Military pieces are a special category in the world of watches. Always driven by functionality in the field of operations, they represent the opposite of the usual luxury ambitions. As a result, the modern reiterations of these classics are often a breath of fresh air in an industry full of luxury overload. A good example of honoring those great designs of the past is the American brand Praesidus. We have reviewed several of the brand’s A-11 models that were released recently. Now the brand releases the new A-5 UDT dive watch. This is another historically inspired classic with a remarkable story and a classic military design with some quirky, functional details.

Immediately upon taking the Praesidus A-5 UDT out of the box, the first detail that stands out is the crown cap with its chain-like construction connected to the case. This is to ensure you will not lose the crown cap when setting the watch, something that was crucial for the divers who wore watches like this back in World War II. While dive watches have come a long way since those days, it is interesting to discover how these “canteen” watches served their purpose. It makes this quirky military design’s story much more interesting than its practicality would imply.

Praesidus A-5 UDT

The history of the “canteen” watches

Let’s start with a bit of history on this watch style, as is also found on the Praesidus website. World War II was the first war in which naval combat was a large part of the battle. Consequently, a large number of combat units needed the right equipment to deal with the harsh conditions in the water and on the beaches. The UDTs (Underwater Demolition Teams) that were part of the US Navy specialized in missions focused on reconnaissance and obstacle-clearing to ensure amphibious landings could occur.

Praesidus A-5 UDT

As Panerai was the only brand creating suitable dive watches for these missions, the US Navy needed a solution. Panerai was not able to produce watches in great numbers, and on top of that, the brand was Italian, so that was not an option for the US military. That’s why the US Navy’s Bureau of Ships (BUSHIPS) put out a contract for a “mass-produced” dive watch. Three American brands responded to the call — Elgin, Hamilton, and Bulova. All three brands also produced the A-11 watch at that time for the US military, so they took that as the starting point of the new dive watch.

The design and functionality of the A-5 dive watches

Looking at the design of the A-5 watches, you can clearly see the influences of the A-11. The case and dial designs of the A-11 were used to come up with a quick solution. The most important matter was to ensure that these new watches were easy to read underwater during a mission and that they would be water resistant to roughly 30–50 meters. On top of that, they needed to be able to be produced quickly and in large numbers. It led to a design based on the A-11 with the shatterproof crystal soldered directly onto the case. Additionally, they came up with the solution of a screw-down crown cap to prevent water from entering the case.

Praesidus A-5 UDT

The reason for the crown cap’s large size was simple: the divers needed to be able to use the watch with gloves on. The result looked like a miniature military water canteen, hence the “canteen watch” name. The dial design takes after the A-11 with a matte black dial, large white numerals for the hours, and a minute track surrounding them. And the numerals and markers for every five minutes were filled with large amounts of radium lume for missions in the dark. And as is military custom, there is no large visible branding to distract from reading the time. These first mass-produced dive watches were issued during World War II, used during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and unmistakably a symbol of UDT personnel.

Praesidus A-5 UDT

The new Praesidus A-5 UDT

Now Praesidus brings back this historical design and updates it according to modern standards. The new Praesidus A-5 UDT is the follow-up to several A-11 watches from the brand. We have reviewed the A-11 Tom Rice Edition dedicated to Praesidus ambassador Tom Rice. We also took a look at the A-11 Marston Mat D-Day Limited Edition and the A-11 Type 44. I especially loved seeing that last watch on the Bonklip bracelet because it looks quite stylish. But most of all, I was impressed with the different executions that Praesidus managed to pull off, which gave all three watches a distinct feel.

Praesidus A-5 UDT

And the funny thing is that the distinct feel didn’t come with a Praesidus logo. This time around, there is a logo. But in true historical fashion, the logo and the model name are embossed on the dial so they do not distract from the functionality. It’s one of those details that I love. But let’s start with some overall specs. The A-5 UDT comes with a 38mm brushed stainless steel case that is 12.5mm thick and 45.8mm long. Conveniently, it has a 20mm lug spacing and a 200m water resistance rating as well. With these case dimensions, the watch is substantially bigger than the 31–32mm watches that were produced in the 1940s and ’50s.

Praesidus A-5 UDT

The remarkable case design of the A-5

You will find the characteristic oversized crown cap on the right side of the case. It is attached to the case with a small chain consisting of two links. A fun detail is that you can fold the chain in or out when screwing the cap on the crown. I opted to fold it in to make sure it takes up less space and doesn’t hit anything by accident. While the crown cap might seem huge and rather disproportional at first, it is not that big at all. Historically, we have seen A-5 watches with much larger crown caps. On top of that, if you start wearing the watch, all will visually fall into place rather quickly. The size did not bother me in the slightest after getting used to it.

If you unscrew the cap, you will find a small crown that you have to pull out to adjust the time. I have to say that it was a little bit of a challenge to pull the crown out. It can be a nail-breaker, for sure. But I also understand that the guys at Praesidus didn’t want to make the crown too hefty and end up having to use a bigger crown cap. Ultimately, it works but is not the most comfortable crown to operate. The cap itself is very easy to use, and the chain is easy to place in the way you want.

Praesidus A-5 UDT

A case back to honor the Frogmen of the US Navy

If you turn the watch around, you are greeted by a screw-down case back that will feature an engraving honoring the US Navy Frogmen. The engraved frog with the text “underwater demolition” was not present on the pre-production sample we received for review. If you want to get a view of that, the Praesidus website has an image of the actual production case back. It lights up that rather simple case back that we had rather nicely.

Another detail our sample had was a helium escape valve on the left side of the case. While it is not included in any of the production models, it does raise the question of whether you would prefer one on your A-5 UDT if it were available. My answer would be to keep it as faithful to the original watches as possible and leave it out. As it seems, the final model does not include one, so that answers that question. But seeing one on the sample we had in for review was remarkable.

Praesidus A-5 UDT

The dial design is simple with a lot of detail

When it comes to the dial, you get the familiar military look that I described earlier. The black dial features an embossed minute track in white with every five-minute marker painted with Super-LumiNova. The sans-serif numerals are embossed and painted with Super-LumiNova as well. This ensures that the time is easy to read in the dark. On the outside of the minute track, you will find numerals for every 10 minutes. The double-domed sapphire crystal does distort the view of them, so they are hard to see. Only by looking at an angle will you get an undistorted view of them.

Lastly, the Praesidus name and model designation are embossed on the dial. I love this detail as it shows the brand but in a perfectly stealthy way. It’s the same technique the brands in the ’40s and ’50s used to get their names on the dial without disrupting the function-first design. I especially love how sharp the embossing is. It feels crisp and really well done. The syringe-style hands feature a grainy texture that makes them look raw. They are filled with Super-LumiNova in the same color as the numerals on the dial. Overall, the dial design is exactly what you would expect from a remake of a classic like the A-5. It’s simple and to the point but with plenty of style to make it attractive.

The Soprod P024 movement

Inside the case, Praesidus uses the Soprod P024 movement. This automatic caliber is based on the trusted ETA 2824-2. It operates at 28,800vph and has a 38-hour power reserve. It’s not a widely used movement, but Nivada Grenchen uses it for the Super Antarctic, and Benrus uses it for the Sea Lord diver. As we’ve been seeing Soprod movements power more and more watches recently, I’m sure we will see the P024 used more in the future.

Wearing the Praesidus A-5 UDT

Wearing the Praesidus was a fun experience. First of all, I had to get used to the case design with its oversized crown cap, not necessarily from a practical perspective but mostly because of its looks. It’s not something I would gravitate toward immediately. However, I quickly discovered the great charm that links back to the story of how these watches were created. During the war, quick and easily implementable solutions were crucial, and in that light, the A-5 UDT is a great reminder of that history.

The 38mm case was extremely comfortable on the wrist. On top of that, the watch clearly showed Praesidus’s great attention to detail, and it felt really sturdy. Perhaps you would and should expect that from a military-style watch, but unfortunately, it’s not always a given. I also had fun regularly switching between the three straps that Praesidus sent in. That was partially to do with the looks, of course, but the watch also wears differently on each strap.

The three Praesidus A-5 UDT strap options

Praesidus will offer a choice of three different straps. The first is a black tropic strap with a sandblasted buckle that, honestly, felt a bit thin and flimsy. Because of that, it has the most issues balancing out the watch on the wrist. And I didn’t find this particular strap to be the most comfortable, especially knowing how comfortable tropic straps can be. The second option is a green canvas strap with a sandblasted buckle. This one drastically changes the overall look of the watch. I loved both the aesthetic and the sturdiness of that strap, and it was my preferred of the three options. The third was an OG-107 green NATO with sandblasted loops and buckle. It suits the style of the watch well and also was very comfortable.

Being able to try out the three straps was quite a luxury. They allowed me easily change up the look of the A-5 UDT to suit different outfits. All were easy to swap thanks to one being a NATO and the others having quick-release spring bars. Overall, however, I would recommend the canvas strap.

The Praesidus A-5 UDT is a great reissue of a classic military watch. While the oversized crown cap is a quirky detail, it also gives the watch great character. If you are into military watches, this is a detail that you will definitely appreciate.

Final thoughts about the Praesidus A-5 UDT

At US$595 (approximately €530 at the time of publishing), this is a great piece to add to your collection if you are into military-style watches. This recreation of the first “mass-produced” dive watch is simply fun, and for what you get, I’d say that is a very fair price for a piece with great character. While I was initially hesitant about its quirky style, I wore it for a few days straight and enjoyed it a lot. Some details might not be optimal, such as the small crown and tropic strap, but this is a great release overall. It is more proof that Praesidus is doing fantastic things.

The A-5 UDT will be available soon from Praesidus in a run of 100 numbered pieces. If you are interested, you can sign up to get early access through the brand’s official website.

Watch specifications

Matte black dial with embossed and painted markings, luminous indices and hands
Case Material
Stainless steel (316L)
Case Dimensions
38mm (diameter) × 45.8mm (lug-to-lug) × 12.5mm (thickness including crystal) × 20mm (lug spacing)
Double-domed sapphire with antireflective coating
Case Back
Solid stainless steel, screw-down
Soprod P024 — automatic winding, 28,800vph frequency, 38-hour power reserve, 25 jewels
Water Resistance
Black tropic rubber, green canvas, or OG-107 green nylon NATO with sandblasted hardware
Time only (hours, minutes, central seconds)
Special Note(s)
Limited to 100 numbered pieces