You may not know it by name, the Benrus Type I carries with it a deep military history to which its modern incarnation pays serious homage.
The day I learned of the announcement for a reissue of the iconic BENRUS Type I, I knew that I had to have one. Although I had never owned a BENRUS before picking this one up, I had always been drawn to their history. Few American watch brands are in the same league with the military history that BENRUS has, and even fewer are still operational.
BENRUS first released the Type I model in 1972 in order to fulfill the U.S. military’s MIL-W-50717 requirements for legibility and robustness that would hold up to the rigors demanded by American service members – many belonging to Special Operations Forces fighting on the ground and combat divers navigating the waters of Vietnam. Thanks to the painstaking efforts that BENRUS put into designing the Type I reissue, this new limited-edition watch doesn’t feel like a restart, it feels like a continuation of the history behind this revered watch.
I’ve never had my hands on the original Type I but for good reason – there were only a few thousand ever produced between 1972 and 1980 and they were exclusively issued to military personnel, having never been released to the public. If you’re able to find an original Type I intact today, you’ll be paying upwards of $8,000 or more for one in “good” condition. The combination of there being so few in circulation and the cost for them being as much as entry-mid level offerings from luxury watch brands means that BENRUS’ decision to reissue the Type I provides more affordable access to participate in the history of the watch for a new segment of the market.
Limited to only 1,000 pieces, every aspect of the reissued Type I design takes its design cues from the original but with several modern improvements.
The Benrus Type I Exterior
The Iconic Case:
The 42.5mm case and caseback is constructed from bead-blasted 316L stainless steel and features an incredible asymmetrical profile which boasts 1,000 feet of water resistance (300m). Instead of a top loading design used by the original, the reissue features a hidden screw down stainless steel caseback that is pretty aggressively domed, but the watch still sits well on the wrist and wears smaller than its 15mm overall thickness. The Type I case size allows for excellent visibility while maintaining comfort and a relatively low profile. It is also worth pointing out that the reissue features 20mm lugs and spring bars, while the original featured an odd choice of 19.5mm and fixed lug bars that limited wear to only NATO straps. The choice to go with 20mm means that finding a strap that fits properly is much easier for the new Type I.
While the original utilized an acrylic bezel, the reissue features an anodized aluminum insert with a coin edge. Instead of the typical click bezel, this bidirectional bezel uses a friction lock 12-hour design. This design makes sense for operational environments where the wearer might not want to broadcast the ratcheting sound of a clicking bezel through the air. Because there are no clicks, I have noticed times during daily wear that the bezel can be accidentally adjusted from friction against clothing or contact with various objects, which would cause me to lose accurate tracking of whatever I might have been timing. Still, it is smooth, quiet, and functional. I also appreciate that BENRUS made the extra effort to etch the numerals into the bezel instead of using screening.
Domed Sapphire Crystal
One of my favorite aspects of this watch is the incredible double-domed sapphire crystal that seamlessly meets the angled bezel. It is a very dramatic feature that was executed very well. Thus far during my initial few weeks of wear, the dial has been easy to read in all lighting situations that I’ve encountered. I personally am glad that BENRUS went with a sapphire crystal as it will simply hold up better over time than the original acrylic option.
The beating heart of this watch is a Swiss automatic ETA 2861 caliber movement with a 40 hour power reserve. It is not the same movement that was used in the original Type I. Due to the limited availability of ETA movements for non-swatch group companies these days, the fact that BENRUS was able to source an ETA with hacking seconds for this reissue is commendable. The hackable 2861 does feature a date function, although the dial lacks a date window. If you wear this watch regularly and rarely perform manual winding, you’ll never notice this. If you wear this watch occasionally and are forced to adjust the time, then it might be a minor hassle to skip the date setting crown position. It is not a criticism, simply pointing it out. I’d rather have a ghost date function instead of a Sellita or Miyota movement, so no issues from me on BENRUS’ choice here.
If I had one valid criticism of this watch, it would be the sizing of the included two piece “seat belt” nylon strap. While the quality of the strap construction is immaculate, only those with wrists larger than approximately 7 ¼” will be able to wear it without it loosely flopping around on the wrist. This can be remedied by throwing on a third-party NATO strap of your choosing, which is exactly what I did and what I would have done anyway as I prefer wearing NATO straps over a two piece.
The matte black dial is sterile with no markings aside from the lumed hour markers and minute track that hugs the edge of the dial. The lume on the Type I is bright and beautiful. For a watch meant to be functional during military operations, lume is critical. BENRUS nailed it with their application of BWG9 Super-LumiNova on the hands, hour markers, and the 12 o’clock triangle marker on the bezel. There is nothing more useless to me than a poorly lumed watch, and BENRUS surpasses all expectations that I had for the Type I in the lume department. Very well done.
Conclusion: The Benrus Type I Is a Go!
This BENRUS Type I Limited Edition ties you to the history of the original Type I but at a more accessible price point. Each piece was assembled and regulated in the United States, which I appreciate for a watch with such ties to our military. Yes, it costs $1,695 but if the Type I holds a special place in your heart then the reissue is a bargain compared to the original. While the original may have an unmatchable mystique, the reissued Type I is simply a better watch without betraying its roots. This isn’t an homage watch from some random company – this is the Type I from BENRUS. I could not be happier to own one of these important pieces of watch history and look forward to a lifetime of adventure with it.
BENRUS Type I Specs:
- Model: Type I Limited Edition
- Reference: 810044670110
- Function: Hours, minutes, seconds, bidirectional 12-hour bezel
- Material: Bead-blasted 316L stainless steel with anodized aluminum bezel insert
- Dimensions: 42.5mm diameter; 15mm thickness
- Crystal: Double-domed sapphire crystal
- Caseback: Stainless steel
- Dial: Black with white hour markers
- Lume: Yes, BWG9 Super-LumiNova in hands, hour markers, and on 12 o’clock bezel triangle
- Caliber: Automatic ETA 2681
- Power Reserve: 40 hours
- Water Resistance: 300 meters
- Bracelet/Strap: Black two-piece “seat belt” nylon strap
- Lug Width: 20mm
- Assembled in the United States of America