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  1. #1
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Benrus...

    Hi -

    What's up with Benrus? They were one of the major manufacturers in the US, up there with Hamilton, and yet there are relatively few Benrus sites or histories out there on the web.

    In our Pilot-Military forum, I contributed to a thread on a KLM-issued Benrus Sky King. Beautiful watch, take a look over there for the pictures.

    I started to do some research, hoping to find a proper explanation on some mysterious markings: the issue dial for at least some Benrus chronographs has markings on the minute totalizers at 4, 8 and 12 as well as the usual 5-minute increments. This is an ongoing mystery as to the purpose of these markings, as they predate telephone billing practices that could have resulted in such markings (there are no official 3-6-9 minute markings, despite the dial markings on the KLM, as that particular watch was a fairly bad redial).

    Wasn't able to find much to their significance, and indeed wasn't able to find really much on Benrus at all. When searching, I also searched on finished auctions at eBay ("Benrus chronograph") and found virtually nothing. There were the one or the other Sky Kings out there, but literally nothing else: however, in my research I was able to acquire several repair and maintenance manuals for at least 4 different chronograph calibres, and yet there is nothing besides the Sky King on eBay or elsewhere with vintage watch web sellers. Even Shugart really only shows the Sky King as chrono.

    Anyone out there know more about the history of the company and perhaps links that I haven't been able to find? Or has Benrus simply been more or less assigned to the trash heap of horology, abandoned and ignored?

    Seems to me a shame: they had some interesting designs, and a good vintage Sky King is a thing of beauty...

    JohnF
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  2. #2
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Benrus...

    This is about the only decent history page on Benrus I know:

    http://www.thewatchguy.com/pages/BENRUS.html

    I've always thought of Benrus as a clone of Bulova but not as successful. Maybe Benrus was like American Motors and Bulova was like General Motors when it came to watch manufacturing.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  3. #3
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Benrus...

    Hi -

    Well, your comparison is probably not that far off.

    I've seen that page as well, but it's not satisfying.

    As you know, they never made pocket watches, but were rather late-comers to the scene. Perhaps that is one of the reasons: there was too much value added elsewhere and not so much in the company.

    Oddly enough, they seemed to have been very successful up to the late 1960s, when a non-watch person bought the company. I've seen increasingly that this is more often the kiss of death than not.

    Right now, at least, the Benrus watches available are the extraordinary Type I Class A military watches - these now command a very pretty penny - and the other military watches, as well as a smattering of fairly innocuous 1930s style rectangular watches, along with the occasional Sky King floating around for with very high prices as well. We're talking Type I Class A (in good to very good shape) going for around $1000, as well as Sky Kings going for around $1500-$2500.

    In both cases, this is, in my estimation, a premium price: I can understand the price point on the Type I Class A (scarcity), but the Sky King is going for prices that can get you, for instance, a very nice WW2 vintage Tutima or at the higher end a used Cosmonaute from Breitling. Both of these are horologically more significant than the Sky King, especially considering that the Sky Kings were selling for less than $1000 just 2-3 years ago...

    And Bulova military watches never came near the Benrus Type I Class A or the Type II Class B watches: these were built to meet the most demanding specifications of any military watch. You don't get that by being the American Motors of watches... which would be Timex in any case.

    Remains a riddle to me right now...

    JohnF
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  5. #4
    Member pacifichrono's Avatar
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    Re: Benrus...

    You're right, there's not much out there, and most of the Benruses I've seen on eBay have been marginal and run-of-the-mill (and I've browsed hundreds of thousands of vintage listings). The exception is at a couple vintage dealers I've found on the web (Darlor and Farfo), which sometimes have beautiful and complicated Benrus vintages I never knew they made...selling for up to $5,000.00.

    Even back in the day, I never figured Benrus to be much of a factor in the watch biz.
    Regards from Sunny San Diego..........Tom
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  6. #5
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Benrus...

    Hi -

    That's what makes it so interesting (for me): those lovelies that show up on Darlor, Farfo and elsewhere are fascinating. Yet in the 1950s Benrus was, from the volume of sales, second only to Hamilton in the US. What happened to all those watches????

    And there's a beautiful gold-filled Benrus jump hour on eBay right now going for no less than $180. See 330094832948. But that's more or less a retail price, not the wholesale we all want to pay, if you know what I mean. See 270097349105 for one of the classic day/date Benrus at a price that makes more sense...

    Sigh. I'm over budget this month (just got a lovely Cyma travel alarm clock that is going to need some serious work...mainspring is probably shot and it will need a serious cleaning, the latter I can do, but the former will have to be done by my watchmaker...) and have two Yaos coming in at the end of the month, meaning that I can start seriously looking again sometime in April, at the earliest.

    JohnF
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  7. #6
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    Re: Benrus...

    Hi John, no idea of any helpful sites
    When I bought my Benrus, I tried to find out something about it at the time I bought it, but only got a very dissapointing (if not to say anoying) response in the TZ. So maybe I ask here again.
    The watch seems to be after a re-chrom-plating, as it looks really nice, but the movement shows a totally worn out gold-plating:


    On the back it's numbered 627293.

    I guess that's what you meant by "fairly innocuous 1930s style rectangular watches".

    Somehow I tend towards dating it to the late 40's as it has no shockabsorber and a an inside watchmaker mark could be dated '52.
    What do you think?

    Cheers,

    Axel

  8. #7
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    Re: Benrus...

    Quote Originally Posted by Axel66 View Post
    Hi John, no idea of any helpful sites
    When I bought my Benrus, I tried to find out something about it at the time I bought it, but only got a very dissapointing (if not to say anoying) response in the TZ. So maybe I ask here again.
    The watch seems to be after a re-chrom-plating, as it looks really nice, but the movement shows a totally worn out gold-plating:


    On the back it's numbered 627293.

    I guess that's what you meant by "fairly innocuous 1930s style rectangular watches".

    Somehow I tend towards dating it to the late 40's as it has no shockabsorber and a an inside watchmaker mark could be dated '52.
    What do you think?

    Cheers,

    Axel
    Nice watch! Are you sure that it doesn't have any shock proofing? It seems from the piccie that it has a primitive form of SP similar to the old Breguet "parechute" where a flat spring, held by a screw at one end, presses down on the endstone and its fitting. I think the early Cymas also had something similar.

    Hartmut Richter

  9. #8
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    Re: Benrus...

    The plating on your Benrus BO movement is nickel which has been worn (from over aggressive cleaning) to expose the brass below.

    This movement has an early form of shock-protection - note that the balance jewel is held by a flexible mounting screwed to the balance.

    Here's what the movement should look like:


  10. #9
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    Speaking of Benrus ...

    Here are some older Benrus watches. I agree that Benrus is sort of a "sleeper" in vintage watch collecting but the truth is that Benrus produced a lot of quality watches over its lifetime. All of the watches below date from, approximately, the 1945-1955 period. They are all still running and keeping good time.

    First an old Benrus from around 1950 I would say. I was fortunate to acquire this one in almost NOS condiftion.



    Next is another Benrus which is in NOS condition with its original band. Note the horizontally faceted glass crystal on this watch. It's certainly stylish but doesn't improve readability much! ;<)



    Another Benrus with a faceted crystal but this time vertically faceted. Very interesting "arrow" hands on this model. I love the Benrus red, yellow & blue logo. This watch still has its original band.



    Here's another model with horizontal facets. Still has the original band which is identical to the watch above.



    Here's another Benrus



    Here's a Benrus wrist alarm:



    and finally a Benrus day-date watch:



    Here are the movements used in two of the watches above. These movements are nicely finished with a polished shiny plating. The first is the Benrus BA caliber based on the ETA 900 movement.



    The second is the Benrus BO caliber based on the ETA 1220.


  11. #10
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    Re: Benrus...

    Yes, it seems to be a shock-absorber.
    Sorry, and 1000 thanks for the clarification.

    Stunning collection Jim!

    Cheers,

    Axel

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