Friday, January 23, 2015

Benrus '50s Bling

This is one of my favorite wristwatches, not because it's of any particular importance, but because it embodies both local history and a snazzy design that is best described as '50s bling. (Or maybe late '40s bling.) I love the retro irony--today we would consider this to be a woman's watch, but when it was new, it was decidedly masculine.

Take a look at this watch. It's got a gold-plated case (plain steel on the back), encrusted with 14 fake diamonds; the dial boasts 8 fake diamonds (two are missing) and 5 fake rubies, arranged in an unabashedly tacky design. It's so camp, you have to love it.

Benrus was NYC-based company founded in 1921. Like many U.S. watch companies, they imported movements from Switzerland and Germany for assembly and sale here.

In 1934, Benrus acquired one of the factories previously used by the Waterbury Clock Company on Cherry Street. Benrus used the factory for watch case production. The building eventually was taken over by Bender Plumbing Supply, which made a minor modification to the Benrus name on the factory smokestack--for decades, you could still see the faint "rus" visible under the name Bender.

Although I may love this watch, it languished in a junk box for untold decades. The movement is now frozen, unwilling to tick for even a moment. Eventually, I'll take it in for cleaning and repair--along with a dozen other awesome vintage wristwatches I've collected.

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