Introducing the Praesidus A-5 UDT World War II-Inspired Dive Watch
The Praesidus A-5 UDT dive watch outfitted with a Tropic rubber strap.
A Historic Timepiece of the Modern Day
Praesidus Watch Company, a manufacturer specializing in vintage military timepieces, announced their first-ever dive watch, the A-5 UDT in May. Simple, yet striking, the watch looks like it was plucked right out of the 1940s. In a way, it was. The A-5 UDT was closely modeled on the original dive watches developed for the American Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) during World War II. These battle-hardened timepieces were some of the earliest fully submersible watches.
Forerunners of the Navy SEALs, UDTs specialized in performing reconnaissance and clearing obstacles prior to amphibious landings. These specialized teams would incorporate scuba diving into their repertoire in the post-war era, but during World War II their underwater activities were limited to breath-hold dives. Constantly on, in and under the water, these Navy frogmen required precise, accurate timepieces that could reliably withstand water pressure when submerged.
The technological advancements that gave birth to the modern dive watch, most notably the screw-down crown and screw-back case, wouldn’t be developed for almost another decade. The solution devised by American watch manufacturers of the time was to solder shatterproof crystal directly to the case and to protect the crown—the least water-resistant part of the watch—with a watertight screw-down cap.
A vintage WWII-era dive watch that is the inspiration for the A-5 UDT.
The A-5 UDT embraces the simple, functional look of the Navy’s original waterproof tool watches, complete with the distinctive oversized crown cap. The manufacturer name has been blacked out on the dial, an homage to the Navy’s practice of painting over branding so as not to appear to favor one manufacturer over another. Some modern enhancements have been added for improved performance, without detracting from its vintage appeal. This includes an internal screw-down crown for increased water resistance to 200 meters/660 feet and an automatic self-winding movement, which reduces the need to remove the cap and wind the watch if worn on a regular basis. The larger case size, compared to the 31/32mm cases of the original watches, allows for easier legibility. Each watch features a serial number on the caseback and an engraving of the UDT “Frog” icon.
The case of each watch is engraved with a serial number and the UDT "Frog" icon.
In the Field
Diving with the A-5 UDT at Blue Grotto Dive Resort in Williston, Florida—equipped with a vintage-styled oval-frame mask for the full effect—I was impressed with the watch’s legibility and comfort. Embossed characters and indexes stand out from the background and have been treated with a Superluminova coating for enhanced legibility at depth. The matte black dial sports distinct Arabic numerals at each hour. The watch lacks the rotating bezel found on modern dive watches—that particular feature wouldn’t come along until the 1950s—but its long baton-shaped hands and clear, easy-to-read markers allow one to take precise to-the-second readings with just a glance. I can easily see how it would be the ideal dive instrument for synchronizing demolition charges and coordinating large-scale military maneuvers with precision.
Related Reading: The 11 Best Dive Watches for Every Budget
The author diving with the A-5 UDT at Blue Grotto Dive Resort in Williston, Florida.
In the Details
Although the watch is available with multiple strap options, my sample was outfitted with the new Tropic rubber strap designed specifically for diving. The grippy, quick-drying material held the watch securely in place over my 3mm wetsuit. Holes in the strap allow breathability when worn on a bare wrist. Strap extensions are not currently available for thicker exposure gear, but the quick-disconnect system allows for some flexibility with after-market straps. The 38mm case is lightweight, unobtrusive and comfortable during long dives or daily wear.
The modest-looking watch rides comfortably and unassumingly on the wrist for easy, everyday wear while the crown cap adds a unique dive-specific flair. A faithful reimagining of the WWII-era underwater field watches which inspired it, the A-5 UDT has a vintage charm that will appeal to divers and collectors interested in man’s early underwater exploits. This timepiece feels like a living, breathing piece of history and is a fitting tribute to those early divers who sacrificed their lives for us.
Related Reading: How to Take Care of a Dive Watch
Praesidus A-5 UDT
Movement Soprod P024 Automatic
Power Reserve 41 hours
Water Resistance 200 meters/660 feet
Material Stainless steel with choice of canvas, NATO or rubber strap
Crystal Double domed anti-reflective sapphire
Despite being mass-produced in the thousands, many World War II military watches like those which inspired the A-5 UDT and Praesidus’ flagship A-11 watches are almost impossible to find today. That’s because these watches, despite their extreme precision and ruggedness, were not built to last. The cheap, basic plated metal and other economical materials that made it possible to equip an army were not as durable as those used in traditional watches. By bringing these iconic, nearly lost timepieces back to life, Praesidus pays homage to the military tradition and its great stories of heroism and sacrifice. Additionally, five percent of each sale is used to support American war veteran associations and communities.