#LookCloser – Praesidus A-11 Field Watch

Frank

Introduction

A few weeks back, Praesidus reached out to me on Instagram @frendymgee (I am sorry but the req. to be on The Matick Team is to shamelessly plug at every opportunity, just give KC & JonJon a listen) and asked if I would be interested in reviewing the A-11. Along with their message they sent along some literature on the watch and how it came to be. I don’t feel this review would be complete without a significant portion dedicated to providing some historical context. By no means am I a historian, however, I will give my best effort.

This story takes us to the beginning of WWII in the United States. The allied forces were in need of a wristwatch to issue across the warfront. The watch that ended up on the wrists of thousands of Allied soldiers was the A-11. There was no actual watch called the “A-11”, the term refers to the military specifications put forth by the United States Government titled “TM 9-1575 War Department Technical Manual for Wrist Watches, Pocket Watches, Stop Watches, And Clocks” I have embedded a link to the downloadable PDFs if you are interested in checking out the original document. Watches were produced to these specifications by a number of brands including Bulova, Elgin, Hamilton, and Waltham. This watch soon became famous for its durability and performance in the field, earning the reputation as “the watch that won the war” for its key contributions.

The Praesidus A-11 specifically, follows the story of one Tom Rice, an American paratrooper during WWII. Tom was a former athlete at San Diego State University and would go on to join the ranks of one of the most demanding regiments of this era. He was deployed overseas and fought in a number of theatres including the battle of Normandy, where he famously lost his watch while jumping from a C-47. You can read more about Tom’s story on the Praesidus site here. In short, the man is remarkable and he exemplifies the traits that defined a generation that stood as tall as giants. 

Specifications

  • RRP: USD 195.00
  • Case Diameter: 42mm (also comes in 38mm)
  • Lug Width: 22mm
  • Lug to Lug Length: 49.6mm (Frendy’s Measurement)
  • Movement: NH35
  • Power Reserve: 42 Hours
  • Case Material: 316L Stainless Steel
  • Luminous: Swiss Super Luminova
  • Features: Stop Seconds (Hacking) and Manual Wind
  • Straps: Leather and Nato

Dial & Case

At first glance with the A-11, you are met with a beautifully clean and utilitarian watch. It becomes apparent immediately why this watch was so beloved during wartime for its ease of use. There are no unneeded frills, simply a watch with the time. The dial lacks any sort of logo or additional writing. To me, this is an awesome feature that adds to the legibility and authenticity of the watch. The caseback will reveal the name of the watch and Praesidus branding.

On the 42mm version that I have, the hands have been proportionally sized up and are the standard A-11 type hands that can be seen on original versions of these watches. A generous amount of fauxtina lume (lume made to look vintage) has been applied to both the hands and indices. Generally I am not the biggest fan of fauxtina lume, however, on a watch like this, I think it adds to the aesthetic and helps contribute to the overall vibe of the watch.

The case and bezel are smooth, bead blasted stainless steel, the sole polishing coming on the tops of the lugs and crown. The polished lugs are a nice addition to the plain bezel; it creates great separation between the case and rest of the watch. The distinction between case and lugs is reminiscent of turn-of-the-century converted pocket watches, especially on this larger version of the A-11. Between the lugs, the finishing mimics that of the rest of the case, a nice touch considering this watch in my collection will spend virtually all of its time on a NATO strap. The numerals and indices are crisp and clear, legible from all angles through the domed crystal. The crystal is a sapphire and appears to have some blue hue at certain angles, indicative of an anti-glare coating of sorts. This is a departure from the original A-11 mineral crystals or acrylic but remains consistent with producing a watch that is as legible and tough as possible. I most likely am not alone though in wishing Praesidus went with a more period-appropriate acrylic or mineral crystal in lieu of modern sapphire. 


Straps

Along with the A-11, two straps came in the box: one leather and one nylon. Both straps are stiff and you can tell will hold up well over time. The nylon can be seen in the above image. I very quickly opted for a swap to the new UTE two piece NATO. In my humble opinion, this is the perfect combination for this watch. Terry at UTE always has the best hardware and this strap matches the case and design of this piece spectacularly.


Wear & Experience

Regularly, I found this to be my new go-to climbing watch, replacing my SKX009. I was asking, “Do I really NEED to be wearing a G-Shock to the gym?” or “Is my SKX really the best thing to wear climbing?”, undoubtedly silly questions. BUT, the answer to them was usually “No, I have this kickass A-11 and if it was sufficient for Tom Rice why would it not be enough for me?”.  If Praesidus was going for an experience where the owner would look down at their watch box and find absolutely zero reason to NOT wear this watch during the daily rigors of everyday life… they knocked it out of the park. On wrist, I found the thinness of the watch compensates for the substantial 42mm diameter. This thinness is part of the reason why I stuck to the two piece NATO rather than a more traditional NATO. Giving up that extra few millimeters was not something I ever wanted to concede.

Thus far, my fondest memory with the watch was during Denver’s Oktoberfest a few weeks ago. Going downtown in a crowd of fairly intoxicated people and being a little intoxicated myself has never made me lust for wearing a luxury watch. Typically, these types of nights would find me opting for a G-Shock or maybe some other micro brand, but with the A-11 in my box the choice was obvious. Less than a few hours in I found myself on the main stage of Oktoberfest whilst hoisting full steins of beer in competition. Easily, I prevailed in the event (nice flex – Ed). The sole motivation I needed to overcome my fellow competitors was glancing down at the A-11 on my wrist.  

Truly, most everyday life moments pale in comparison to the experiences watches like these (or their descendants, as it were – Ed) have had in the past. I think it’s important as well to touch on the price of the watch. Currently, the original watches produced during the era of WWII are soaring in price (rightfully so, IMO) but, this does take away from the experience of the watch. You no longer feel the same sorts of urges to wear the watch and put it through its paces when they’re fetching thousands of dollars and a few hundred for servicing. Not to mention the potential for knocking lume off of vintage watches with a slight jostle. For these reasons I am glad to see the Praesidus come in at $195. The watch would not have remained as faithful to the original at a $1,000 despite maybe having to sacrifice some areas to meet that price point. 


Conclusion

After having the Praesidus A-11 for a few weeks now and giving it a fair share of wrist time, hopefully I can give thoughts on the watch as a whole. Admittedly, from my first interaction with Praesidus and learning just a tiny bit about the watch, I was excited and smitten before the watch even arrived. That enthusiasm after arrival did not fade. It has been obvious throughout, this is the type of watch that you tie your experiences too and the intrinsic value to you will inevitably far outweigh the price tag of the watch itself. Virtually every person I interact with, watch person or non alike is brought to a smile at the story. All that being said… I received this watch at no cost, but would I spend my own money on it? 


Short answer, YES. 


Long answer; should I have spent my own money to bring this watch home, I’d have most likely opted for the 38mm version as I think the smaller size would have felt slightly more at home for this category of watch. If you have the wrist size for a 42mm watch that is mostly dial then absolutely go for the larger version. I cannot thank Praesidus enough for the opportunity to see this watch in person and for the education this experience has given me. I had no clue the place watches actually had in the war effort prior to writing this article (a lot went unmentioned in this article). At virtually every great moment in history, especially in the 20th century, there was a watch involved playing a key role. In this case, genuinely helping contribute to winning a war that has since shaped the modern world as we know it. 


Added commentary: Leave a comment with what you think I should do with the Praesidus A-11. I am thinking of either giving the watch away on my Instagram @frendymgee, giving to a lucky non-wis friend as their first mechanical watch, auctioning the watch off and donating the money towards a veterans charity (if you have a recommendation for charity include that as well), or keeping it!


Special thanks: Praesidus of course and obviously the great Tom Price for the incredible contributions and sacrifices that you made in your life. For more info, please check them out here.

For Team Matick,

Frank (@Frendymgee)

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