Tactical

Praesidus is reviving vintage military watches from wars past

From coordinating infantry charges in WWI to ensuring a raiding special forces team gets off the X before enemy reinforcements arrive, watches have a special place in history.
Miguel Ortiz Avatar
(WATM/Miguel Ortiz)

Precision timing is paramount in the military. From coordinating infantry charges across no man’s land in WWI to ensuring that a raiding special forces team gets off the X before enemy reinforcements can arrive, watches are a critical piece of kit for soldiers today and throughout history. The stories behind military timepieces and their connections with certain units can exponentially increase their value on the collector’s market. As a result, many of these rare and historically significant watches are out of the reach of most enthusiasts. However, Praesidus Watch Co. is working to bring these pieces back to life without the inflated price tags.

The DD-45 embodies the WWII era of wood, steel, and leather whereas the Rec Spec highlights the advancement to polymers, aluminum, and rubber (WATM/Miguel Ortiz)

After hearing how 101st Airborne paratrooper Tom Rice lost his Army-issued A-11 watch on D-Day, Praesidus worked with Rice to recreate his watch. Following the release of the A-11, Praesidus continued reviving military watches inspired by the stories of veterans. Mostly recently, the company released the Rec Spec (Reconnaissance Spec) to great commercial success. Based on the Seiko 5 watches worn by the elite members of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, the Rec Spec project began after a meeting with MACV-SOG veteran John “Tilt” Stryker Meyer.

Whereas the Dirty Dozen watches were designed for military use under a government contract, the MACV-SOG Seikos were designed as convenient, consumer dress watches and purchased off-the-shelf (WATM/Miguel)

Due to the clandestine nature of MACV-SOG operations, it was imperative their equipment be sterile and non-attributable. In short, their watches couldn’t be standard military issue. However, they still needed to be accurate, reliable, durable and legible. So, MACV-SOG selected a cheap dress watch. Initially, SOG personnel purchased the Seiko 5 ref. 6619-8060 in local markets or at the PX. The watch was later issued and subsequently replaced by references 6619-8100 and 7005-8030. Typically worn on nylon or tropical straps, the Seiko 5 has become intertwined with the legacy of MACV-SOG along with their iconic CAR-15 Colt Carbines and tiger stripe camouflage uniforms. Whereas these watches cost between $6-8 new, they can now sell for nearly $2,000 as a result of their SOG connection.

The Rec Spec features a box with MACV-SOG’s iconic tiger stripe pattern and a warranty card QR code on a dog tag (WATM/Miguel Ortiz)

The Praesidus Rec Spec is an homage to the 6619-8100 with more modern dimensions and luxuries. The case diameter is increased from 36.5mm to 38mm and the thickness is 11.8mm to the crystal, up slightly from the Seiko’s 11mm. Replacing the Seiko’s domed plexiglass crystal is the Rec Spec’s domed K1 mineral crystal which features an anti-reflective coating for enhanced legibility. Additionally, the tritium lume of the Seiko has been swapped for non-radioactive Super-LumiNova which still provides enhanced legibility of the Rec Spec’s Arabic numerals in the dark. Notably, the workhorse Seiko NH36 movement that powers the Rec Spec has been modified to feature only English on the day wheel and replaces the standard blue text for Saturday with black text like the MACV-SOG Seiko 5; Sunday features red text on both watches. Praesidus offers the Rec Spec, in a variety of dial colors and strap options, for $295.

The DD-45 captures the essence of the original “Dirty Dozen” while providing modern upgrades (Praesidus)

Returning to its WWII roots, Praesidus revived the horological icon known as the “Dirty Dozen.” So called because it was manufactured by 12 different companies, the Dirty Dozen is a nickname for the Watch, Wrist, Waterproof commissioned by the British Ministry of Defence. While the hands and tracks varied slightly across the Dirty Dozen, all W.W.W.s followed the same design stipulated by the MOD; notably, the 6 o’clock sub-dial and lumed double pip and stick at 12 o’clock offer easy orientation and legibility. An estimated 150,000 W.W.W.s were built, including examples from horological powerhouses like Omega and IWC. Today, numerically-limited models can sell for over $30,000 with prices continuing to rise as demand increases and supply dries up.

The DD-45 Tropical dial plays with the light and can appear light brown to nearly black (WATM/Miguel Ortiz)

Designated the DD-45, Praesidus’ version of the Dirty Dozen W.W.W. comes in three dial variants to satisfy the desires of different collectors. The Factory Fresh dial is for those wanting a brand-new, freshly-issued look. Meanwhile, the Patina black dial features hands and indices that are aged with UV light and chemicals which gives each dial a unique aging pattern. Finally, the Tropical brown dial replicates the rare and super-exposed watches with real patina indices. Like the Rec Spec, the DD-45 features a case diameter of 38mm and thickness of 11.8mm to the crystal. The original W.W.W. utilized fixed strap bars for increased durability. While the Praesidus omits this feature, it does come on a vintage-style bonklip bracelet, green perlon strap or aged brown leather strap. Our pre-production review copy came on a leather strap which featured quick-release spring bars to easily swap straps.

Even with the aging process, the lume on the Tropical dial is quite legible in the dark after being out in the sun or receiving a blast from a flashlight (WATM/Miguel Ortiz)

Further upgrades from the original W.W.W. include the DD-45’s movement, crystal, and lume. Keeping with its European inspiration, the DD-45 is powered by a Swiss-made Landeron L24 6UHR automatic movement which features a very smooth seconds hand sweep at 28,800 bph. While the Perspex crystal on the original watch was shatterproof, it was susceptible to scratches. Instead, the DD-45 uses a double-domed, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal which is treated with anti-reflective coating for superior legibility. The obelisk hands and embossed indices use Super-LumiNova which is much safer than the radium applied to the original Dirty Dozen watches. Praesidus does note that the lume on the Patina and Tropical dials will not be as strong due to the aging process used on them.

Both the DD-45 and Rec Spec are assembled in the US and powered by movements faithful to the watches that inspired them (WATM/Miguel Ortiz)

Although it is based on a foreign watch, the DD-45 is assembled and quality controlled domestically at Praesidus’ U.S. workshop. The watch is even marked under the brand’s A-11 line of watches to give it a trace of American origin and reference the friendship between the U.S. and Britain. Set to release on March 14, 2024, the DD-45 will retail for $875 on a strap, or $925 on the bonklip, and can be purchased directly from Praesidus. The landing page on Praesidus’ website allows for pre-registration to be alerted when the watch launches. Signing up via email is highly encouraged as the first two batches of the Rec Spec sold out in just hours. If you’ve been looking for a new production Dirty Dozen, especially one with a patina appearance, look no further.