TIME NEVER PASSES FOR A TRUE ORIGINAL
REINTRODUCING TYPE I
THE WATCH OF AMERICAN HEROES
With the experience gained through the beginning of the Vietnam War and the increasing use of covert and specialized military teams such as, the US Navy UDT/SEALs, US Navy EOD, US Navy Divers, Army Rangers, Green Berets, and CIA operatives, the Department of Defense determined that these specialists needed a more robust dive watch that would be purpose-built to meet the highest standards of the military and its operatives. As a result, the military wrote Mil-Spec MIL-W-50717, that specified the design details for the BENRUS Type I diving and field watch.
For the first time, the military wrote a specification heavy requirement with details previously never requested. This was to be a larger, shock proof, highly legible, waterproof, and self-winding watch that was truly durable enough for the CIA and special military units to whom they would be issued. The new specifications included a depth rating of 1,200 feet, which was unheard of prior to the Type I, and an automatic movement that could resist physical and temperature shock. This had to be a truly rugged watch. Interestingly, the specification of this watch essentially became the standard for what a tool watch should be: purpose-built, rugged, and simple.STORIES OF OUR HEROES
During the Vietnam War, the practice of issuing all soldiers a watch was discontinued, meaning soldiers needed to procure their own watches. Although the military did continue to procure watches, they were limited in their distribution. Watches were issued only to personnel whose mission required purpose-built, rugged timepieces. Approximately 16,000 Type I and II and Class A and B versions were produced. They were issued to the Elite Forces throughout the Vietnam War, making the Types I and II some of the most famous and coveted U.S. military dive watches ever.
Before the Type I, BENRUS had been producing the DTU-2A (MIL-W-3818) field watch for the military since 1964, so when the concept of the Type I arose, BENRUS was in prime position to bid for the Type I contract. One can find countless photos of our brave soldiers wearing the original simple field watches, which were sought after in both steel and a later plastic version (MIL-W-46374). The MIL-W-46374 version is believed to be the first military watch constructed in plastic.
BENRUS was awarded the Mil-Spec contract and began production of the Iconic Type I. As a result of both adaptations to the military's needs, as well as different applications, the contract led to the Type I (Class A and B) and Type II (Class A and B). The original dial design in the Mil-Spec is simple with only block markings for the hours and minutes, and no other markings on the dial whatsoever. The later Type II was the same watch, but with a modified dial, which showed standard and military time. The last differentiation for each model was the designation of Class A or B. Class A watches had tritium (glow in the dark) hands and markers for visibility at night, while the Class B was designed without any lume or radioactive material as they might be used in locations containing delicate instruments that were sensitive to even the smallest amounts of tritium contained in the lume (for example, on nuclear-powered submarines). While not for a specific branch of the services, the Type I was most commonly issued to the US Navy UDT/SEAL, EOD and Dive teams where dive operations required this type of watch, but also found its way to the field and even the CIA.
The Type I and Type II in all their variants were produced from 1972 through 1980 with no changes to the design in that time signaling the importance of the design itself. In total, there were roughly 16,000 produced, with much fewer circulating today.
It is important to note that unlike many of the now "collectible" military pieces, the BENRUS Type I and II were never made available to the public or designed as such. The Type I was a purpose-built tool that many years later became recognized for it's advanced design and merits. The watch itself remains fully contemporary in design, and at the same time a mystery to many since this wasn't a watch you could just ever go out and buy.
STORIES OF OUR HEROES
Ireceived the Type I when I was an EOD DET Norfolk in the late 1990s. The supply guy on our team went to DRMO where surplus gear is turned in and came back with six Type I’s, new in the boxes. One was issued to each member of the team.
I personally wore the Type I daily and it accompanied me on my many adventures being an EOD Technician. From parachuting, diving, and blowing things up to serving on Secret Service Presidential details at Kennebunkport, Maine and other places.
We wore them all the time and were always complimented on them. The simplicity of the watch and its easy to read face were a plus, so it wasn’t a surprise that it completed many dives with me. As a diver, our lives depended on quality timepieces to monitor our dive times and the Type I was just that. It wasn't until later that I learned of the rich history of the Type I from a watch repair guy when I had the scratched crystal replaced. I was surprised and honored to be in possession of one.
Veteran, David Bailey
23 years US Navy
16 years Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician
Veteran, David Windsor
20 years US Navy
Oh what an adventure I’ve had. I enlisted in the Navy on my 17th birthday and since then have served on seven ships and seven shore stations. I attended boot camp in San Diego, went to New London for sub school and then got orders to the USS Wasp CVS-18 out of Boston. I did a lot of traveling from the Caribbean to the Congo during the Mao Mao uprising, where I was a machine gunner on the ship's landing party and helped to evacuate people. I was also on the largest ship to go up the St Lawrence River when it was enlarged and was part of the rescue and recovery of the collapsed Texas Tower off Long Island. From Damage Control schooling, Fire Instructor School and several other missions from Guam, California, and Virginia, I finally went on to 2nd class Dive School while stationed aboard the USS Cascade. While the ship was in Naples, Italy in 1971, I was transferred to First Class Dive School at the Washington DC Navy Yard. From there I was assigned to the USS Tringa in Key West, FL where I was part of the rescue mission for the mini-sub, Sea Link.
In 1973 the ship was re-home ported to New London, CN and in 1974 I received orders to Keyport, WA where I "met" my BENRUS Type I dive watch. I wore it on many of my recovery missions of test run torpedoes, in which I needed a non-magnetized watch. Somewhere along the way in my early-undocumented adventures while stationed there, I lost the stem and the watch drowned.