Oh my, there are hundreds of thousands of watches we can choose from today. What kind of watch are you into? Chronographs? Divers? Field? You name it and I will find a watch for you in any category and at any price point. Both from renowned brands that have been dominating the stage for centuries to mom and pop shops that you probably have never heard of. Just like it happens whenever we collect anything, assembling an horological collection can be a daunting task because we could go about it one of too many ways. Literally. We can just as easily spend a couple hundred dollars on a watch or several thousands. And our tastes evolve as we collect. Mine have evolved a lot in the past three years. Now I have an obsession about military watches which are, at least to me, the epitome of pragmatic and purpose-driven horology.
Regardless of the twists and turns my collecting journey has taken, I’ve always been fascinated and a champion for tool watches. I love (adore?) their purposefulness and singular use case. A field watch is meant to keep track of time accurately and easily while exploring earth or marching battlefields. A chronograph is meant to time events in space or around the race track. A pilot watch is meant to tell time accurately in the chaos of a cockpit. One purpose, one use. The beauty of well thought-out tool watches is that they only have one purpose. This is important to me because modern life pushes us to multi-task and divide our attention amongst dozens of things at once. That is why you will never see me wear a smartwatch.
A good tool watch brings me back to the simple things in life. For example, the simple joy of keeping track of time on a three-hand mechanical watch. Nothing else. Or the simple joy of reading a book whilst not listening to music at the same time. Or savoring a good meal without allowing myself to be distracted by a TV running in the background. And tool watches provide us with analog experiences which we have fewer of nowadays. We are humans made of flesh and bones and I feel it’s unhealthy to let more and more parts of our lives be driven by the digital and superficial. Therefore, let’s get down to the basics with a time-only watch like the Praesidus A-11 Type 44.
While I will discuss the history and significance of the A-11 further down the review, first we’re going to go through the mandatory step of discussing its specifications. The A-11 Type 44 exists in two sizes, the original in 32mm (pictured here) and a modern in 38mm. The smaller version comes with a lug-to-lug of 39mm, a total thickness of 13mm (including a few millimeters for the crystal,) and a lug width of 16mm. Although it might sound tiny by modern standards, let me tell you this: it’s the right size for my 6.25”/16cm wrist. I swear. Like many before, I was convinced—and told—that I should wear “manly” watches that measure at least 38mm in diameter. I mean, God, even 36mm was considered small for a while. Let alone 32mm.
But, I eventually got back to my senses and I proudly—and in a very manly fashion—sport a 32mm A-11 Type 44 most days of my life on this beautiful blue planet of ours. Despite its smaller dimensions, the A-11 comes with a decent 100 meters of water resistance, a heavily domed hesalite crystal (more resistant to shocks than sapphire,) fully lumed hands, hour and minute markers (green glowing SuperLuminova,) and a manual-wind Swiss Made Soprod P024. Praesidus actually got Soprod to modify the movements for them by removing the rotor and adding something that prevents foolish humans from over-winding the mainspring. (I couldn’t tell you how this works even if my life depended on it.)
The case of the A-11 Type 44 is fully polished which makes it look a little “fancy” and less “utilitarian,” something that has contributed to many laymen and laywomen complimenting me on my beautiful military watch. This model is offered on either a Bonklip (which I highly recommend) or a brown leather strap or green canvas one, all of which are equipped with quick-release spring bars. So if you can find good 16mm straps (I recommend Haveston, Veblenist, and CNSWatchBands—not affiliated!) then you got yourself a tiny and mighty strap monster. I’ve paired the Praesidus A-11 Type 44 to all sorts of straps and boy it can sport many shoes with style.
Speaking of style, let us now discuss the design of the A-11 without—yet—delving into its history. Because we need to objectively look at this watch for what it is: a tool watch. I read somewhere that it’s actually a pilot watch and I can see why: leaf-shaped hour and minute hands typically found on Type A World War II fliegers, and a full stack of Arabic numerals for the hour markers. Note how modern the typeface used looks compared to that found on other WWII watches, something that immediately caught my attention. The original A-11 from 1944 had the same hands/markers combo. Even more cool, I would add. We also find a simple minute track where each minute is indicated by a thin hashmark. The 10-minute increments are indicated in small on the periphery of the minute track.
The case is also faithful to the original in that it shows a three-part construction (the mid-case, case-back, and bezel/crystal assembly) and is entirely polished. The small drilled lugs turn down towards the wrist and the space between them is straight and not curved, as it could be found on other WWII-era military watches and the famous Rolex Bubblebacks. This means straps sit flush against the case instead of showing the odd gaps we typically find between the strap and the curved case. Also period-correct is the thin coin-edged fixed bezel which adds a bit of charm and sophistication to what is otherwise a pure tool watch. And the crown, although small and fully polished, is extremely easy to grab and operate. (Note that it’s of the push/pull variety.)
The Heart of the Matter
Alright, let’s talk about the history of the A-11 and what makes it so interesting. (At least to me.) As the proper watch nerd that you are, you most likely have heard of the Dirty Dozen which were field watches made for the British Ministry of Defense at the end of World War II. More precisely, they were distributed at the end of 1945 and never saw combat. This means British soldiers had other watches, notably the A.T.P. (Army Trader Pattern) and one or more versions of contemporary military watches that even Rolex made. And while Japanese soldiers were given Seiko field watches, American soldiers were given American watches. This brings us to the A-11, also known as “the watch that won the war.” (I have not idea where this quote comes from.)
Naturally, American soldiers wore various types of watches during the war. But at some point in 1942, the U.S. Government issued a specification (MIL-SPEC) for a more robust, highly legible, and super accurate watch for its soldiers in preparation for the country’s entry into the war. (Notably for its paratroopers who would be deployed behind German lines in France and elsewhere in Europe.) Three iconic American watchmakers responded to the call and made tens of thousands of A-11’s—Elgin, Waltham, and Bulova—following the same spec sheet to the T, with a few tiny differences of course. The version Praesidus inspired itself from the most is the one made by Waltham which, according to yours truly, had the cleanest dial design.
At the heart of the matter, therefore, is the fact that Praesidus made the ballsy move to recreate a 32mm military watch from 1942 in a way that it looks as good as the original ones whilst being much better made. The old ones had cases made of chromium-plated brass (chrome plating increases resistance to corrosion and shock) or silver, as steel was required to make weapons and tanks. The modern Praesidus is made of 316L stainless steel and, as we already know, has a Swiss Made movement and 100 meters of water resistance. That’s a lot of specs for a tiny watch that retails for $595 on the Bonklip. I know, that’s twice as much as other WWII-inspired field watches but man, the Praesidus A-11 Type 44 is really worth every penny.
In other words, making a 1:1 copy of a vintage watch can easily be frown upon by watch snobs and collectors because they equal it to a lack of creativity and imagination. I feel that this sentiment is utter B.S. and comes from the place of hypocrisy and a serious detachment from reality. Since time immemorial, watch brands have been copying each other and re-issuing iconic references and this is all good and fun as long as it is done by the original brand. Praesidus just popped out of nowhere one day and decided to recreate an icon and did a darn good job at it. I’m all for faithful homages of models that are no longer being made or too complex to own in their vintage form.
Clearly, I absolutely adore the Praesidus A-11 Type 44 and I think you could sense that. Right?
In the past few years, the independent and micro watch market has been slowly invaded by vintage-looking military watches. This is actually a good thing because it means we have many options to choose from at various price ranges. From Chinese-made homages at $100 to Vertex recreations that retail for $2,000 and more. There was therefore a need for something in the middle and Preasidus concocted the perfect recipe for us. The A-11 Type 44 is well-made, handsome, and accurately represents what pragmatic horology distilled to its essence should look like. At least, according to me. This type of watch adds simplicity to my daily life and has changed, once again, my relationship to the concept of passing time.
Lastly, I would say that the Praesidus A-11 is the perfect everyday watch. If you’ve read my other reviews, you know that I’ve been a staunch advocate of watches that have date complications as I find them to be very useful. The A-11 has helped me understand that an everyday watch doesn’t have to have a date because what’s more—and the most—important is for it to be legible, accurate, and comfortable to wear. Objectively-speaking, the A-11 is legible and accurate. It’s also darn comfortable to wear given its modest dimensions and weight. I’ve recently worn it everyday during a two-week, two-city adventure and put it through many scenarios and not once did I wish I had a different watch strapped on my wrist.
What about you? If you liked what you saw here today, I recommend checking out Praesidus’ website to discover all of their vintage-inspired military collections.