Hands-On With The New And Surprisingly Detailed Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG
Praesidus has quickly made a name for itself as a producer of great modern remakes of classic military watches. Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of trying out the wonderfully weird A-5 UDT. This time, I had a chance to check out the brand-new Rec Spec MACV-SOG. Behind this new model is a tale of how Seiko dress watches bought at local markets turned into field watches during the war in Vietnam. As it turned out, they even proved to be excellent watches for the job. With the new Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG, this story comes back to life.
Let’s start this review with the background of the MACV-SOG (or the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, as it is known in full). This highly classified, multi-service United States special operations unit conducted unconventional covert warfare operations before and during the Vietnam War. Praesidus met with one of the former members of the MACV-SOG, John “Tilt” Stryker Meyer. He wrote three books explaining his experiences with the MACV-SOG. One of these stories sparked the Rec Spec project that led to the Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG series.
The story of the Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG
Meyer explained to the people from Praesidus that the unit had to source gear locally instead of through the regular US military procurement channels. As a result, this even extended to the timepieces they wore. The unit ended up with a series of Seiko 6119-8090 watches that looked completely different than the standard watches that the US military provided in the 1960s.
The Seiko models were intended as ’60s dress watches rather than field watches. Oddly, though, the watches worked very well as the latter. They were used by some of the most elite units present in Vietnam at the time. The new Praesidus Rec Spec — short for Reconnaissance Spec — is an homage to the men of the MACV-SOG and the equipment they used behind enemy lines to gain valuable intel. Praesidus is bringing out three different models based on these special historical watches. We had a chance to review the one with a textured black dial and green luminous hour numerals. The second option has a black sunburst dial with white numerals, and the third has a textured brown dial with white numerals.
The specs of the Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG
The original Seiko watches had 36mm cases. Praesidus, however, chose to use a 38mm case diameter for this modern version. The reason is that the crown is recessed into the case at 4 o’clock. Praesidus also opted to increase the size of the crown, ensuring that it is easier to use by modern-day standards. The case is 11.8mm thick and 45mm from tip to tip with a 20mm lug spacing and 50m water resistance. It has a mix of brushed and polished parts, creating a nice, varied overall look. The combination of finishes reminds me of a dress watch rather than a military watch, and it’s nice to see that.
The case design itself is simple but effective. I like the round shape with the straight lugs as it combines elements that never get boring. The case bands look quite graceful with a soft curve and brushed finish. As you can see, the crown is recessed into the case, sticking out just a little bit.
The dimensions make this a watch that will suit many wrist sizes. For me, it is on the smaller side but still very wearable, so I support Praesidus in going from the historically correct 36mm size to 38mm instead. I know that might be a letdown for purists, but I think the boost gives the watch more wrist presence and makes it easier to operate the crown.
The dial is stylish in all its functionality
Topping the case is a curved, sapphire-coated mineral crystal, underneath which lies a black dial with a grainy texture. The logo on the upper half and the model names and informational text on the bottom half are embossed and painted white for some nice depth. I loved seeing the large applied hour markers that are treated with Super-LumiNova. They add texture and detail to what seems like a very straightforward dial to begin with.
At 3 o’clock, you will find the day/date indication. The date is printed in white on a black disc. By contrast, the day is printed in black on a white date disc. This makes it easy to distinguish the two. As most of you will know from Seiko watches, the Sunday designation is printed in red. A nice detail, however, is that the Saturday indication is not the NH36 caliber’s usual blue but, rather, a custom black.
The black dial is matched with simple but highly effective baton-style hands that are also filled with Super-LumiNova. The slim seconds hand is executed in stainless steel and contrasts nicely with the texture of the black dial, so it always stands out. Looking at the dial makes it easy to understand why the original Seiko models worked as field watches.
While the intention might have been to create dress watches, the ultra-functional design made it easy to read the time, day, and date. The oversized luminous hour numerals also made reading the time in the dark a simple task.
A matching Seiko NH36 movement
When Praesidus was considering the right movement for the watch, the immediate thought was a Seiko caliber. It creates a nice link to the past, and the Seiko NH36 movement is also closest to the original movement used in the trio of MACV-SOG watches. This automatic movement operates at a 21,600vph frequency and has a 40-hour power reserve. Covering it is a solid steel case back with the brand logo on it and the proud declaration, “Assembled in the USA.”
The watch comes with a black Tropic-style rubber strap and a brushed steel pin buckle. Also included is either a black canvas strap or a brown leather strap. It is easy to find the best match depending on which of the three dial variations you prefer. I like the brown-dial version with the dark brown leather strap, but all the combinations work quite well, I must say. All the straps are fitted with quick-release spring bars to make it easy to mix things up.
Wearing the Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG
The Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG is a fun watch to wear. It is straightforward in its overall appearance and has plenty of ’60s charm. But if you look closer, you will see that Praesidus included several nice details that I mentioned before. The textured dial, the raised luminous numerals, and the mix of finishes make for a watch that’s easy to enjoy visually once on the wrist.
The dimensions are nice and should suit a wide array of wrist sizes. As previously mentioned, the watch was on the smaller side for my wrist but still very easy to wear without feeling too small. On the leather strap, the watch has the most wrist presence, and I liked that the most out of all the options. The cool thing about the Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG is that it can sometimes make you feel like you’re wearing a vintage Seiko. That’s understandable as this series is modeled after old Seiko watches. But it becomes strangely apparent that a design that might look generic at first glance has quite a bit of Seiko character. That wasn’t an issue for me since I like the overall look.
The case of the recessed crown at 4 o’clock
One thing that will certainly have lovers and haters is the recessed crown at 4 o’clock. I am not the biggest fan of recessed crowns as they can be hard to use. I understand the practical aspect as there was no risk of breaking the stem or accidentally pulling the crown out, which was an important feature during covert missions in the 1960s. From a historical perspective, then, I love the fact that Praesidus has kept that specific element as it is an important component of telling the story.
While wearing the watch, it is possible to pull out the crown, but it’s not easy to operate. I refrained from doing that, though, as it is much easier to set the time and date if the watch is not on your wrist. The crown is modest in size, and while I had the watch off-wrist, I had no trouble pulling it out to the first or second position and turning it. But as said, it is there mostly as a storyteller rather than the most practical elements. As I have no secret missions planned soon, I do not necessarily need it. Having said that, I love the story, and I love the attention to detail that Praesidus put into the creation.
Final thoughts on the Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG
I have a great soft spot for Praesidus. The brand chooses its timepieces with accompanying stories carefully and brings them back to life as well as possible. That is worth a lot. It’s refreshing to read historically significant stories in an industry of often made-up tales. That’s why I like this new Praesidus Rec Spec MACV-SOG quite a bit. I love seeing the three models come back to life. Overall, I like the brown-dial version the most as that is a classy piece. It certainly doesn’t feel like your average military watch.
The three new Praesidus Rec Spec models will be available on the 30th of September for US$295. If you know that the original Seiko 6119-8090 pieces fetch around €1,000, this is an absolute bargain. It’s hard not to like what Praesidus is doing by bringing back military-style watches. The brand’s new Rec Spec is just another great example.