When Praesidus Watch reached out to me about reviewing its A-11 Combat watch, I had coincidentally just viewed a YouTube video about restoring an original A-11 watch from WWII. I learned that three watch companies (Elgin, Waltham, and Bulova) originally produced these watches to a specific spec for the U.S. Military.
Praesidus has been marketing a few versions of its A-11 style watches for some time now, but at 38, 40, and 42mm, they have all been upsized compared to the original. The brand is now changing that with its latest version of the A-11. At 32mm wide with 16mm lugs, the A-11 Combat 32mm not only keeps the dial design but now also shares the case dimensions of the WW2 originals.
Wearing the A-11 Origin
Based on some of my most recent reviews, you might think that I only wear 44mm watches. While that is not actually the case, the smallest watch currently in my collection is my 39mm Oris Chronoris, so a 32mm watch was a bit of a mental adjustment for me to wear. Still, it has been an interesting experience to wear an A-11 in the correct size, and it allowed me to get a good idea of the build quality that buyers of the larger sizes will experience.
If you have a very small wrist or prefer the look of a watch that occupies only the center of the top part of your arm, there are benefits to wearing something this small. Wearing a watch this small is very comfortable due to its size and weight. The watch is also fairly thin for a tool watch at 10.5mm thick. Overall it is nearly a transparent wearing experience.
The supplied canvas and leather strap is a bit stiff, but it feels like it will quickly break in and shape to my wrist. It uses quick-release spring bars, which you know that I love, yet the case still features drilled lugs. A nice touch for sure, although there will be fewer straps options available to fit its 16mm lug width.
Despite the small overall size, legibility is quite good. A thin bezel means that it's mostly dial, and the (relatively) large hands stand out against the matte black dial. Also, unlike many other quartz watches, the sandblasted hands don't look too short and the minute hands actually extends to the edge of the minute track. The second hand on this example also hits pretty close to the marker each time.
In addition to the size, the A-11 Combat's dial is also a faithful representation of the original. I liked the fact that it is sterile, giving a clean and legible look.
The case is mostly sand-blasted, with polished top surfaces on the lugs, and machining on the back. The areas where the lugs meet the case are not particularly sharp.
The caseback is also modeled after the original A-11 design, and mentions that the watch is assembled in the USA with imported parts.
The dial and hands use Super-LumiNova illumination, which is a nice touch. My only complaint is that the hands feature the Radium style lume. It has a fun vintage patina look during the day (which I actually enjoy in the case of this watch), but it means that the hands glow less brightly than the numerals at night. Not a deal-breaker, but something to be aware of.
Praesidus specs both 32mm and 40mm sizes of the A-11 with Ronda 763 Quartz movements. It features a 40-month battery life and should offer trouble-free operation for much longer than that. It's not as romantic as the mechanical hacking movements of the originals, but you're still getting a Swiss made, reliable movement in a $129 watch, which is not bad. It is also nice that Praesidus chose a no-date movement to match the dateless dial, so there is no phantom crown position.
The brand also sells 38 and 42mm versions of the A-11 that use the Seiko NH35 automatic movement. Both sizes have an MSRP of $249.
Typically when watch brands create homages to vintage styles, you often hear the watch hobbyist community griping that they've made the watch bigger than the original. Usually, it's something like a vintage 38mm watch growing to a 42mm diameter, however. In the case of the "correct" size Praesidus A-11 Combat, I question how many watch collectors will be interested in a 32mm watch, especially one that otherwise is not from a brand that built the originals in WW2, and does not have a mechanical movement.
Praesidus likely believes that people are looking for the experience of the original with the convenience of a modern quartz movement. Or perhaps they have customers with smaller wrists that want something classic and comfortable to wear. The 32mm size does make it quite comfortable.
The brand also offers a 40mm size of the quartz A-11, and I expect that one to be the better seller. At $129, it is an interesting value proposition. You could look at it as a nice upgrade from a quartz Timex military-style watch, or a more affordable alternative to the Hamilton Khaki Field. The Praesidus still features a Swiss movement, decent finishing and lume, and a clean dial.
If I were buying one today, I'd spend the extra $120, and go for the 38mm automatic version, but all of the sizes and options are a good value for money. Overall, the watch is a fun take on the classic military watch, and I'm not aware of any other brands making a rendition of the A-11 that is this faithful to the original watch. If that sounds appealing to you, make sure to check out the whole line on the brand's website or click here to get VIP access to get early access to the A-11 Combat 32mm and a special offer.
What do you think of the Praesidus A-11 Cobmat 32mm? Is there a military-inspired watch that you like to wear? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!
Name: Praesidus A-11 Combat 32mm
Reference Number: P-32-MB-GRK1
Dimensions: 32mm diameter, 36mm lug-to-lug, 10.5mm thick,
Lug Width: 16mm
Movement: Ronda 763
Battery Life: 40 months
Water Resistance: 50m
Crystal: Double domed mineral with anti-reflective coating
Bezel: Fixed, sandblasted