Among die-hard fans of British military timepieces, there’s one collection of watches that stands above the rest: the WWII-era W.W.W. series, better known to collectors as the “Dirty Dozen.” Introduced as Britain’s first purpose-built military-issued wristwatch in 1945, the W.W.W. (short for Watch, Wrist, Waterproof) was produced by 12 Swiss marques (including Omega, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, IWC, Vertex, Cyma, Eterna, Timor, Lemania, Buren, Grana, and Record) all conforming to a British government design brief for ruggedly built, chronometer-accurate, easily legible field watches to equip specialist personnel such as radio operators and artillery gunners. In the years since the war, the roughly 150,000 total “Dirty Dozen” watches produced have gone on to become beloved collector favorites, but young American brand Praesidus aims to bring the classic look and feel of these timepieces into the modern market. The new Praesidus DD-45 “Dirty Dozen” offers a surprisingly faithful take on the classic war-era W.W.W. watches, with solid finishing paired with a variety of dial options in a classic, easy-to-wear field watch package.

At first glance, it’s easy to assume that the Praesidus DD-45’s 38mm wide stainless steel case is too large to be historically accurate. After all, the ‘40s were an era of 32mm field watches, and the modernity of the proportions here seems intuitively wrong. However, some examples of the original ‘40s W.W.W. (most notably the Longines version) did measure in at this more contemporary-seeming diameter. In terms of the case design, though, Praesidus cleaves more closely to W.W.W. models produced by Cyma or Timor, albeit with a few modern refinements. The flat-topped sloping bezel is this case’s most obvious visual link with its inspiration, finished handsomely here with a mix of radial brushing and bright polishing. This radial brushing continues through the upper surfaces of the narrow tapering lugs, providing a far sharper and more nuanced finish than any of its wartime influences. Likewise, the flowing, tapered polished lug chamfers are a completely new addition to this case formula, but go a surprisingly long way towards giving this design a brighter, more refined character on the wrist. Meanwhile, the horizontally brushed, tightly packaged vertical case sides maintain some of the old-school tool watch feel here, as does the large, unsigned screw-down pillbox crown.

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British military-inspired watches often run into a thorny problem when it comes to caseback engraving. In search of visual authenticity, many brands opt to engrave these sorts of watches with the distinctive “broad arrow” emblem, which adorns a broad spectrum of British military-issued equipment including timepieces. However, this emblem denotes that the item in question is British government property, and some enthusiasts (justifiably) feel as though its inclusion in a civilian watch is in poor taste at best, and actively dishonest at worst. Praesidus dodges this quagmire with the DD-45’s caseback by omitting the “broad arrow,” but instead runs into another potential faux pas. The first line of the simple, military-style engraving here is “A-11,” which is a designation Praesidus has used for its military-inspired field watch designs before. Unfortunately, the A-11 designation is also the specification used by the US military for its government-issued field watches during WWII — essentially meaning the brand has labeled this British classic with the serial number of its American counterpart. While this admittedly has next to no effect on the wearing experience, many patriotic or authenticity-minded enthusiasts may take exception to this sort of labeling. On the other hand, the Praesidus DD-45 lives up to the “Waterproof” part of its W.W.W. designation far better than the originals with a solid 100-meter depth rating.

Like the case, the Praesidus DD-45’s dial draws heavily from the Cyma and Timor “Dirty Dozen” watches, but the brand adds a welcome variety to the proceedings here. Buyers of the DD-45 can choose the dial in “Factory Fresh,” “Patina,” or “Tropical” finishes, each displaying different levels of wear and aging. Our review sample arrived with the fully-aged “Tropical” dial, which uses chemical and UV aging to fade the dial surface to a lovely matte mahogany brown. Even within this matte dial surface, the nuances of the faux-aging process create unique visual details. For example, the main dial surface on our sample shows faint diagonal striations under certain (admittedly difficult to replicate) lighting conditions, perhaps as a result of a brushstroke used to apply the chemical aging agent. By contrast, the recessed 6 o’clock running seconds subdial takes on a bolder, warmer sunburst finish, with hints of orange peeking through in direct light. Praesidus pairs this with a surprisingly light, sand-toned Super-LumiNova hue for the hands, indices, and numerals, creating a more restrained, realistic look than some of this watch’s artificially aged competitors at this price point. With that said, it’s worth noting that the aging process does notably affect lume performance, and this watch shines far less brightly in low light than one might expect. Outside of the colorway, the layout here is pure vintage “Dirty Dozen” — balanced, elegant, and surprisingly artful for a piece of military-issued field equipment. This is one of the simpler, less ornamented interpretations of the basic design, but visual flourishes such as the railroad seconds and minutes tracks, the raised printed indices, and the clean, airy Arabic hours numerals make this a timelessly handsome tool watch design even 80 years after its initial creation. Praesidus opts to equip the DD-45 with Cyma-style matte straight sword hands and a counterweighted needle seconds hand, which help to keep this design close to its function-forward military-issued roots.

Inside the Praesidus DD-45 beats the Swiss Landeron L24 automatic movement. This keeps the DD-45 in line with the Swiss-powered “Dirty Dozen,” but the L24 comes with its own unique quirks. The most noticeable of these is the movement’s hand-winding performance. There’s a distinct jerkiness when first turning the crown, which I later deduced to be the movement engaging the rotor during hand-winding. Apart from added potential stress on the winding system, the L24 is otherwise a decent performer, with a 40-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. To complete the DD-45, Praesidus offers the watch with either a woven olive green perlon strap, a Bonklip-style stainless steel bracelet, or a heavily patinated leather strap in dial-matching mahogany brown. Our sample was fitted with the leather strap, and the level of surface detail, tonal variation, and suppleness outstrips nearly everything at this price point. It’s a strap that effectively sells the “80 years old out of the box” character of the DD-45, and makes for a perfect companion with heavy bomber jackets or more casual daily wear.

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The British “Dirty Dozen” series of military-issued field watches remains one of the most sought-after watch designs of World War II, and while prices for authentic examples have climbed significantly over the years the basic design remains a handsome and capable one. The new Praesidus DD-45 demonstrates this excellently, making this charismatic military watch design attainable to the masses while updating it with genuinely impressive finishing, durability, and a solid variety of options. The Praesidus DD-45 is available now for preorder through the brand’s e-commerce platform, with standard sale set to begin March 14, 2024. MSRP for this watch stands at $900 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.

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