How to Identify, Date & Value Old Benrus Watches? (Guide)

Benrus watches hold a great value for watch collectors as these were America’s first imported Swiss movement watches. In fact, back in the 1930s, Benrus was a luxury, often gifted to dignitaries like Sir Kennedy & Steve McQueen.

But when Benrus stopped making these watches in 1977, they still flourished as collectibles. If you’ve been planning to add this watch to your collection, all you need is this Benrus watch identification and price guide to help you!

Key Takeaways

  • You can identify a real Benrus watch by the brand’s logo, material marks, Swiss movements, Arabic or Roman dials, and 7 – 25 jewels.
  • Vintage Benrus watches with working or unrestored movements & winding mechanisms cost more than the serviced ones.
  • Among the different vintage Benrus watch models, the Sky Chief, Dial-O-Rama & Military Watch models are the most precious.
  • The rare and most valuable Benrus watches often have advanced LED mechanisms, central seconds, or red-tipped hands. Read on to know their values!

About Benrus Watch Company

One of the first and most popular imported Swiss watch brands, Benrus went through the following historical changes:

  • 1921: Three Russian immigrant brothers – Benjamin, Oscar & Ralph Lazarus established Benrus, a Swiss watch company for just $5,000 in New York.
  • 1930 – 1950s: Benrus featured celebrity ads with Charles Lindbergh & Babe Ruth. They even advertised a solid 3-year warranty (as against the normal 1-year warranty) for their wrist and Dial-O-Rama watches in Life & Ebony magazines.
  • 1960s: Benrus produced rough and tough plastic military and field watches, some of which were gifted to President John F. Kennedy (1963) and Steve McQueen (1968).
  • 1977: Benrus went out of business in 1977 and was sold to Victor Kiam, the owner of Remington Razors (est. 1960), due to a failed brand consolidation venture.

Identify a Real Benrus Watch With 3 Easy Clues

A REAL Benrus watch will always have simple, textual, or stylized ‘B’ logos, Swiss watch movements, and exclusive water, shock & dust resistant marks on the back clip.

In contrast, the forged ones might have blurry & misspelled logos at the back or dial and misaligned movements on the watch.

But are there any other ways to identify a Belrus watch? Sure, there are!

1. Materials & Material Marks

You can spot a Benrus watch by its shiny gold or metal dials with matte, sunburst, or two-tone finishes. Besides, they might have animal leather, metal, or plastic belts fixed with steel spring bars and lugs on each side.

The mid-1920s watches also flaunt solid gold or steel cases, while the post-1950s ones use silver, gold, or bronze-plated cases.

I’ve also noticed an etched material mark on all vintage watches, especially on the case, belt, or clamp. I created a handy list of these marks below:

Old Benrus Watch Case MaterialsFeatured Marks
Stainless Steel (1920 Onwards)Etched ‘Stainless Steel,’ ‘Stainless,’ ‘ST Steel,’ ‘Staybrite,’ or ‘Surgical Stainless Steel’ mark
Solid Gold (1920 Onwards)Pure gold hallmarks – 10k Gold Filled, 14k Gold Filled, 10k, 14k or 18k US
Gold-Plated (1950 & Onwards)‘Gold Plated,’ ‘Gold Electroplated,’ ‘G.P,’ or RGP (Rolled Gold Plated) marks
Silver-PlatedEP (Electroplated) & EPNS (Electroplated Nickel Silver)
Nickel-plated (1950s & Onwards)Etched NP, NIEL & ‘Nickel Electroplated’ marks

2. Watch Movements

Check the dial, case back, and hands of your old Benrus watch. If it’s a real one, it will have engraved Swiss-movement hallmarks – ‘Swiss,’ ‘Swiss-made,’ ‘ETA,’ ‘Valjoux,’ or ‘FHF.’

I also came across some 1940s Benrus watches, all of them had mechanical (manual or automatic) movements (unlike the quartz Hamilton watches of that era), with a unique ‘Incabloc’ coating to protect them from shock and vibrations.

But bogus Benrus watches will have new-age kinetic, solar, or radio-controlled movements with a Chinese or Japanese stamp.

3. Old Hardware Features

Remember that old Benrus watches generally had 7 – 25 jewels on their balance wheels, forks, and escape wheels. There are also models with 39 jewels, such as the 39-jewel Automatic Date Series (1950 – 1970), but those are very rare, often worth $500 – $800.

Besides jewels, old Benrus watches have a fixed set of lock, dial, and other hardware features as listed below:

  • Arabic or Roman numerals and indices with bold hour markers
  • Dauphine, sword, or feuille-style luminous hands
  • A pointed or counterbalanced second hand in the center
  • Radium or tritium-enhanced glowing dials for low-light conditions
  • Might have additional subdials, day & date indicators, and moon phase displays
  • Snap-on, screw-down, or threaded backs
  • Smooth, fluted, engraved, or coin-edge bezels

How to Date a Vintage Benrus Watch? 

Get a magnifying glass and look for a serial number on the case or movements. While there is no specific Benrus serial number lookup database, I believe that most early 1930-1950s Benrus watches have serial numbers between 1 and 31,000.

But that’s not all! Unlike other brands, Benrus changed its watch features and logos over the years, evolving from a simple script to a designer logo, making it a vital dating factor!

I’ve drawn various logos in this Benrus watch age chart to help you understand how the logos varied over the years:

MFGIdentifying LogosBenrus Watch Age
1921 – 19301921 - 1930 Benrus Watch Mark93 – 102 years
1940 – 19501940 - 1950 Benrus Watch Trademark73 – 83 years
1950 – 1960Benrus Watch Mark from 1950 - 196063 – 73 years
1960 – 1980Benrus Watch Logo 1960 - 198043 – 63 years

Apart from the logo, you can also date your Benrus watch using these era-specific details:

  • 1920 – 1940s Benrus Watches: These 30 – 40mm cased watches feature simple, cut-corner cases, blue bezels, military designs, and bold Arabic numerals. Popular examples include the Pilot, Navigator & Sky Chief watches worth up to $1,500.
  • 1950 – 1960s Benrus Watches: These 35 – 42mm automatic watches have a superior chronograph, moon phase & day-date functions, such as those in the popular GMT master, Sea Lord & Submariner watches.
  • 1970s Benrus Watches: Benrus introduced the first electronic watches like the Citation or Type I & II series, with innovative calculator and alarm functions, English numerals, 24-hour dials, and cushion cases.

3 Easy Ways to Find an Old Benrus Watch’s Value

You can appraise an old Benrus watch by checking its model name, condition & packaging.

Usually, average-grade & easy-to-find Benrus watches cost $200 – $1,000, but some rare ones can fetch up to $5,000 or even more, such as this 1977 Benrus Type II military watch I found on eBay!

So, let’s understand what makes these vintage Benrus watches so expensive!

1. Vintage Benrus Watch Models

During its service, Benrus made several models, each with a fixed set of features, materials, and marks that affect the value. So, one of the easiest ways to value a REAL Benrus watch is to check and identify its model.

Vintage Benrus watches usually have the model name on the dial or back of the case. You can also check the same from the collections on Benrus’s official website!

After analyzing some recent auctions, I’ve prepared a price chart for Benrus Watch values based on different models:

Vintage Benrus ModelsEstimated Value (Leather Belt)Estimated Value (Metal Belt)
Sky Chief (1941)$100 – $1,300 as per conditionLess than $1,600
Dial-O-Rama (1950)$500 – $1,500$200 – $1,000
Benrus Type-1 Military Watch$200 – $900N.A
Benrus Type-2 Military Watch$200 – $1,000$1,000 – $2,500
Benrus Sea Lord (1970s)Less than $200$30 – $1,000 as per condition
Benrus Citation Watch (1970)$30 – $300$20 – $400

As you can see, Benrus military-level Sky Chief, Dial-O-Rama & Type I & II are the most popular. In fact, the Dial-O-Rama is so popular that even its dial alone can be worth up to $250.

But a few more collectible models include the Benrus Ultra-Slim, Heritage Field, Speedmaster & GMT-master watches, worth up to $400 in excellent condition.

2. Condition of the Watch

Benrus watches have been there since the 1920s. So, they are bound to have some aging features – yellow patina, faded polish, and accumulated rust over the years.

But poor-condition or unmaintained watches have many more defects like ceased movements, broken winding keys, missing belts, and restored parts, lowering their value.

But how do you know if a Benrus watch is restored?

Usually, if your watch looks unusually clean, with no rust or markings on the back, it’s likely been restored. Also, note the watch hands; restored Benrus watches will have modern syringe or arrow hands, but real ones will have sword hands.

3. Benrus Watch Papers & Packaging

Remember that Benrus watches with original cardboard, wood, or leather cases, warranty papers, service records, and receipts are more valuable. But the ones without such documentation might lose $50 – $200 of their monetary value.

5 Most Valuable Benrus Watches for Your Collection

Let’s look at the top five rarest Benrus watches that fetched thousands of dollars for their unique, limited-edition features:

1. Benrus Type II Class A US Navy Seal Military Divers

The Benrus Type II Navy Seal watch is a 1970s automatic, bi-directional watch with a nylon wrap-around belt, bold black dials, and luminous hands. This model doesn’t have a Benrus logo on its dial; you’ll get it on the back clip or winding key.

Usually, this 17-20 jewel watch fetches about $5,000 in good condition, but a rare eBay listing made over $6,100.

2. Benrus LED Pop-Up Digital Watch

Benrus’s 1976-made LED watch is a pop-mechanism digital watch with a squarish, silver-plated case and chrome hardware. Overall, it’s worth up to $3,000, even without its original tags and box!

3. Benrus Sky Chief Chronograph Watch

The Benrus Sky Chief Chronograph is a bold, 43mm watch with automatic central seconds, numerals, and unisex designs. Topping off auction prices in the $1,000 – $2,500 range for average watches, this model brings in the highest amount in pristine & working condition.

4. Benrus Bullitt ‘Steve McQueen’ Watch

Benrus Bullitt is a movie-based, limited-edition watch featured in Steve McQueen’s ‘Bullitt.’ You can spot this one by its bold black dials, golden numbers, red-tipped seconds hand, and matte case. In great condition, a Steve McQueen watch can sell for around $2,000.

5. Benrus 14k Gold Wristwatch

Benrus 14k gold wristwatch is a 7-inch chain-link gold bracelet watch with manual movement, square dial, and round indexes. Being a one-of-a-kind watch, it was auctioned off for $1,200 on Bonhams in 2022.

Thanks to their imported Swiss movements and other top-notch features, branded Benrus watches have always attracted collectors, who are ready to pay thousands for them.

But it’s not just Benrus; Waltham Watches are equally valuable. If you want to learn more about them or explore rare pocket watches, I’m here to help! 

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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