Watchmaker Praesidus' Newest Replica Honors Vietnam War Special Operators

With the help of MACV-SOG veteran John “Tilt” Stryker Meyer, Praesidus' "Rec-Spec" honors his fellow special operators.

For eight years during the Vietnam War, the United States' Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group (or MACV-SOG) led strategic reconnaissance, direct action, sabotage, personnel recovery and other high-intensity missions against targets in North and South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Activated in 1964, it was a joint task force made up of CIA, Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces, along with Air Force and Marine Corps personnel.

The sensitive nature of their missions meant they needed sterile equipment, gear that couldn't be traced back to their black budget funding (and was relatively cheap). This included everything right down to the watches on their wrists.

It might come as a surprise, given the wide history of special operations during the Vietnam War, but one of the most sought-after pieces of MACV-SOG memorabilia isn't their patches, uniforms or weapons, but their wristwatches. And while real ones are increasingly difficult to find, military enthusiasts can own a high-quality replica, thanks to watchmaker Praesidus, which specializes in recreating historical timepieces from exact military specifications.

The watches were sometimes dubbed the "Raider Rolex" (MACV-SOG/Bobby Pruett)

The watches MACV-SOG used were borne from necessity. Because personnel needed to keep everyday gear from being traced back to the United States, nothing they used was standard issue. In 1964, operators purchased Seiko wristwatches at local Vietnamese shops or the PX, but by 1968, they became a kind of unstandard issue. Conrad "Ben" Baker, deputy director of Counterinsurgency Support Office for MACV-SOG, was responsible for procuring the equipment used by its forces. Everything was created or altered just for the SOG, including knives, rations and, of course, their watches.

Baker purchased Seiko watches in local markets in Japan, where he was headquartered because the watches had to be durable for the SOG mission and the climate, readable in the dark and submersible up to 50 meters. Once in-country, the Seikos were fitted with nylon or rubber straps and issued to the troops in their standard kit. Given how cheap and plentiful they were, the men of the SOG probably never thought their watches would be collectors' items.

Today, a real MACV-SOG Seiko is a rare but invaluable find for militaria collectors. With the help of SOG veteran John "Tilt" Stryker Meyer, Praesidus has recreated a number of special military watches, including the A-11 wristwatch, which was designed by the Department of War during World War II. Its previous editions were made to honor veterans like the 101st Airborne's Vince Speranza, a machine gunner at the Battle of Bastogne, or events like the D-Day landings with real Marston Mat used during the Allied invasion of Europe. Its latest offering is a recreation of the MACV-SOG Seiko.

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

Although intended for everyday wear, Praesidus "Rec-Spec" pays homage to the MACV-SOG by using the watch's classic design specifications. Large numbers still give it the readability SOG required while its glow-in-the-dark SuperLuminova allows it to be read clearly at night. It's still submersible to 50 meters and includes a day-date window. The only significant difference (besides not being used against Communist insurgents) is that Praesidus made its stainless steel and sapphire case 38 millimeters instead of the original 36 millimeters for improved durability. You can even get a tropic rubber or nylon strap, just like your special operator granddad used to wear.

Praesidus' "Rec-Spec" watches comes with the choice of three cases and three straps. (Courtesy of Praesidus)

When buying a gift for the military collector in your life, it sure is great to get the real thing. But if you can't, a lot of great American companies are honoring veterans with astonishingly accurate replicas like Praesidus' MACV-SOG watch -- durable enough to fight Communism, but just as good for daily life.

As of this writing, the Praesidus "Rec Spec" collection was sold out, but interested buyers can register to be notified when they are back in stock, which the manufacturer says will be at the end of October 2023.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at He can also be found on Facebook, X or on LinkedIn.

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