Last month, Praesidus wrapped up the successful funding of their second A-11-inspired timepiece. Like the Tom Rice before it, the Vince Speranza honours an actual veteran. This time it is Private First Class Vince Speranza.
Speranza was a machine gunner with the 3rd Battalion in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge. The engagement was a pivotal one in the war, where the Americans managed—against great odds—to stop the surprise German offensive, but at terrible cost. For his service, Speranza received two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars and 11 other citations, including the French Croix de Guerre. After many years as a teacher at Curtis High School, he published a memoir of his wartime exploits, Nuts! A 101st Airborne Division Machine Gunner in Bastogne. Today, he is 97 years young.
If you are a military watch buff, then you already know that the original A-11 was made famous by US manufacturers Elgin, Waltham, and Bulova. These vintage pieces were constructed according to American military specs to be robust, legible, and accurate in the field. They had the added benefit of a hacking seconds hand, so that time could be synchronized.
The case of the Vince Speranza bears striking resemblance to the Tom Rice and comes in both 38 and 42mm sizes. The model featured here is the smaller, somewhat more vintage-sized 38mm, and I find that this is a sweet spot for the design. It is fashioned from largely bead-blasted 316L stainless steel, though the drilled lugs are polished for a nice juxtaposition. The watch is water resistant to 100m.
Different from its predecessor is the caseback. Still screwed down, attractively fluted, and framed with a decagon, the caseback also features a three-dimensional rendering of a .30 calibre machine gun bullet, coloured in bronze. While this proves to be a little annoying for flatlay photography, it is surprisingly unnoticeable when on wrist.
There are a few other changes and options worth noting. First, the dial uses a sector-style chapter ring marked off with minute and second indicators, in addition to its bold applied Arabic numerals. Both the numerals and the modified cathedral-style hands are treated in two tones of Swiss Super-LumiNova. The Speranza also gets an upgrade from mineral glass to double-domed sapphire crystal with an AR undercoating.
Like the Tom Rice, you can have the watch fit with a workhorse 3Hz Japanese movement in the Seiko NH35A. However, there is also a Swiss option this time, with the introduction of the 4Hz STP1-11. Both calibres are dateless and automatic—eschewing the hand wound origins of the A-11.
The watch comes with another choice—that of the strap. Both options are Italian leather, and both are custom made for the watch. The first, which is rally-like in style, is modelled after the barrel of an M1919; the second is embossed with a machine gun.
The watch is assembled in the USA.
|Case||316L Stainless Steel|
45mm/47mm Lug to Lug
12.5mm Thick /w Glass
20mm/22mm Lug Width
50m Water Resistance
|Dial & Crystal||Double Sapphire Glass|
Matte Black Dial
Seiko NH35/Swiss STP1-11
21 600bph/28 800bph
24 Jewels/26 Jewels
41-Hour Power Reserve/44-Hour Power Reserve
|Strap||Custom Leather “Machine Gun” Strap|
or “Barrel” Strap
I was, and am, a fan of the Tom Rice release, but I have to give the edge to the Vince Speranza, in the end. Sapphire glass is a big improvement. I think that an acrylic dome would also be great–very vintage in its appeal, but fixable with a little polish and elbow grease when it comes to scratches. Mineral glass is really a cut beneath. But more than this, I like the changes in the dial layout here. The sector track is spot on, and I really like the retro-style font used for the numerals.
The ghost position is still present on the crown of the Vince Speranza, which may, or may not, bother you. However, given the other upgrades–sapphire glass, Swiss movement–I wonder why not go a step further and add a screwed-down crown to boot? I should also say that there is a subtle texturing on the silvered edge of the hands that I’m not crazy about. I’d prefer a polished edge, or even a brushed one.
The style of the A-11 is decidedly minimalist. And yet within the strictures of this simple design there is room for play. The Vince Speranza has a very organic appeal in its soft, rounded edges, and despite its similarities with the Tom Rice, very subtle changes in dial configuration allow it to be different and yet of the same clothe. It’s a sturdily built watch with playful nods to its military heritage (I refer primarily to the bullet in the caseback). One might even be tempted to call it a beater. And yet there is some finer construction here as well–in the lugs, but also in the seamless way the sapphire glass curves into the surrounding case. The crown is perfectly proportioned. I like both strap options, but I also think this piece could live on a NATO. For what it is meant to do and to be–operate under less than ideal conditions in the field–I’m not sure that an upscale Swiss movement is necessary, but I have to say that you would be hard-pressed to find a less expensive way into Swiss technology. All in all, the Vince Speranza is a solid option if you’re in the market for a vintage-inspired military timepiece.
The Praesidus Vince Speranza A-11 retails for $250USD with the NH35 and $425 with the STP1-11; however, now that the successful Kickstarter campaign is over, you can sign up on their website for discounts and news regarding the watch’s next release on Indiegogo.
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