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Laco Hamburg GMT DIN 8330

The Watch Maverick Should Have Worn

​​There are a few historical brands that have remained independent throughout the entirety of their existence. They could have evolved in the same way many Swiss giants did by  continuously getting bigger and making watches that get more expensive each year (because they are made of precious and/or rare materials.) In my opinion, a Rolex Submariner or Omega Seamaster of today are no longer practical tool watches. They are indeed well made and robust, however their exorbitant price tags don’t match their initial raison d’être—to be tools for those who needed them. (I’d argue that professional divers could do without white gold indices.) Honestly, how many times I’ve you heard someone say “I keep my Submariner in the safe because I don’t want to scratch it”? 

My point, exactly. 

Laco is the type of brand which hasn’t strayed away from its original philosophy. Today, the iconic German brand still makes sober, solid, and legible tool watches just like it did in the 1940s. Watches which, to be frank, will be out of the financial reach of a few enthusiasts but not to the point of having to decide between buying a car or a timepiece. (Yes, I still have many Swiss brands in mind here.) Today I have the immense pleasure of writing my very first hands-on review of a Laco—something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time—the new Hamburg GMT DIN 8330. Coming in at roughly $2,600 USD, this model isn’t cheap but it isn’t outrageously expensive for what it is, as you will see in a few minutes. 


I know that I shouldn’t say so, but Laco perfectly exemplifies the positive stereotypes generally attributed to German watchmaking: ultimately utilitarian, over-engineered, superbly manufactured. If you and I were sitting together right now looking at the Hamburg GMT in the sandblasted metal, I know you would say this: “Vincent, this Laco is indeed a beautiful example of precise engineering and top notch manufacturing.” And these would be your words, however you might feel about its design which is, I admit, not for everyone. While we can argue what constitutes “beauty” and “value,” no one can argue that a watch is well-made or isn’t. In any case, the Laco Hamburg GMT DIN 8330 (such a mouthful) is indeed a tool watch which is meant to be used. 

As you’ve immediately noticed looking at the first photos, the Hamburg GMT appears to be larger than what I would normally want to review. Well, because it is and I can explain why. But first, let’s talk about its noticeable dimensions: 43.5mm in diameter, 49.8mm lug-to-lug, 13.6mm thick, and coming with a 20mm lug width. Yeah, that’s a tad too big for me however I would say that it wears pretty well on my skinny French wrist (6.50”/16.5cm) due to having short lugs which turn down. So the Hamburg is quite massive because it was built to meet the DIN 8330 criteria for professional German pilot watches. DIN stood for “Deutsche Industrie Norm” and is now called The German Institute for Standardization. 

In a nutshell, the Hamburg GMT (as well as its three-hand variant simply called “The Hamburg”) was engineered and built to withstand extreme changes in temperatures, cabin pressure, as well as humidity and shock, while continuing to tick accurately and be legible day and night. (I recommend reading this amazing article on Laco’s website.) Think of the DIN 8330 certification in the same way Omega’s mechanical movements are both COSC and METAS certified (to run precisely under various conditions) or that a “professional” diver is required to meet ISO 6425 criteria to be labeled as such. In other words, the Laco Hamburg GMT was built to be used by fighter jet pilots and is tested for that purpose. 

Going back to what the lay watch enthusiast may be the most interested in: this model is powered by a Top Grade Sellita SW330-1 GMT caliber (4Hz/50 hours of power reserve;) the case is made of sandblasted 904L stainless steel with “magnetic field protection” (I just quoted from the website because I wouldn’t be able to explain to you how this is achieved;) a flat curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides; generous amounts of SuperLuminova C1; 200 meters of water resistance; and a bidirectional, 60-click bezel complete with a coated ceramic insert. That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? And now you may start to understand why the Hamburg GMT retails for $2,600 USD. 


As I have shamelessly indicated several times already, the Laco Hamburg GMT DIN 8330 is a tool watch through and through. Both, as we now know, from a technical perspective but also, as we will now discover, from an aesthetic point of view. As one of the requirements to earn the DIN 8330 certification is superlative legibility, the Hamburg is indeed a legible watch. The large white Alpha-style hands contrast superbly with the matte black dial and are perfectly aligned with the printed hour and minute markers. Speaking of which, we find large Arabic numerals at the 3,6, and 9 positions and a triangle with two little dots (the pilot one, right?) at the 12. To meet the DIN 8330 requirements, Laco had to make the Hamburg legible in daytime and nighttime conditions, as well as in a vibrating cockpit and flying upside down. 

Given that this variant of the Hamburg is a GMT, we find a GMT scale printed in orange outside the minute track, matched by an orange arrow-shaped GMT hand which is both legible (given its bright color) and discreet (given that most of it was blacked out.) That is to me the kind of clever design language we can only find in well thought-out watches. Furthermore, I appreciate the fact that the bezel is fully graduated so that timing an event up to 60 minutes is an easy and precise operation. As Sinn is also known to do, Laco guarantees a secure bezel operation by putting four screws on the side of the bezel to adjust its grip. (More of a technical tidbit of information than a design one, but hey, it is what it is.) 

The case of the Hamburg GMT is quite neatly designed as well. Being made of sandblasted 904L stainless steel—you know, the “Rolex Steel”—there are no reflective surfaces and the case is therefore additionally protected from shocks and scratches. The case flanks have a simple profile; on the left we see the words “DIN 8330” (in case we forget it was indeed certified); on the right, we find small crown-guards protecting a superb, massive onion-style pilot crown which screws-down. I’m impressed by the fact that Laco gave the crown the exact same treatment as the case for a seamless appearance. This goes to show how much attention to details was put in designing and engineering the Hamburg GMT. I say “Bravo.” 

The Heart of the Matter

At the heart of the matter is the fact that Laco continues to create purpose-driven, highly-legible, and superbly-made tool watches, and that it still does so many decades after having made some of the most iconic World War II pilot watches. As mentioned in the introduction, the German brand could have gone the luxurious route by using gold for the hour markers, rhodium plating for the hands, or even manufacturing its own calibers—in which case the Hamburg GMT would retail for $8,000 USD instead of $2,600 USD. I don’t know how much a pilot watch used to cost in the 1940s, but I assume it would be close to what the Hamburg retails for today, adjusted for the ridiculous and never ending inflation. 

(I often like to mention the fact that a Submariner in the 1960s retailed for the equivalent of $1,300 USD in today’s dollars.) 

As you know I will say, we don’t need such tool watches today. We want them. And as such, I would argue you are in for a treat with the Laco Hamburg GMT DIN 8330. When you consider the heritage of the brand (which matters to many watch enthusiasts) and the quality of the components this watch is made of, as well as the precise fit and finish of every single part of the Hamburg—a fact that you can only grasp when handling this model in the metal, not simply by looking at photos—$2,600 USD does not seem to be that high of a price for what you pay for. Again: heritage, quality, and the certification that your next pilot watch can withstand real action. 


I had been waiting for this moment for a long time. A very long time. I had been talking to Laco for at least a year before I could get my hands on one of their models. The Hamburg GMT DIN 8330 happened to be the brand’s release and, therefore, the first model I would write about. Well, let me tell you that it was worth the wait and that I would add a Hamburg GMT to my collection should my financial adviser (me) give me the green light to do so. You don’t know this about me but I’m not a pilot. Nor am I in the military. Nor am I a professional diver (just a recreational one.) And even though I don’t have a need for this Laco, I would adore having one because I appreciate its manufacturing quality, its superlative legibility, and its given durability. 

What it would mean for me to own the Hamburg GMT DIN 8330 would be this: having a tool watch in my horological arsenal which can indeed take a beating and which I wouldn’t want to keep safe at the bank. Correct me if I’m wrong but we don’t have many options for proper tool watches made by historical and iconic brands today, especially those which are overly tested to be used by professional fighter jet pilots. 

If you want to learn more about the Laco Hamburg GMT DIN 8330, I recommend checking out the brand’s website here.

Thanks for reading. 


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