Monday, September 29, 2014

Benrus Type 1 Class A

The Benrus Type 1 Class A dive watch was issued to members of the UDT-SEAL, Green Berets and Special Forces towards the end of the Vietnam conflict. These watches were very durable and some consider it to be the ultimate military dive watch, hence the Class A nomenclature. 

The Type I Class A dive watch has the perfect dial for military dive watch with its simple zen design. This field-proven case design, and the only U.S. military issued watch to feature an automatic movement with hack feature has made this watch special. 

It was made under a military specification of its own, namely the MIL-W-50717 specification. As mentioned, the watch was designated CLASS A, which is essentially the highest classification awarded to military watches. 

As it is supplied in the United States Army military watches, the watch has been named the TYPE 1  Mainly employed as a diving watches, such as the United States Navy.  TYPE 2 made in the late 1970s. This TYPE1 is for water interaction model  (diving) while TYPE 2 is the model with ground personnel. 

It has taken me almost 6 months to hunt for these Benrus Type 1 and like the Seiko 300 m 6159-700 using the hi beat movement, these watches are extremely difficult to find and much luck is needed to find them. It is easier to find Rolex then these as these active "tools" watches often went through has harsh environments and not many of these appears in the market. Initially, I was thinking that perhaps it will be easier to find a type 2 but my watch sifu Mr. TK Lee has taught me one lesson in collecting watches is that one should always go for the best and the most difficult one to collect first and the rest will fall in place.

Owing to the students demonstration, many of my customers were affected by the road blockage and I ended up walking into a vintage watch shop not expecting anything. I have always considered military watches that is still around lucky as these amazingly durable and accurate watches have faithfully accompanied their previous owners on many dangerous missions be it reconnaissance and behind-the-line operations and combat conducted in the hot and humid jungles of Vietnam. Being able to appear in the shop means that these watches have survived. These Benrus watch together with the Seiko 6105 and a Glycine Airman watches were the favourite of the US forces.

The watch is heavy and the heavy steel case measures 47.5mm lug to lug, 42.4mm across the crown, with thickness reaching 15.3mm. Rigid strap bars are fixed to the case and takes a 20mm black nylon band. It has a screw-down crown with crown protecting shoulders that protrudes smoothly from the lugs. 

One-piece case design helped the watch achieve necessary water resistantance required by the nature of underwater activities conducted by UDT-SEAL teams. Ziggy Wesolowski, author of Concise Guide to Military Timepieces, reports the watch to have been tested to depths of 495 feet. 

Like what a collector has mentioned In his blog, one of the beautiful aspects found on this Benrus dive watch is the perfect dome shaped plastic crystal. It is very thick, about 3mm, and looks extremely tough. 

Even though my watch has scratched marks within the crystal, given the 3mm thickness, it can still function well making me thinking twice of replacing the crystals.

Thanks to my friend Bryan, I have managed to consolidate my military watch collection. The dirty dozen is always on my lists but the Benrus Type 1 has taken priority owing to the unique design and larger size.

According to information found on the net, the Type I was procured in several (I count five) contracts from 1972 to 1977, all but the first contract were purchased by the Navy Supply Center (now Naval Inventory Control Point) Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The single contract (in 1980) for The Type II, Class B was also purchased by NAVSUP Mechanicburg.

All the Type II watches (and the first contract of Type Is, five in all) were contracted by the Army from 1972 to 1977, first through Frankford Arsenal, Pennsylvania, then when Frankford started the wind down for its closure, the last two contacts were made through Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.

Although, the last contracts for the Type I and II was set in 1977, production under these contacts lasted until 1980.

There were 9,223 Type II, Class A watches made, around 6,000 Type I, and maybe 1000 Type II, Class Bs...

As part of the exercises, I have started to streamline my watches and instead of collecting numerous of the same kind, I have decided to keep only one each and letting go the spares so that I can free up space for new toys to come in. My one in one out policy has to be reinforced as I have not been following the rules set previously.

Time to hunt for its partner type II....


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