Introducing the Page & Cooper X Laco ModellG Erbstück, the Watch That Changed My Mind on ‘Fauxtina’

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Sometimes people forget that watches aren’t for putting in display cases and dribbling over. Yes, they’re often things of both mechanical and visual beauty, but they also have a function. Okay, I’ll concede—the latest from the haute horlogerie chaps will be an exception, but, by and large, most watches are designed for wearing and telling the time.

And that means—sooner or later—your lovely new timepiece is going to get bashed. You forget you’re wearing it and drag the crystal against a brick wall as you walk past—scrape! Or you slip when you’re shifting a tricky bit of suspension and clunk it on a strut—ding! At this point, there may be swearing too.

Over time, your watch picks up scratches and dings that all tell a story about your adventures together. This is a good thing. It’s character. It’s memory.

“Ha! Remember when Tony’s Amazon ditched its clutch fluid just outside Ypres on the way to Spa and you tried to get the pipe union undone with your Leatherman and stuck a dent in your Heuer 510!?

Like the Velveteen Rabbit, a watch needs the character from scrapes and scratches to be properly loved.

Over the last couple of years scratches and scrapes have become a hot topic in the watch world. In vintage, there’s been a definite move towards what Christie’s calls “honest patina,”—watches that have been worn, loved, and show it. It’s something of a reaction against some of the over-polished, over-restored vintage pieces that have turned up at auction.

We discussed patina and fauxtina in a recent episode of The Worn & Wound Podcast. Click here to check that out.

But what about the trend for brand new watches that are artificially aged?  Where do they stand?  Watches like the Longines Heritage Military and the Laco Erbstück series?


Some of the watch forums will leave you in little doubt as to their opinion—and it’s not good. A comment on TZ-UK sums it up rather well:

“‘Rust, dents and scratches by a special team of craftsmen?’ Presumably they all used to work at British Leyland.” 

For those unfamiliar with Britain’s nationalized car industry, British Leyland was responsible for cars like the Morris Ital, a saloon that shed parts and rusted so quickly that each was supplied with a little bag for its owner to keep the bits in. It has since been declared a crime against every possible aspect of automotive taste and quality by the United Nations.

So where does that leave the Laco ModellG Erbstück, a watch that is unapologetically an aged version of the classic Laco ETA 7750-powered, Monte Carlo day-date chronograph?

The first thing to say is this is not a mass-market watch. The ModellG is a special commission from UK-based watch enthusiast and dealer Jonathan Bordell of Page & Cooper. He went to Laco with “The germ of an idea for a very special horological project” that finally emerged as the ModellG.

Page & Cooper has been selling artificially aged Laco Erbstück (heirloom) watches for a while now. The thinking behind these models was originally that collectors might want a WWII pilot watch, like the Laco A-Uhr or B-Uhr, that looked properly in period without costing the fortune that ex-service watches command.

If you have an original Lacher & Co. Luftwaffe watch, it’s just too valuable—financially and historically—to strap on to go out for a beer. So if you like the simplicity, character, and form-follows-function of a WWII issued B-Uhr, but don’t want one that looks new, you can wear an Erbstück.

And that’s what’s got the forums commenting. One popular view is that fauxtina—the clever portmanteau for this pre-aged look—is a daft idea because it’s something anyone could do just by bashing a watch about a bit. But getting a watch that’s fresh off the bench to look as though it’s had a proper kicking is more complicated than one might think.

If Laco simply bunged new watches into a drum with a handful of pebbles, soaked the hands and dials in tea and roughed up the straps a bit, some of the cynicism might be well-founded. But it’s a great deal more complex than that —and particularly so with a chronograph.

Chronograph buttons are hard enough to waterproof under the most perfect of watchmaking conditions. Jonathan explains, “We underestimated the extra time and skill a chronograph would take. Of course the case and crown were known quantities, but we had to ensure that that the pushers would still function time and time again whilst remaining watertight.”

Think about that for a second. Those beat-up-looking pushers need to work like the ones on a new watch, despite appearing as though they’ve been left on the racing line at Tertre Rouge for 24 hours. That takes some serious fine-tolerance engineering.

And it’s all done by one watchmaker, by hand, at Laco’s Pforzheim’s workshop.  This isn’t a production line with a few hundred watches going down an automatic belt each hour. Each watch is aged individually to make sure it looks right. Laco’s Sarah Ruhmann explains, “Distressing to cases, dial, and hands is done by hand and eye. All the components for one watch are aged together to ensure a sympathetic and uniform look, like scratches on the case which might occur while wearing an old watch.”

‘Fauxtina’ made a big showing at this year’s Baselworld. One of the most controversial releases sporting a factory-aged look was the Military Watch from Longines. Read more about that watch here.

A good example is the way Laco ages the day/date wheel.  The watchmaker has to remove it from the movement, age it so that it matches the patina on the matte dial and hands, then re-assemble the movement.

It’s worth looking at one of these in the metal if you can. A proper close-up of the dial shows the detailed distressing Pforzheim has applied. It’s a combination of light fading and water damage that gives a real character to the front-side of the watch. Even the dial plots are puffy in the way that old plots that have been accidentally exposed to in-case moisture look.

The red hand of the nine o’clock running seconds sub-dial could quite easily have faded through too much sunlight through cockpit perspex. The case looks as though it might have seen plenty of wrenching action on a slightly recalcitrant BMW R60/2. Recreating an appearance like that takes some doing.

A custom Laco Erbstück we saw at Baselworld.

As you can imagine, we’re not talking production runs of a few thousand or even a hundred here. Laco are making just 25 ModellGs. In fact, the Erbstück techniques are sufficiently time-consuming that they needed some persuading to make even that many. Perhaps it’s not surprising—the first prototype took a year to make.

So what do you get with the ModellG? Of course, despite all appearances to the contrary, you get a brand new watch that’ll work exactly as a new watch should.  It’s powered by the venerable (in a very good way) ETA 7750 movement that you can see through the sapphire display back. The stainless steel case is 44 millimeters in diameter, has 22-millimeter lugs, and is water-resistant to 50 meters. The 7750 makes a sensible choice for an Erbstück, simply because it’s a proven, tough, and robust engine.

But the real interest is in the design and the finish. As Jonathan explains, “We thought to ourselves, what watch would a pilot or racing driver of the period have been proud to wear on his wrist?” It’s certainly a flieger-esque looking watch with its dark and open dial, plain Arabic numerals, and diamond sword hands.

Despite the look, those hands are lit up with Super-LumiNova C3—the brightest of the strontium aluminate light storage/emission compounds. Again, Laco has had to individually age the material to blend with the dial and sub-dial hands.

Each of these new/old ModellGs is aged in a slightly different way, so no two will be completely alike. You can, if you choose, also order them with more distressed hands that are missing some of the lume.

The Erbstück watches undoubtedly divide opinion. Have they taken fauxtina too far or is that just an easy jibe?  That’s down to each watch enthusiast to decide for themselves by seeing one in the metal. But to simply dismiss them out of hand is to miss the point.

I really, really wanted to dislike the ModellG. I have an obsession with authenticity, so the idea of an artificially patinated, 1970s-but-actually-modern chronograph was pretty unappealing. But you really do need to pick this watch up and handle it to appreciate the quality of the basic watch itself, then the work that’s gone into patinating it. It may not convert you to the cause, but it did persuade me.

A watch that’s been aged like this could have ended up as a dog’s dinner of scratches and dings. But Laco’s patination has been done to an exceptional standard. Everything looks just as a watch that’s been worn for years without a care should look. And that takes a great deal of care and skill—it’s proper craftsmanship.

And that may be the way to see Laco’s Erbstück concept; not as fauxtina, but as an example of pretty damn clever watchmaking in its own right. And one where you won’t fret so much about the odd scratch or ding.

The 22-millimeter distressed leather strap is made in Italy with vintage leather.  You also get a selection of heat-bonded Page & Cooper mil-straps.

Page & Cooper are currently taking pre-orders. The price is £2,079.17, or roughly $2,760 as of this writing. Page & Cooper

Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
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