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The History of Benrus Watches | Benrus Heritage Collection Release

Posted by Lavinia Bejan on

The New Benrus Heritage Collection: Looking Back at the History of Benrus Watches

The History of Benrus Watches by Vintage Radar

Benrus is an American watch brand with a long history that dates back to 1921. Widely beloved by the American people, Benrus has had quite an impressive reputation throughout the 20th century, both thanks to its remarkable watch models, but also to its endorsement-based advertising strategy.

This year, Benrus has launched its new Heritage Collection, just in time to celebrate its 100 year anniversary. Whether you're interested in buying a vintage Benrus watch, or a new watch model, the history of Benrus tells an exciting story about the brand's values and challenges over the years. Discover with us the golden days of the Benrus watch brand!


1921: The Benrus watch company is born

Benrus was founded by three brothers, Romanian emigrants in the United States (Benjamin, Oscar, and Ralph). The brand's name is composed of the first and last letters of Benjamin Lazrus' first and last name.

Back in the 1920s, following the First World War, wristwatches were making an appearance and gaining popularity over pocket watches. The Lazrus brothers saw this shift in the watch world as a chance to produce wristwatches powered by Swiss movements for the large public.

They soon established the company's headquarters in the Hippodrome building on 44th street in Manhattan. The movements of the watches were assembled in Switzerland, where the brothers owned a factory in Choux de Fond. Switzerland was considered at that time the place where exclusive, premium-quality mechanical watch movements were produced.

So, with movements produced in Switzerland and the case of the watch assembled in the States, Benrus started producing high-quality wristwatches that immediately appealed to the American public. And here's why...

 Celebrity endorsements and Benrus' most popular watches of the time

Lindbergh wears Benrus watch

What made Benrus watches become so popular in the United States? The Benrus company decided to use celebrity endorsements as an advertising method. The two celebrities that have made Benrus watches so popular in the 1920s are Charles Lindbergh (the first man to successfully fly an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean) and Babe Ruth (one of the best American professional baseball players). 

American Baseball Player Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth - American Baseball Player

In the 1930s, Benrus released some beautiful luxury watch models for men and women. These have enjoyed great success at the time, but Benrus will soon see an even more flourishing period.

The Benrus Watch Company and the Second World War

In 1941, Benrus released yet another successful watch model: the Sky Chief. The model became the "Official Watch of Famous Airlines". Whereas military watches were highly requested during the war, it was the post-war period that allowed Benrus all the favorable conditions to thrive even further. 

Benrus Sky Chief Watch Model

The Benrus Sky Chief watch model

Post-war, the American people started to recover their wealth. It was a good time to invest in a new house, car, and even new luxurious watch models. Below you can see some of the watch models the Benrus company has produced and marketed during the time. 

Post-war Benrus Luxury Watches

Given the Lazrus brothers' long relationship with the Swiss watchmaking cartel, it was easy for them to continue importing the watch movements and release more and more exciting watch models. Some of the most popular watch models of the time are the Sea Lord, the Citation, and the avant-garde Dial-O-Rama.

 Post-war Benrus Watch Models


Popular Benrus watch models of the 60s and 70s

Probably one of the most exciting moments in the long history of the Benrus watch company is when The Democratic National Convention (DNC) gifted President John F. Kennedy a custom made Benrus watch, which became part of his one-of-a-kind watch collection. Below you can see the photo of the beautiful watch, as it appears on the Benrus website today:

Benrus custom-made watch for John F. Kennedy

In the 60s, Benrus was also awarded the MIL-W-3818 order for their iconic Vietnam field watch, which became a standard for the fighting men in Vietnam. If you're interested to know more about the vintage military watch models used during the Vietnam war, we recommend this article.

Benrus Watch Vietnam War

Benrus watch model used in the Vietnam war

Benrus and the Quartz Crisis

The quartz crisis started in the 1970s, when mechanical movements started being replaced by quartz ones. A quartz movement is a watch mechanism that is powered by a battery. This new type of movement was cheaper to produce, and it has been made more and more popular by Japanese watch brands, like Seiko. 

Quartz Movement

What did the quartz crisis mean for Benrus watches? First of all, the quartz crisis highly impacted Switzerland's reputation as a worldwide hub for exclusive, premium watchmaking. Luxurious watch designs could now be powered by quartz movements that provided comparable time-keeping accuracy at a more affordable price. Simply put, the brand's good relationship with the Swiss cartel was no longer such a strong advantage as before. Secondly, the Benrus brothers came to the age of retirement, so the company faced yet another challenge.

However, before transitioning to the new market requirements, Benrus has released two very popular watch models: the Benrus Type I and Type II, durable diver watches designed for the American military forces. These watches remain collectible vintage pieces today. If you want to read more about these models, we recommend this article that covers them in detail.

 Benrus Type I Watch

 Photo of Benrus Type I (Image source:


Benrus watches today

After the Benrus watch company changed management, it went through some challenging times. Its intellectual property was bought and sold several times over the years and many watches with quartz movement have been produced under the Benrus brand name.

Benrus Quartz Watch

Benrus quartz watch

After a particularly hard time in recent years, Benrus has now made an exciting come-back. The brand has been revived by a private investment group led by mergers and acquisitions lawyer Michael Sweeney. 

The latest watch collection released by Benrus, which is quite thrilling for vintage Benrus fans, is their Heritage collection. This collection is composed of some beautiful watch models with Miyota self-winding/automatic movement, with an aesthetic that sends us back to the brand's vintage models. This exciting new release comes just in time for the brand's 100 year anniversary, in 2021.

Classic Benrus Watch from the Heritage Collection

One of the models in the Heritage Collection: the Classic Watch

You can check out the complete collection here

Also worth mentioning is the Benrus Classic: 1969, a limited edition watch model that is now available on the Benrus website. With a stunning blue dial and impressive functions, this watch is made in a limited number of 1969 pieces and it features the iconic 3 stars on the dial.

Benrus Classic 1969

Check it out on the Benrus website, while it's still available.

Vintage and new Benrus watches: Are they any good?

When looking to purchase an old, vintage Benrus watch, an important feature to seek for is a mechanical or automatic movement. If the watch comes with a quartz/battery movement, you will know that it has been produced sometime since the 1970s until today.

Benrus Mechanical Ladies Watch

Vintage 17 Jewels Mechanical Benrus Watch for Ladies. Discover it now!

While these vintage watches are appreciated by collectors and reflect the successful period of the Benrus watch brand, its unique aesthetic and brand history, you should know that Benrus quartz watches are also reliable timepieces. We have quite a few in our pre-owned Benrus watch collection that keep perfect time and look beautiful on the wrist. 

At Vintage Radar, we restore vintage and pre-owned watches, to encourage responsible shopping and giving worn timepieces a second chance. We'd like to finish this article about the impressive history of Benrus watches with a few pieces from our collection, both vintage ones, and newer models.

10k Gold-filled Vintage Benrus Watch

 10K Gold Filled BENRUS 3 Star Luxury Mechanical Watch

RARE 1960s Mechanical Ladies Benrus Watch

RARE 1960s Mechanical Ladies Benrus Watch

Gorgeous BNW701 Benrus Watch | Navy Blue Dial Benrus Watch

Navy Blue Benrus Quartz Watch

Discover our complete Benrus watch collection, which features both vintage and pre-owned Benrus watches here.


What about you? Do you own a Benrus watch? 

After reading a bit about the Benrus watch brand, would you consider investing in a Benrus timepiece? If yes, tell us about your favorite model. We're eager to hear your thoughts on their new Heritage Collection as well. 



Choosing a watch with Vintage Radar

As you can see, vintage watches are surely worth considering, and we hope that most, if not all of you will give a second chance to at least one unique timepiece.
We have thousands of watches waiting for a new owner on 
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  • I recently purchased a gorgeous vintage (50s or 60s) Benrus 17 jewel manual wind at a flea market for $5. It would run and stop so I took it to my local watchmaker for a service. The movement is hackable so I could synchronize it to the atomic clock. After the first week, it was only four seconds fast. After two weeks, it was 20 seconds fast. That’s running +1-3 seconds off per day. That’s unbelievable for a mechanical movement, an owner of a modern Rolex would be proud to have that kind of accuracy. It’s a testament to the construction and the skill of my watchmaker.

    David P on

  • Hola
    Tengo un reloj marca benrus
    Rectangular delgado abajo en la carátula dice 17 jewels. Borde dorado . Como hago para valorarlo y saber de qué año es

    Ana Catalina on

  • If you have any questions or want to send us photos of your watches, please contact us via e-mail at We try to reply to everyone.

    Vintage Radar Team

    Vintage Radar on

  • I have a BENRUS watch that I bought in 1986. It is petite dainty long face with a gold band and a safety chain. It don’t keep time anymore because someone put the wrong battery in it!!!!

    angelia tenney on

  • Este reloj tiene movimiento japonés?

    Patricio on

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