A Watchmaker Created This World War II Watch Infused with a Piece of History in Honor of D-Day

The A-11 "Marston Mat" D-Day Edition. (Courtesy of Praesidus)

Like many things produced during World War II, the A-11 watch was developed for use by the U.S. military. It was a simple watch, with a face designed to be eminently readable and strong, able to withstand any situation in which U.S. troops might find themselves.

A simple one-piece band rounded out the watch that won the war. Millions of watches were developed using some version of the War Department's A-11 specifications. Today, the Praesidus brand has been reviving the A-11, often in memory of World War II veterans.

In honor of the 78th anniversary of D-Day, the watchmaker has designed a special version of its watches to honor the landings that signaled the end of Nazi Germany and World War II in Europe.

Praesidus' A-11 "Marston Mat" edition uses the same perforated steel style once used by Seabees and Army engineers to create makeshift American landing strips and runways during the war. The mats were used to get tanks, armored vehicles and trucks off beaches and onto solid ground during amphibious landings.

Named for Marston, North Carolina, where the mat was first used, it saw action almost everywhere American forces did, from the Pacific Theater to the invasion of Italy. It was even used by the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Pilots from the 332nd Fighter Group, the "Tuskegee Airmen," walking on Marston matting in 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

The 10-foot by 15-inch interlocking steel plates were also used in Normandy after the success of Operation Overlord, with C-47 Skytrain cargo aircraft becoming the first to land in liberated France. Marston Matting made it all possible.

After the war, Normandy locals cleaned up the remaining Marston Mat, sending most of it to the Utah Beach Landing Museum near Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont, France. Some of this steel plating wound up in the museum's storage area as a part of its preservation initiatives.

The same Marston Mat that was recovered from the beaches and stored in the museum for more than 75 years is now part of these new commemorative watches.

In 2021, members of the Praesidus watchmaking team visited the Utah Beach Landing Museum and met with the curator. The curator loved the watchmakers' mission and dedication to World War II veterans and gave them a piece of the original Marston Mat used during the liberation of Europe.

An original strip of Marston Mat used on D-Day and procured from the Utah Beach Landing Museum. (Courtesy of Praesidus)

The company sent it to an industrial treatment center to have the rust removed and began to create a new A-11 watch constructed with the actual history of D-Day inside. The steel was thinned to one millimeter and then laminated to meet the specs of the original A-11 design.

The rest of the watch is just as the War Department prescribed in 1942, with a waterproof stainless steel case, topped with double-domed sapphire glass and anti-reflective coating. The A-11 also specifies a highly legible index and a simple brown or green leather strap. It's a watch just like the ones our grandfathers might have worn.

Previous Praesidus watches don't include small pieces of history, but were made to honor World War II veterans Tom Rice and Vince Speranza, who were paratroopers with the 101st Airborne Division.

The Praesidus A-11 "Marston Mat" Special Edition is being released on the anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2022, and will have a limited edition run of 120 watches for around $595 -- there's only so much original Marston Mat available for repurpose, after all.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for post-military careers or keeping up with military life and benefits, Military.com has you covered. Subscribe to Military.com to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues