Friday, 29 March 2013

Separated at Birth? - Laco Kiel and IWC Pilot Chronograph (ref: 3717)

Of all the watches I have in my tiny collection, there are a select few which I consider to be modern day classics. The IWC Pilot Chrono 3717 ranks among one of them. In fact, I've long considered it to be the be the Alpha among my little squad of elites. It boasts a perfect marriage between modern lines and classic curves. A perfect blend of the retro-vintage look with a modern touch that kind of ensure it's evergreen status. I've had it for about 4-odd years now and I don't seem to ever tire of it. Then came the usurper.

In a nutshell, the Laco Kiel is essentially a case of love at first sight. I caught sight of it when Anders of Gnomon was unboxing his latest delivery a couple of months back. the Kiel did not even had the opportunity to show off it's glorious curves. I snapped it up as soon as Anders took it out of the box. It did not even have the opportunity to live out part of its life in the display case.

How do these two stack up against each other? Before we move to that, let's take a look at their similarities.

For a start, these two look like twins separated at birth. Identical dial layout, day/ date window locations just to name a few. Both are pilot-themed chronos. They are powered by the efficient Valjoux 7750 work horse.

But the two are not exactly twins. Let's place the Laco Kiel under the microscope first.

The Kiel is the larger of the two at 42mm. It is also chunkier than the 3717. In fact, it looks closer in thickness to the IWC Pilot Chrono Double chrono. The pushers are similar to those found on the IWC Portuguese. The crown is the standard push-in type. The day window shows the day in German. The case hosts a mix of both polished and brushed surfaces.

What I really like about the Kiel are the curves. Especially the lugs when viewed form the top. The curves blend in exceptionally well with the relatively huge case. The lugs extends naturally from the perfect circle of the case.

One peeve, however, is the minute hand. It's a tad too thin. Looks out of proportion to the fatter hour hand.

Thanks to the larger case, the dial does not look too cluttered or busy.

Now on to the 3717. This has a smaller case at 42mm. However, I fell that it looks smaller than a 42mm somehow. Pushers are the standard piston type. The 3717, however, comes with a scre-down crown. the dial looks somewhat busier than the Kiel although both adopted the same layout. This is due to the smaller case size. The lugs on the 3717 are straighter and protrude from the case. It does not look as seamless as the Kiel, in this sense.

The Kiel comes with a see-through case back. The lightly decorated rotor takes up most of the window.  The usual inscription borders the stainless steel of this rear window. However, I'm not a fan of exhibition case backs. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, the rotor takes up much of the window. Secondly, this is just another Valjoux 7750. Unless it's an in-house movement or a 7750 with major modifications, I reckon this is unnecessary. Thirdly, a transparent case back would mean there is no anti-magnetic capabilities on this pilot watch, which, as far as I was told is one of the key elements in a pilots' watch.

Sticking to its formula of simplicity, the design team at Schaffhausen has chosen to keep the case back of the 3717 simple. Only the serial number and the unabbreviated brand name of its creator are etched on the brushed case back. Unlike the Kiel, the Valjoux 7750 in this piece is encapsulated within a Faraday cage constructed of soft iron. In average Joe speak, this means it's equipped with anti-magnetic capabilities.

AS you can see from the photo above, the lugs on the Kiel (right) are broader and curved sharper than the 3717's. Furthermore, the lug holes are set higher up the lug. This allows the watch to wrap around the wrist to ensure a more comfortable fit. This also means there is little overhang if worn on a smaller wrist. The 3717 have straighter lugs but this makes the watch seem slightly larger. If the lugs are surved too much, it might make the watch appear rather small.

My peeve with the 3717 lies in this area. Firstly, with the lug size at 21mm, this means one has limited strap options. Most would head back to Richemont and leave the service centre about SGD700 poorer. Yes, that's how much the original croc straps cost. Fortunately, I managed to fine replacement straps that fit perfectly (21mm). Although these are not croc straps, I reckon they match the watch better, actually.

The other peeve is the spring bar. The single collar stock spring bars are a nightmare to remove. They are set about a quarter of the way down the spring bar. This makes strap replacement a chore.

AS you can see from these shots above, the Kiel is perfectly shaped from the side. The curves looked naturally bent and are flawlessly and seamlessly constructed.

The 3717 looks slimmer in comparison. looks more like a dress watch in this sense.

However, I dislike the crown on both watches. Although well grooved, they are too tiny. It's very difficult for someone with stubby fingers and well bitten-off nails (like mine), to operate.

On the lume front, the Kiel beats the IWC hands down. They are as bright as charged neon tubes. Crisp and clear.

The lume on the 3717 is bright but pathetically spartan.

On the wrist, the Laco commands presence. Despite my 6 3/4" wrist, it looks masculine but not overly huge. the curved lugs contours to my wrist perfecely with zero overhang.

Due to it's smaller size, the 3717 looks like a perfect fit on my wrist as well.

I've done one test on the power reserve of these two watches. Interestingly, both surpassed the official 42 hours specified by their makers. The Laco Kiel ran out of gas after 51 hours. The 3717 ran on for a further 3 hours and rested after its 54-hour marathon. Not sure what modifications the folks at IWC did but it sure has a larger gas tank.

Both are drool-worthy timepieces. Each is a winner in its own right but the finishing on the 3717 is slightly better. The finishing on the Kiel is no slouch either. Though both are not perfect, they are noteworthy gems. If I had not bought the IWC much earlier, I'd have just settled for the Laco, which is priced almost 50% cheaper. At the price they are charging for the Kiel, it's a steal.


Laco Kiel -
Case diameter : 44mm.
Lug size : 22mm.
Crystal : Sapphire crystal.
Movement : Valjoux 7750.
Power reserve : +/- 42 hours (stated), 51 hours (actual).

IWC Pilot Chronograph (ref: 3717) -
Case diameter : 42mm.
Lug size : 21mm.
Crystal : Sapphire crystal.
Movement : Valjoux 7750.
Power reserve : +/- 42 hours (stated), 54 hours (actual).

Pros :
Laco Kiel -
+ Very well finished.
+ Large case (44mm).
+ Reliable movement.
+ Case and lug design (curved lugs).
+ Value for money (much cheaper than the IWC).
+ Nice lume.
+ German day window (unique).

IWC Pilot Chronoraph (ref: 3717) -
+ Very well finished.
+ Power reserve.
+ Reliable movement.
+ Simple, classic design.
+ Versatility ( can be used as a dress watch or as a sporty number).

Cons :
Laco Kiel -
- Small minute hand.
- no anti-magnetic capabilities.
- small crown.

IWC Pilot Chronograph (ref: 3717) -
- Bright but spartan lume.
- Pricey.
- Odd-sized lugs.
- Small crown.
- Difficult to remove spring bars.