings. It does have wrist presence and the dial design makes it looks quite macho. The lume is bright.

Overall, I give it a 6 out of 10.

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