First Look at the Laco Flieger Limited Topper Edition

Topper Fine Jewelers is a small, family-run, suburban jewelry store out in beautiful Burlingame, California. But its physical size belies its presence in the watch world. In recent years, Topper has expanded out of its San Francisco Bay Area locale, but not by opening more stores across the country. Instead, Topper has really tapped into the watch community, both the one local to its store as well as the community at large across the country and Internet. I’ve purchased watches from Topper, and so have several of my friends and co-workers, and it’s really a testament to how co-owner Rob Caplan builds and fosters relationships with watch nerds like you and me. 

Another way Topper has really grown its footprint is through genuinely interesting collaborative projects. We’ve covered several of them here on Worn & Wound, among them the “Topper Ninja” and a series of vintage-inspired Zodiac LEs with design input from Eric Singer. This past weekend, Topper unveiled its final joint venture for the year, and I had the pleasure of flying over to Burlingame for its release and to check out the watch in the metal — introducing the Laco Flieger Limited Topper Edition.

Laco Flieger Limited Topper Edition

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dial: White lacquer with heat-blued indices and hands
  • Dimensions: 42.5mm x 10.7mm x 49.8mm
  • Crystal: Sapphire
  • Water Resistance: 10 atm
  • Movement: Laco 98 (ETA 6498)
  • Strap/bracelet: 22mm brown leather
  • Price: $1,895
  • Reference Number: N/a
  • Expected Release: Available now for pre-order

Topper Fine Jewelers in Burlingame, California.

The story of the watch began back in Baselworld, when Rob Caplan met with Laco distributor Chad Tsagris and Laco Head of Sales Sebastian Maziossek. The conversation quickly focused in on producing a limited edition watch, and one that was different from anything in Laco’s catalog. Rob had always wanted to make a pilot’s watch, and with Laco being one of the five original makers of fliegers, it made sense to start there. Rob also knew he wanted to make the dial white, so that too was a natural starting point. But that’s when things got a little tricky.

Russ Caplan, Sebastian Maziossek, Chad Tsagris, and Rob Caplan at the launch event.

Rob’s next ask was, “why don’t we heat-blue the hour markers?” On its face, that sounds like a simple request. After all, heat-blued hands are a thing, so why not indices? Everyone at the table was in love with the idea, and they were off to the races. But as everyone quickly learned, it was not a simple ask. Heat-blueing hands is undoubtedly an art form , but it’s one that the watch world has largely mastered. It takes a skilled hand (and eye) to do it right, but the know-how is there. Heat-bluing indices however — well, that’s a new beast entirely, and Laco’s suppliers had some problem-solving to do.

Bay Area Watch-Heads out in full force at the launch event.

So what was the problem? As it turns out, the steel itself. The steel for the indices is thicker than the hands, so they had to adjust for that. There was also the issue of the alloy. Laco’s supplier had to test several different steel alloys to see which one would work best for the process before finally landing on one. But that’s not all. As you can imagine, heat blueing isn’t an exact science, in that a watchful eye needs to determine when the process is complete. When you’re tempering a single second hand or even a set of hands, that’s relatively straightforward. When you’re working with a whole bunch of indices, then it becomes more of a challenge. Add on top of that the fact that all 12 indices need to match each other, and then the hands as well, and you’ve got yourself a real manufacturing conundrum. But, these are German suppliers after all, and they eventually figured it all out, and the watch was born. But it bears asking, did all that effort pay off?

The answer is a resounding yes. Fliegers have been done to death. For every Sub homage out there, there are two flieger variants for you to choose from. So it takes something really special to break through the mold. And while the foundation of the classic flieger watch is here, the devil’s in the details, and those details really work.

The dial is a major attention grabber. It’s lacquer white, so it has this slight gloss that is immediately eye-catching and sets it apart from other pilot watches. It also plays off the indices. One of the best things about heat-blued metal is the way it dances with light. In one angle, the indices may appear black. Move the watch head ever-so-slightly, and the indices come to life in the most vibrant, beautiful blue. That dynamic nature of the indices and the gloss of the dial work really well, and together they add a new dimension to the dial that I haven’t seen in a flieger before.

The white dial and blued markers give the watch some major wrist presence.
Though it does sit low on the wrist, which makes it manageable.

Of course, visibility is critical to a pilot’s watch, and thankfully we’re not lacking in that department here. The dial is very sharp and without any major clutter,  and the contrast between the blue/black elements and the white base is on-point. There’s also ample lume here, rendered in BG-W9, for nighttime visibility. The application is also slightly three-dimensional, which gives the whole thing some added depth.

The rest of the watch is relatively straightforward, but finished to a high level. The case, rated to 100 meters, is largely brushed, but there are polished elements that give it a high-end feel. The movement is dubbed Laco 98, which is essentially a Swiss-made ETA/Unitas 6498 with Elaboré finishing and some custom touches, like Laco’s branding. I’m a huge fan of these ETA/Unitas calibers. They’re hard-wearing, reliable, and they look really cool. Just look at the size of that balance!

The launch itself was coordinated with a local meetup group, Watch The Bay, and local collectors came out in full force. Watch rolls were everywhere, and watches were being passed around like candy (be sure to look at the gallery below for a taste of some of the watches people brought). And, of course, everyone at the venue got some hands-on time with the Topper Edition, and just from speaking to a handful of collectors present, I got the sense that the response was overwhelmingly positive.

The Laco Flieger Topper Edition is limited to 100 pieces and can be pre-ordered right now direct from Topper. Topper Fine Jewelers

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Ilya is Worn & Wound's Managing Editor and Video Producer. He believes that when it comes to watches, quality, simplicity and functionality are king. This may very well explain his love for German and military-inspired watches. In addition to watches, Ilya brings an encyclopedic knowledge of leather, denim and all things related to menswear.