Review: A-11 Vince Speranza
If you’ve been into military watches then you know the A-11. This watch is a true legend. If you don’t know the A-11 story then I suggest paying a visit to WornAndWound.com blog and checking the excellent article published in 2018: A-11, the Watch That Won the War.
Recently I’ve been asked by Praesidus (a US-based watch company) if I’d be willing to try their new version of the A-11, inspired by a real-deal hero machine gunner Vince Speranza and his role in the Battle of the Bulge, also known as Ardennes Offensive.
Praesidus offers this watch as a start via Kickstarter campaign (goal already met). It’s not their first one, the A-11 Tom Rice was a big success for them and gathered really good reviews and opinions. And they support war veteran associations too, which is a good thing to do. So I decided to give it a try and use it as a part of my EDC for a couple of weeks – and here it is:
It’s a prototype watch, but it’s essentially the same as the final piece will be. Even before the watch arrived I did my homework to find out more technical details. First of all the assembly is done in the US. They put a Seiko NH35A movement inside as a basic option – nothing fancy, but still a reliable mechanism, often used by microbrands and also easy to service anywhere. It’s a self-winding movement with a manual winding option, 21,600 BPH, 24 jewels, and with 41 hours of power reserve.
Plus a key feature, which was not common in watches during WWII before the A-11 was introduced – hacking center second for time synchronization within a team.
If the Seiko engine is not enough for you there’s a Swiss movement available for the A-11 Speranza too (at a premium price as you can guess) – this offers not only better accuracy thanks to 26 jewels and 28.800 BPH, but also slightly longer power reserve of 44 hrs.
Considering that one of my favorite ‘affordable’ watches of all time (the Seiko SRP777, a.k.a. Seiko Turtle) runs at 21,600 BPH, has 25 jewels, and 41 hours of power reserve – I’m fine with the A-11 Speranza’s movement choice, also the basic one. Of course, it’s also way above the original minimum specs for A-11, which was: 15 jewels, 30 hrs of power reserve or more, and a hacking center second hand (as specified in TM 9-1575 War Department Technical Manual).
Let’s talk about the dial now. It’s a classic, and as true to the original A-11 as only possible. Deep black, with clear markings and fine minute marks. The hands are bold and filled with lume. Both minute and hour hands have really fine tips so it’s easy to read the time accurately.
I love the absence of any text or logo on the dial – that’s exactly how it should be done. Legibility was clearly the key aspect of a dial design and yes, it’s been executed perfectly. It allows to read time at the first glance from a distance but also you can check hours, minutes and seconds precisely from up close. It’s easily one of the cleanest and crispest dials you can find.
And below is an A-11 Vince Speranza edition night shot showing a classic 2-tone style lume, inspired by the vintage look of the WWII watch. Thin luminescent numbers and thick heavily filled hands in a slightly more yellowish tone.
Of course, it’s not a massive long-lasting diver watch style lume (especially the numbers) but is visible for about an hour after good charging. Also for a classic scenario of “entering a dark room during a sunny day” – it’s perfectly fine. Praesidus uses Superluminova as a luminescent agent, which is a golden standard in quality watches these days.
The 38mm stainless steel case is on the small side by my standards, but is still bigger than the original watch (32-34mm). It has some heft and feels really solid.
The matte blasted finish with polished lugs gives it a truly classic look. And yes, it’s quite simple… but that’s how this watch was designed – as a simple timekeeping tool for military personnel. The A-11 Speranza is topped with a domed sapphire crystal, which looks really on point! Why domed? It is the way to make the dial readable even at extreme angles – and it is super legible at any angle indeed.
Overall, the size and shape of the watch resembles an old-school explorer’s watch and that’s a good thing. But as I said – for today’s trends it’s small, so if you prefer big watches then consider going for the optional 42mm (which would be less historically correct of course). The winding crown is big enough for any fingers and heavily knurled for ease of operation – just as expected on a purpose-built tool.
The case back is the screw-down type, octagonally shaped like the original one, also including the polished coin-edge knurling. But when I unboxed the watch… I was immediately scared by that bulk ammo round on the case back and the possible discomfort caused by this. Then I put it on my wrist… and (take my word for it) I couldn’t even feel it – it’s positioned slightly off-center, presumably that’s why.
However, even just for the sake of pure aesthetics, I’d prefer the case back without that protruding ammo piece. Naturally, I contacted Praesidus about it and I was told the final project will be also available with an optional FLAT case back, so without the ammo piece on it. So… the choice is yours.
Oh, and if you think the engraving on the back is a bit too intense for you, remember that the A-11 had in most cases a substantial multi-line text engraved on case backs too! So this is actually fine and true.
The watch is 10 bar water-resistant according to the specs, which makes sense – it’s not a diver but you can still swim with it, rain and snow would be not an issue and water resistance makes it dust and mud resistant too.
Two black leather straps are included in a package, both with machine gun barrel motifs. But guys, this watch needs a CANVAS strap! And I said that as a first thing. Can be a 2-piece canvas, can be single-pass, can standard NATO, really anything… but it needs some sort of a webbing strap like the original A-11s had. Fine Italian leather has its place, but a water-resistant military watch is not necessarily one of them.
The good thing is that 20mm NATO or canvas straps are cheap as dirt and available everywhere. Anyway, I immediately pulled out some 20mm straps from my drawer to try some of them and it looks best on military-inspired straps of course: khaki, green, 007 Bond, or simply black. To me, the most appealing one is a single-pass canvas in a pale khaki.
The lugs are drilled through, so changing straps or installing classic NATO-compatible bars is super easy. Funny fact – after some of my comments Praesidus decided to offer an additional two-piece green canvas strap as a Stretch Goal for the project… a coincidence? 😉
All in all, so far I like the watch quite a lot. It’s a really solid variant of a modern A-11, which is easy to read and looks good on a wrist. The campaign price (about $299 on Kickstarter) is not a bad price for a US-assembled watch (it ships from the US too, so duties and taxes might apply). Equipped with an adequate Seiko movement (or Swiss, but at an extra $150), water-resistant, and with real Superluminova. And yeah… that classic vintage dial behind domed sapphire looks simply incredible.
Bottom line – put it on a canvas strap for a true military look and it’ll do its job well, for long years.