Recreations of historical Military watches have been going on for decades by many brands, and the Praesidus A-11 Tom Rice Edition attempts to tackle one of the most popular watches out there, the watch that won WWII. A-11 watches were originally contracted by the government and made by Waltham, Elgin, and Bulova, but also Hamilton as well. Praesidus, a brand that hit the scene in 2019, after meeting Tom Rice, set out to recreate his watch, as he lost it in his jump into Normandy. This model takes inspiration from the Elgin, Bulova, and Waltham versions of the watch and combines it with the Hamilton version, which was a WWII 2987 Naval Aviators Watch. This model comes in a black or white(cream) colored dial, with a choice of a few different strap options, and includes a sapphire crystal as well as a Seiko NH35 automatic movement, as well as two distinct sizes, 38 and 42mm. The price for either is $299.00.
Historically, these watches were 32mm, and I believe possibly 36mm, and while Praesidus does offer those sizes, these Tom Rice Editions have been bumped to more modern sizes, with 38 and 42mm. I prefer the 42mm, and that is simply because I feel the 38mm is small on my 7 1/2 inch (19.05cm) wrist, and I appreciate that they offer the 42mm for those of us who haven’t succumbed to the 40mm and under trend. Now I will be the first to admit that numbers on paper don’t always tell the whole story, and I readily admit that the Marin Instruments Skin-Diver, which at 39mm, I found to be a great size for the watch, and it looked right at home on my wrist. As you can see below, the 38mm of this Praesidus A-11 Tom Rice doesn’t have the same wrist presence at all on my wrist, but again, that is the beauty of offering two distinct sizes.
Original A-11s also were mechanical only and had acrylic crystals and cases were chrome-plated brass or just brass. These Praesidus Tom Rice versions are of course made with more modern materials, such as a stainless steel case, an automatic movement, and a double-domed sapphire crystal. And while I do appreciate these upgrades, I do wish they added more water resistance, as these are only water resistant to 5ATM, or 50 meters. I know, some are going to say well, these aren’t dive watches, and I am aware of that. I am also aware I am not a pilot or a paratrooper in the 40s and this style of watch these days would be one that many would probably like to wear on a regular basis, and a water resistance of 10ATM would give one more confidence that it won’t end up with moisture in the watch from washing the dishes or falling in a puddle, etc.
Tom Rice, for those that are not aware (I suggest googling this man, as I will not be able to cover a 1/4 of this man’s amazing life), was in the 101st Airborne Division, and the story goes he lost his watch while jumping into Normandy on D-Day. The owners behind Praesidus, decided after meeting Tom and hearing his story, to recreate the watch that he lost in battle. In doing as much research as I could for this review, I was confused about a few things, but digging a little deeper, I was able to clear a few things up. Tom apparently wore Hamiliton’s version of the A-11, the 2987 Naval Aviators watch. How he came to have this watch over a standard Army issue A-11, I am not sure, but that is why this version of the watch has different hands than your standard A-11.
And those empty cathedral-style hands definitely make this watch stand out among the other A-11 pieces, especially as these watches have sterile dials, which was pretty common for government issues watches. The Praesidius Tom Rice Edition follows suit and has very similar hands to the original Hamilton, and of course, a sterile dial combined with the large Arabic numerals and dot markers, this is an extremely easy-to-read watch, in either dial color or size.
Keep in mind, you can get the dial colors in either size, and Praesidus sent me one of each color, in this case, the black dial in 38mm and the cream dial (they list it as white for some reason), in 42mm. Both watches are pretty much the same, just different dial colors really, with the black dial having sand-blasted hands and dark yellow hands with light green numerals, while the cream dial goes black on the hands and numerals. One point of contention here though, is this is a no-date dial, which I love, but not a no-date movement, which means phantom date wheel. Yes, I still can’t believe watch companies are doing this, but this watch does offer a lot for the money, so I am trying not to knock it too much for that. The NH38 movement does exist though, just saying.
So yes, that large crown of the Praesidus A-11 Tom Rice Edition is not only highly polished but also a two-position crown, and if you pull it out to the first position, you can rotate it and hear that date wheel that you can see. On a more positive note, the crown is large enough on both sizes that I had no issue with either, and the winding is as smooth as you can expect from an NH35.
The bulbous, almost cushion-shaped case is one that I don’t believe is a historical reference. I have looked up a decent amount of A-11 watches and have not come across one with a case such as this, which of course does not mean it doesn’t exist, just that I was not able to find one on the internet. Either way, I do like the look of the case, and you can see those lugs are drilled to help with strap changes. The case finishing is a little different as well, with the top of the case and lugs being highly polished while the sides got a very fine sandblasting treatment. It is very subtle, almost frosted steel-looking, and I do like it, but a part of me wishes they just did the whole watch in that finish.
Some other notable features are the engraving on the case back, and that back does look pretty close to the original models I have seen, with a simple circular brushed finish, and the coin edge surround. The movement underneath, the NH35, is one many of us are familiar with these days, a workhorse of a movement as they call it, and while not the most accurate movement out of the box, it is pretty tough and reliable, and if it does break, cheap to replace.
This model comes with a choice of 3 different straps, all with quick-change pins. I have both on the leather-backed canvas, but you can opt for a standard leather strap as well as a brown nylon strap. The look and feel of the straps are pretty nice, with a soft leather backing that combined with a flexible canvas, keeps the strap from being overly stiff. Matter of fact, these do drape very comfortably on the wrist. That said, I personally did have an issue with getting a perfect fit on the 42mm version, and that just comes down to the large holes and spaces in between. I was able to get a better fit on the 38mm model, and both have that vintage-style buckle, which sits pretty flat against the wrist.
Lastly, we get to the lume and both colors of the Praesidus A-11 Tom Rice look fantastic in the dark, and the black dial does have dual lume, yet it was the first one to dim between the two. I would have thought the black dial would have easily outlasted the cream dial, but if you watch the video, the lume on the black dial is actually pretty poor. The cream dial while not as cool looking in the dark, is much more functional, but both will not be glowing when you wake up in the morning, as I found both to completely fizzle out by the 3-hour mark.
There for sure is a lot to like with the Praesidus A-11 Tom Rice, especially the two sizes and the price. (Though at the time of publishing this article (6-13-23), it seems the price may have gone up to $349 USD). I have seen some comments from collectors about the use of sapphire over acrylic, or why didn’t they use a manual movement over an automatic, and all good questions that I don’t have answers to. If I were to guess, the brand wanted to make a modern version of a historical watch and not a clone of a historical watch. They could have made it chrome-plated brass as well, with nickel case backs, but I am pretty sure we all appreciate the use of stainless steel and titanium in modern watches. One last note, these are assembled in the USA, in Pennsylvania actually, and it states on the Praesidus website that 5% of each sale goes toward Veteran partner organizations. It doesn’t say who those partners are though, so email the brand directly if you want more info on that.
I've been an avid watch lover since the age of 7. Watches are not only my hobby but a passion. My favorite style used to be dive watches, but field or non bezel watches have been growing on me. When I'm not reviewing watches I am either cooking or with family and friends.
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