Not long ago, I wrote an article discussing the significance of the A-11 field watch in the realm of World War II watches. The A-11 was unique in the way it looked and the stringent government-imposed criteria it had to meet. I got so into the A-11, and WWII watches in general as you might have noticed, that I ended up buying a modern recreation of the A-11 myself, the most authentic version currently available, made by an American brand called Praesidus. Although I don’t have a vintage model in hand, in this article I’ll compare the old and new A-11, discussing how relevant this model still is today.
The Original Type A-11
I won’t rehash all of what was said in my previous article on the A-11. However, I will focus on one tiny bit of history in order to provide some context for this article. The A-11 was created in 1942 and made by three American watchmakers: Waltham, Elgin, and Bulova. The watches made by the three brands were almost identical except for a few design details. My favorite of all vintage versions—and the one which can be seen on the wrist of Major Dick Winters in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers—is the one made by Waltham. I like how their version had the cleanest and most legible dial layout of all three, which truly served its purpose of being a pragmatic and precise timekeeping device.
The Waltham featured a pared-down minute track unlike the Bulova which showcased a railroad minute track. The latter also had something like sword hands while the former had what I would describe as Alpha hands, typically found on pilot watches. Furthermore, and to make things a bit more complicated, the Waltham is visually closest to the Elgin, as both have the same minute track and almost similar set of hands. Though it should be noted that not all Waltham, Elgin, and Bulova A-11’s came out exactly the same way as they were more than a few variants made over a period of a few years.
As we will see below, one might say the version made by Praesidus took all the best attributes of each version to make the perfect modern recreation.
The Modern Praesidus A-11 Type 44
The A-11 is by far the brand’s most popular model. This can be explained by two simple factors: 1) it is the most faithful recreation of the A-11; 2) Praesidus routinely partners with veterans to reissue authentic World War II timepieces. What we have here is a period-correct field watch that can be had in either 32mm (like the original) or 38mm (for modern wrists.) Akin its predecessor, the Praesidus A-11 comes with a domed acrylic crystal which, unlike sapphire, is shockproof. The use of acrylic was part of the original mil-spec, as was the use of reliable hand-wind mechanical calibers. Here, we find a modified Swiss made Soprod P024. Praesidus modified the Soprod movement by removing the rotor and added a safety feature to prevent overwinding the mainspring.
The version I have is 32mm, which required letting go of any negative stereotypes I had relating to being a man wearing a “lady” sized watch. Honestly, all of these ideas are silly as men used to wear 32mm and smaller watches before. You know, when things used to be “better”. Still speaking of the dimensions: the case has a lug-to-lug of 39mm, a thickness of 13mm, and a lug width of 16mm. Although the Praesidus A-11 Type 44 is the smallest watch I’ve ever worn, it’s darn comfortable to wear and looks natural on my wrist (making me think that this is the diameter I should have always worn). Furthermore, I should mention that this watch can be purchased on a Bonklip, a brown leather strap, or a green canvas one.
What I like About the Praesidus A-11 Type 44
Besides the great movement with which it's equipped and the incredible heritage it carries on, this watch is fantastic for a few key reasons. First, the execution is perfect. The printing of the fully-lumed dial is crisp, and reading the time couldn’t be easier given the stark contrast between the dial and hands/markers. This is the highest level of legibility on any watch I’ve ever seen, and this fact is even more interesting given how tiny the dial opening is. Moreover, the case and bracelet are perfectly machined, and the case itself comes with mirror-like polishing all around (bonus points for the coin-edge finish on the fixed bezel). This superior level of finish, paired with the Bonklip, makes for a perfect vintage-inspired package.
There is no shortage of authentic and modern field watches today from historical brands such as Hamilton, Bulova, and even Longines. These brands either never ceased to make field watches (which is true of Hamilton and the Khaki collection) or recently resurrected past references from their dusty catalogs, which is the case of Bulova. Praesidus, for its part, doesn’t have any direct connection to Waltham, Elgin, or Bulova, or to the war itself, as it was founded not even a decade ago. As such, I find it impressive that such a brand would take the risk of recreating a 32mm field watch and go to such lengths to make a quality, super vintage timekeeping device. In case you were wondering, the A-11 Type 44 retails for $545 and comes in two sizes (32 and 38mm) and two colors of lume (white and aged).