Hands-On: The Praesidus A-11 Marston Mat D-Day Limited Edition
Praesidus is bringing back the A-11, a wristwatch manufactured during World War II in accordance with the U.S. military standard. The American microbrand reinterprets those historic specifications to build modern-day A-11 watches as a medium for untold wartime stories. Praesidus conveys its latest D-Day story through the Marston Mat Limited Edition of 100 pieces. The brand has divided the release into two drops, releasing the last remaining 30 pieces in the next few days.
Just to be clear, we are not talking about the vintage A-11 watches that Elgin, Waltham, and Bulova produced for the Allied Forces in the 1940s. Praesidus is creating new collections derived from the A-11 specifications. The Marston Mat watch is a modern version of its ’40s inspiration with a double-domed sapphire crystal and a Swiss automatic movement.
Praesidus says, “Through our watches, we aim to bring the spirit of our brave soldiers to the new generation of military history enthusiasts so they can keep telling these stories into the future.” With its own executions of the A-11, Praesidus captures “incredible stories from the war about courage, heroism, patriotism and resilience…so they are never forgotten”.
A medium for untold stories
Every watch has a story. Last year, Gerard covered that of war veteran Tom Rice in this article. This year, the protagonist is not a person, but a piece of raw material from D-Day, repurposed for a Praesidus watch to memorialize the heroic events. That raw material comes from a piece of military equipment called a Marston Mat. Praesidus informs us that these heavy-duty surface mats “were designed to interlock quickly to create temporary hard surfaces for airstrips and roads.” The one in Praesidus’s possession is a 3m × 38cm perforated steel plank laid on Utah Beach in Normandy, France on June 6th, 1944 for the D-Day landings.
A dial shaped by history
According to Praesidus, the mat in question “was picked up by the Utah Beach Landing Museum in [the village of] Sainte-Marie-du-Mont where it ended up in storage as part of its preservation efforts.” In 2021, the Praesidus team was able to attend D-Day celebrations in the village. This is when they met Charles de Vallavieille, the village mayor and director of the Museum. Praesidus says, “He loved our brand and donated a Marston Mat that he and his family had found in their fields 5km away from Utah Beach with the hope of seeing it transformed into dials.” This brings us to the A-11 Marston Mat Limited Edition that we see here today.
Unique wear and tear
The raw material is 10-gauge low-carbon steel with a high content of manganese. Praesidus cuts each dial out of this piece of metal with a plasma cutter while retaining every bit of its imperfect character. The unique scratched pattern on each dial makes each example a true one-off. As per the A-11 specs, the watch must have center seconds and the dial must be highly legible. It must also have 10-minute graduations on the outer minute track. While the latter should come in the production piece as shown on the Praesius website, it is missing from the sample we have. The numeral hour markers and indexes are printed onto the dial which is then laminated. The hour and minute hands are coated with Super-LumiNova, and a double-domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating tops everything off.
An everyday tool watch
The A-11 Marston Mat is equipped with a Swiss-made P024 automatic movement, Soprod’s substitute for the ETA 2824. As such, this 25-jewel caliber has a 28,800vph frequency and a power reserve of 38 hours. It is housed in a 38mm sandblasted case made of 316L stainless steel. Including the crystal, the case measures a reasonable 12.5mm thick. The lugs are polished on top for a bit of contrast and spaced for use with a 20mm strap. Praesidus offers both brown leather and green canvas straps as a pre-sale special. The solid stainless steel case back is engraved with general details while leaving enough space for personalized engraving. The A-11 case provides a water resistance of 100 meters.
Each of the Praesidus A-11 wristwatches is assembled in the U.S. by Selco in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Praesidus believes simplicity is the best policy for this reincarnated A-11 tool watch. Its design code is one that embodies the purpose of an A-11 watch, making it highly legible and functional. This translates into an everyday watch for those who want a piece of D-Day history on their wrist.
And there can only be 100 of those wrists because the Marston Mat is a limited edition. Praesidus said the first pre-sale drop of 70 pieces was spoken for in less than a day. Delivery is expected to be in October. The second drop of the remaining 30 pieces is scheduled for July 12th, 2022. The pre-sale price is $595 including shipping.
For more information and to gain early access, visit the Praesidus A-11 Marston Mat page.