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In Review: Benrus Type I

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In the realm of watches that attempt to be faithful replicas – or modern reinterpretations – of models gone by, those that carry the label “milspec” seem to have a particular price of place. The Vietnam-era Type I watch is of particular note, given how many brands have made one now (my first experience with one was via MKII). Well, if you want a true reissue, go to one of the brands that made the original. And that’s what we’ve got with the Benrus Type I.

To be perfectly clear, the Benrus of today is not the same Benrus that made these original watches. While the lineage doesn’t necessarily mean as much to me, I know some folks are more particular about it, so I thought I’d call it out. For me, it’s the look and feel of the piece that matters the most. And, from my experience with other Type I models, the Benrus version hits pretty close on it.

Yes, as 42.5mm, the Benrus Type I is no doubt larger than the original, but that’s a nod to modern tastes more than anything. As long as we’re talking about changes, it’s worth noting the movement. In today’s version, you’ve got an ETA three-hander movement with hacking seconds (critical for absolute timing synchronizing). You’ve also got modern manufacturing practices in play, which helps with a tight fit and finish (good for that 300m WR rating) as well as keeping that Swiss heart safe and intact.

The nice thing about a milspec watch is that legibility is put first and foremost, as it’s a tool meant to be used in difficult situations. If you’ve got to take more than a second or two to read the time, that could mean big problems. In daylight, that’s why you’ve got the white-on-black color scheme, as well as the bead blasted finish on the case (the double domed sapphire crystal here stands out as being overlooked, as it gets all manner of glare on it). It also extends to the luminous paint, with the triangles keeping you oriented, and different fills on the hands (one bar on the hour, two on the minutes) so you can tell which is which, quickly and without question.

Around the back of the Benrus Type I, you’ve got a simple caseback that’s engraved with all sorts of information on the watch. It’s got that very “government” feel in terms of what it done, the font that’s used, and strings of numbers and letters. Viewing that caseback gives you a view of how the lugs curve down to get the strap close to your wrist, as well as the space around the back of the watch for some airflow (which helps for comfort, you can imagine).

Coming in at $1,695, the Benrus Type I is not something you’d expect to see on the wrist of an active duty soldier – they tend to go for the more durable and shock resistant quartz and digital models, from everything I’ve read. However, if you served in the era these came from, or like that slice of history, the Benrus Type I is a way to get a modern reissue of that history on your wrist without having to worry about reliability or accuracy. Also worth noting, current and former military members (and other first responders) can get 15% off, and every sale of the Benrus Type I drives financial support to Boulder Crest, and organization that helps folks deal with post traumatic issues. In other words, a way to put a piece of military history on your wrist while supporting those who have been on the front lines. benrus.com

Tech Specs from Benrus

  • Case Diameter: 42.5 mm
  • Case Type: Bead blasted 316L SS case w/ screw-in high-grip textured crown
  • Movement: ETA Swiss automatic movement w/ hacking seconds feature
  • Strap: Black two piece seatbelt nylon NATO
  • Water Resistant: 30ATM
  • Double domed Sapphire crystal
  • BW G9 Super-LumiNova markers and hands
  • Limited Edition engraved case back
  • Assembled in the USA   

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