I don’t know if Military and Flieger style watches are all the rage right now or if we’ve always had a fascination for vintage military watches. So whether because of their history, their utilitarian function, or just looks, there seems to be a great demand for these watches. Whatever the reason for our fascination… there are some great pieces to be had either authentic original vintage, NOS commemorative re-issue or other homage pieces.
I know I’ve been intrigued by these watches for a long time beginning with a Timex military issue of the late 1960 era my late dad once owned. Wish I knew whatever happened to that watch.
At any rate, I came across this really cool military watch. It’s a Benrus 1994 50th Anniversary Commemorative Military Re-Issue. Let me share a little bit of history on the original Benrus Military watch before I talk about this particular piece.
The original Benrus Military watch was issued for decades to airman, soldiers and sailors during WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars. There has been debate on whether there was a WWII issue of this particular watch, I didn’t want to dig further into that debate because that’s not the point of this story.
The original watch was a Benrus MIL-W-46374, (other versions the Benrus were the MIL-W-46374A and MIL-W-3181B), and very popular with servicemen because of one important, if not crucial feature, the “Hack” function. The hack function was used during combat situations where servicemen had to synchronize time precisely. In other words, the second hand would stop when the crown was pulled out for setting the time; thus, everyone’s coordinated efforts would be exact.
Today these vintage military watches are collectible and highly sought after by collectors. There are many out there but “buyer beware” of their condition. If you do find one make sure you know their working condition. These vintage watches are very fragile and when repair is needed, can be very costly. Hence…
This Commemorative Benrus Re-Issue Limited Edition is a good substitute for the fragile vintage models and makes for a great daily beater or collectible. This model was made almost to exact specs of the 1968 Vietnam version. These re-issue watches have the Benrus ETA 2801-2 hand-winding, 28,800bph movement as opposed to the MIL-W-46374A mechanical of the vintage model. The modern case specs are the same as the vintage watch at 33.9mm width including crown and 41mm lug to lug. One difference in the watches were the cases, the original 1968 was bead blasted and the 1994 version has a polished case (which I prefer). The watch comes nicely packaged in a leather and canvas pouch with an outer box labeled as US Commemorative Watch. I think it makes for a nice replica/homage collectible.
Sure it’s not quite the Benrus iconic MIL-W-46374 infantry watch issued in past eras, but it’s a great looking re-issue and a great way to commemorate the past.
There are still a few out there but because it was a limited run, you need to search.
Initially, I was working on this story during hurricane Harvey but never really got around to finishing it until now. The story was to end with the Benrus watch, but in light of Hurricane Harvey I wanted to incorporate a great story of a Veteran in need met during the stormy hurricane.
If you notice in some of pictures I have added a Cartouche bracelet. Though this story is about a military watch and the bracelet is not military related they are connected sort of and thought fitting to add here. After acquiring the bracelet from Mr. SJ Harvey (Yes that is correct, and no joke) he was kind enough to send me the history behind it. I wanted to share his story in his own words because there was a military history behind it:
“The bracelet is a Greek Cartouche acquired by Arthur G. from SJ. Harvey on August 27th, 2017.
In January 1993, I got stationed at Souda Bay Naval Support Activity (NSA) on the Greek Island of Crete.
I was assigned to Detachment 1 of the 922nd Reconnaissance Squadron based at Mildenhall Air Base in England. We were 17 Air Force people at a Naval Base.
We weren’t very popular for a number of reasons. Chief of those being our superior equipment, huge budget, and the fact that the only reason the Marine detachment on base existed was to guard our one plane (an RC-135) while row after row of their P-3s sat unguarded (pic attached).
This was a year-long tour for the Air Force. I got to ship a car, I had an apartment on the beach in Kalathas, and I was running a tab at two local pubs, one of which was on the beach just stumbling distance to my apartment.
There were certain things everyone did or purchased during their tour; it was to buy rugs and linens from a gentleman called “Flokati Mike”. These were handmade rugs very reasonably priced. If Mike knew you were going to be there for a year, he’d let you make installment payments. If you had military gear like uniforms to trade, he’d discount his prices.
People also visited Aphrodites in downtown Chania (pronounced Hanya). Aphrodite’s was a very upscale jeweler that specialized in authentic Greek jewelry. One of Crete’s primary revenue sources is tourism. Aphrodite’s did a very large volume of business. Security was tight because of a very extensive inventory. You didn’t just stroll in, you entered a “cage” just inside the front door; then, after producing a picture ID, you were buzzed in.
If you wanted any model of the cartouche be it earrings, a bracelet, or a ring, it behooved you to order it early in your tour due to the volume of orders and the length of time it took to make it. They shipped a lot of jewelry to visiting tourists.
I was stationed at Souda Bay from January 1993 to January 1994.”
SJ. Harvey, SMSgt, USAF (Ret.)
Again, I know this segment of the story has nothing to do with watches. Given the story I was working on about military watches and chance meeting with SJ Harvey, I felt compelled.
In a time when society is so broken, one need only stop to chat with a Veteran who fought for our freedom to realize how good we have it. Have all these veterans fought in vain when they see how we are destroying the freedom they fought so hard for …
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