Minuteman Watches Review: The A11 – USA Made Quartz Movement
By: Mark Signorelli
For many wristwatch enthusiasts, an honest brand identity is just as important as the aesthetics and features of the watch itself. Established brands often stumble on this point (see my review of a Ball Watches offering for an example) as do startups and micro brands. Minuteman watch company doesn’t have that problem. They started seven years ago and their website clearly states their three fold purpose: “To raise funds for charities that assist Veterans and their families. To provide work for Americans. To provide a quality product that will stand the test of time.”
Minuteman watch company was founded by Illinois resident Thomas Carey and his father (a Vietnam veteran) as a vehicle to raise charitable funds for injured war veterans by offering affordable watches with a military aesthetic. Their latest offering, the A11, builds on that goal by offering buyers a choice of six dial colors as well as a quartz movement made in the USA from American and imported parts. More about that movement later but first, let’s discuss the watch that I reviewed.
The A11 in Military History
The name A11 derives from a World War II production standard that specified certain features required of US military wristwatches. Such features included full numerals from 1 to 12, a seconds scale with numeric markings every 10 seconds, a hacking mechanical movement along with accuracy and durability requirements. Original A-11s were made by Bulova, Elgin and Waltham, and their design influence can be seen in many of the field watches produced today.
Minuteman A11 – Case and Dial
Minuteman refreshes the historic A11 as a quartz-powered watch with an attractive pre-order price of $189. The pre-order period ended on March 31, 2019 but the watch will still be sale-priced at $210. until the pre-sale period ends and the price settles at $250. The prototype watch that I received had a pleasing Mocha dial with excellent legibility and case proportions that made it very comfortable to wear all day. The bead-blasted, stainless steel case is attractive in its simplicity and gives the watch a functional, durable feel. I measured the case to be 38.5mm wide, 10.5mm thick and 45mm lug to lug. Water resistance is rated at 100 meters; lug width is 20mm and the crystal is flat sapphire glass. The lugs have a nice, downward sweep that minimizes strap overhang for small-wristed people.
The crown is unsigned but is bead-blasted to match the case. It also controls the quick-set function of the day and date complications as well as time setting with hacking seconds. Although I didn’t notice it at first, Thomas pointed out that the cannon pinion aperture was a little large but that is going to be corrected on production watches. There is also a very good chance that production watches will indicate “USA Movt” on the lowest part of the dial.
I compared the lume on the A11 to my Hamilton Khaki Field and found that, after five hours in a darkened room, the hands were very easy to read but the numerals less so. Production watches will have numerals with augmented lume more in line with the hands.
The Ameriquartz 7122 Movement
The engine of the Minuteman A11 is a quartz movement made by FTS USA in Fountain Hills, Arizona. While they use both American and imported parts to make the movement, the American content is quite substantial and, for example, includes the circuit boards that help regulate the timekeeping of the movement. The movement plates are all metal and the 7122 is fully serviceable, i.e., it can be repaired without having to replace the entire unit. Over a four day period, the Watch Tracker app measured a consistent daily gain of +0.2 spd.
In addition to making the movements for the Minuteman Watches A11, FTS USA does all assembly and final testing of these watches. They are the only company making quartz movements in the USA and their goal is to be a manufacturing hub for watches in America. We have more to say about FTS USA and their vision for reinvigorating American watch making. Stay tuned for a separate article on FTS USA in the very near future.
Logo and Case Back
We have to talk about the logo and case back as they are quite unique. The dial logo depicts a classic Minuteman similar to those enshrined at various historic sites in the United States. The Minuteman on the case back, however, is a more determined, square-jawed warrior who appears to be charging with a flintlock musket and a fixed bayonet. As a symbol of American patriotism, the logo leaves no doubt that this is a watch produced “By Patriots for Patriots”. It is a happy coincidence that the Minuteman watch brand harbors a double meaning as it relates to time (that was not the intent when the name was chosen).
Strap and Packaging
I don’t often talk about packaging in my reviews because, frankly, I just don’t care about getting another oversized, square box with a little pillow inside. With the A11, Minuteman nailed the packaging. When your A11 arrives, the only box will be the small USPS Priority Mail box in which it was shipped. Open the box and you will find a really nice, heavy-duty nylon travel case containing your new watch. The case is manufactured and embroidered in Rockford, Illinois and is extremely well made with heavy-duty nylon on the outside, protective soft padding on the inside and a YKK zipper to keep it all together. At this price point, the case is really deluxe and incredibly useful.
I love the strap that came with this watch. It’s just a simple, black, two-piece Zulu with brushed hardware but it is so well made and feels like it will last forever. It was quite stiff when it arrived but became conformed to my 6.5” wrist within 24 hours. The strap holes and strap tip are welded and, after 14 straight days on the wrist, show no signs of fraying whatsoever. Minuteman will also be offering the same strap in Olive Drab for those interested in a different color.
Speaking of straps, this watch is perfect for NATO strap hounds. I tried a camo strap that worked well but the red triangle on the second hand seems to beckon a black strap with a red stripe. There are lots of creative ways to pair this watch with your strap mood or style.
I thought about titling this review, “Buy a Watch, Help a Wounded Veteran”, as that is exactly what will happen if you buy the A11. At least $30. from the proceeds of each sold watch will be contributed to Homes For Our Troops, a charity that builds homes for severely injured veterans. (Since 2004, they have built more than 270 specially equipped homes nationwide.) Do the math and you’ll realize that this contribution absorbs a dramatic amount of Minuteman’s net profit. They are quite serious about giving back.
The Mocha dial is just one of six different colorways. There are green and battleship grey dials that quickly sold out at the pre-order price, as well as yellow and blue dials that offer color splashes not often seen on field watches. The sixth option is the black dial, which gives the A11 a more classic look. Lastly, Minuteman may offer a black DLC case if there is enough demand (if you are interested in this variant, contact them at [email protected]).
Minuteman watch company is a division of the CGA Company and the A11 can be ordered through their website. Minuteman has other models for sale including several powered by the Miyota 9015 automatic movement. You can also get a glimpse of a Meca Quartz chronograph that Minuteman will soon offer in a number of very attractive dials and finishes. While you’re browsing their website, check out the nice selection of Lum-Tec and Hemel watches that are available, with part of the proceeds going to Operation Underground Railroad, a charity that works to end child trafficking.
Mark retired in 2018 after 37 years in the financial services industry. He “Discovered” watches in 2015 after seeing a photo of a Steinhart OVM1 in a car forum. Ever since then he’s filled two watch boxes (and is trying to decide between buying a third one or thinning the herd). His additional pastimes include hiking, working on cars, exploring and photographing abandoned military bases.