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Fashion is probably not high on the list of priorities for most survivalists. We tend to care a lot more about the functionality, weight, and durability of our gear, rather than its outward appearance. That's not to say we're slobs, either — careful apparel choices can help you be “the gray man” and blend seamlessly into your surroundings. However, we must recognize that function takes precedence over form in a life-and-death scenario.
Therefore, you probably won't see anyone bugging out during a disaster while wearing an Armani suit, Louis Vuitton shoes, and Gucci shades (unless disaster strikes Monaco or Wall Street). Tactical pants, a moisture-wicking shirt, and boots are preferable, especially if you'll be slogging through the mud. Similarly, fancy gold and jewel-clad watches may be a good tool for displaying wealth, but they're less than ideal for displaying the time in a survival setting. You'd be much better off with a simple and easy-to-read timepiece.
On the subject of survival watches, personal preference is undeniably a big factor. Some like the look and feel of modern digital designs, but many others prefer their classic, reliable analog counterparts. If analog watches are your choice, you'll certainly want to consider what are known as field watches.
So, what's a field watch? It's a tough, simple, easy-to-read analog watch style that is inspired by vintage military wristwatches. Prior to World War I, pocket watches were commonly used by men, while wristwatches were almost exclusively worn by women. The Great War changed all of that, since many male soldiers found wristwatches more appropriate for the rigors of trench warfare. By WWII, the U.S. military had developed its own specifications for standard-issue field watches, like the A-11 seen below.
These early field watches typically shared a few common features:
The simplicity and ruggedness of early military-issue watches served soldiers well during WWII, and they remain effective today. However, modern watchmakers have crafted new watches that honor the original styling and functionality of these timepieces, while simultaneously making improvements using modern technology. These modern field watches use space-age materials and precision engineering to bring the concept into the 21st century.
“For some people, substance is style.”
Bertucci is one such modern watchmaker. In fact, the company's full name is Bertucci Performance Field Watches. Founded in 2003, Bertucci has focused solely on creating watches within this niche. No huge faces, thick bezels, gaudy bracelets, or complex features. Just simple designs that accomplish the most important goal — telling time clearly and reliably.
We stopped by the Bertucci display at the Outdoor Retailer Show earlier this year, and one particular model caught our attention: the A-4T Vintage Yankee.
As evidenced by its name, this watch has the classic WWII look, but it also comes with a few key high-tech features beneath the surface. Before we get to the construction and inner workings, we'll address the cosmetics.
The A-4T Vintage Yankee has a 44mm case diameter, and lugs which accommodate a 1-inch-wide band. Both of these measurements are larger than the early field watches we mentioned previously — the WWII A-11 had a 30mm case and 16mm (0.63-inch) band. But, keep in mind that watch dimensions have changed a lot since the 1940s. By modern standards, those early field watches are positively tiny, and this Bertucci can be considered a mid-size watch.
While the 44mm case size is slightly above the 38-42mm average field watch range, we like the size for two reasons. First, it improves legibility in low-light conditions. Second, for those of us with larger builds, this case diameter won't seem dwarfed by the wrist. If you have thinner wrists or prefer a smaller case, Bertucci offers numerous other models ranging from 36mm to 42mm.
The case has a matte finish, and a single screw-down crown at the 4:00 position. The 36mm black dial features white 12-hour markings in a period-correct typeface, as well as smaller 24-hour inset markings. Triangular hour indicators provide added clarity.
The A-4T we selected (Model 13406) ships with a single black nylon band. However, like many field watches, the A-4T Vintage Yankee is designed with a straight-through band, rather than a two-piece strap that is pinned to the case lugs. This enables changing the watch band in seconds without any tools.
Bertucci offers dozens of band styles and materials, so we requested a few additional styles to try out. Along with the standard black DX3 nylon band, we received a DX3 Olive band and a DX3 Khaki band. Functionally, these three are all the same, but we can interchange them to match the other gear we're wearing (or our surroundings).
The final band we tested is a different material altogether. It's made of Tridura, an “ultra-duty polymer-encapsulated webbing” material patented and developed by Bertucci. This Tridura material is pretty impressive stuff — it's a heat-fused polymer that contains a woven webbing core for extreme durability. It resists water, dirt, odors, UV rays, abrasion, tearing, cracking, and fraying. It's also made in the USA, and weighs next to nothing (0.58 ounces, to be exact).
The Tridura material has a suede-like matte finish and powder-coated black buckle. The color seen here is Olive Drab, but various other colors are also available through Bertucci.
As mentioned before, the Bertucci A-4T field watch may resemble a WWII-era design, but there's more here than meets the eye. Bertucci has incorporated modern elements to improve the functionality, while maintaining the classic appearance.
Upon picking up the watch, you'll notice how light it is. That's because the “T” in A-4T stands for titanium. The Unibody case is constructed of a solid piece of titanium, which brings the weight to only 2.28 ounces (including a nylon band). Once the time is set and the crown is screwed in place, this case is water-resistant to 100 meters.
In order to keep the watch affordable, the titanium case is made in China, but we will say that we'd never have known it without reading the engraving on the back. It looks and feels like a high-quality piece of metal, with tight tolerances and a uniform matte finish. The dial is protected by a scratch-resistant hardened mineral crystal, which is slightly recessed for added protection.
Aside from the outer case, the Bertucci A-4T's internal movement assembly originates in Switzerland. This Swiss movement is all-metal and jeweled with quartz, yielding high accuracy and reliability. There's a reason the phrase “like a Swiss watch” is used as an indicator of precision. It's all powered by a 5-year lithium battery, and includes a low-battery indicator (the second hand will begin to skip before the battery runs out). Bertucci supports every one of its watches with a 3-year warranty.
Finally, some WWII field watches had luminous markers, but never quite like this. The A-4T hands and markers are treated with Swiss Super Luminous material, which passively absorbs ambient indoor or outdoor light. Once the lights go out, the non-radioactive photo-luminescent paint glows a bright green color. It's tricky to capture in photos, but quite bright in person.
I had never worn a Bertucci watch prior to this review, but I'm a fan of field watches, so I was anticipating the experience. After wearing the A-4T Vintage Yankee throughout my daily routine, I can say I'm legitimately impressed. It's lightweight, comfortable, and I love the clean no-frills appearance. And it does what a watch should do — tell the time, day or night, regardless of conditions.
The quick-change bands are a plus, especially if you're the kind of person who gets bored wearing the same thing day after day. You can stick with a neutral nylon band for day-to-day use, or pick up a leather band for dressier occasions. You can select MultiCam to match a uniform, or go high-vis with solar orange or laser green. Heck, there's even a red-white-and-blue American Stripes band if you're feeling patriotic.
The DX3 nylon bands are fine, but they're a bit rough on the wrist until the material is thoroughly broken-in. We do like the DX3 bands' precise 12-hole adjustability, and the dual loop keepers to keep the band tight to the wrist. Unfortunately, the Olive band we received wasn't cut accurately, leading to a small fray (seen above). Thankfully, a few seconds with scissors and a lighter trimmed and sealed the frayed nylon.
Of the bands I tested, I'd definitely go with the Tridura. Admittedly, it's less adjustable than the nylon bands, with only 7 holes. Also, it lacks a keeper loop for the band's loose end, which means you may need to trim off some material if you have smaller wrists. However, it's light, comfortable, and doesn't absorb moisture. The nylon seems stiff and thick in comparison.
It's also worth mentioning that you must remember to tighten the crown after setting the time. Forgetting to do so would be an easy mistake to make, but according to Bertucci's Watch Care Guide, this will “cause the watch's internals to be flooded with water and void the warranty.” This is especially relevant to those who frequently cross time zones and/or submerge the watch in water.
At $190 MSRP — plus $36 if you want the optional Tridura band — the A-4T won't break the bank. Bertucci even offers a Certified Pre-Owned program if you're looking to save some money.
I found the standard luminous markings more than sufficient, but if you're looking for 24/7 visibility in any lighting, you can go with the A-4T Illuminated model. It includes Swiss tritium markers, a sapphire crystal, and a date feature. However, at $440 MSRP, it's substantially more expensive.
At the end of the day (no pun intended) I found myself forgetting this watch was on my wrist, due to its lightness and comfort. I'd say those are very desirable characteristics. The A-4T Vintage Yankee seamlessly blends classic style and simplicity with modern materials, producing an appealing survival watch.
For more information on this and other performance field watches, go to BertucciWatches.com.