Watches

The Affordable Benrus

During the closing days of the Vietnam war, a new watch was born. Members of the SEALs, Green Berets, and other Special Forces teams were issued what many consider to be the finest military timepiece ever produced. Today, we call it the Benrus Type I watch. The Type I was a very simple dive watch built to be easily readable and absolutely bulletproof. The 42mm steel watch was powered by a very high quality 17 jewel ETA automatic movement – an extremely robust and very accurate machine. Packaged with the simple exterior, this watch quickly became a favorite amongst military folks and collectors alike.

I’ve loved the Benrus Type I since the first time I laid eyes on it and have always wanted one, but the collectors have put this one out of my reach. Often these tool watches are seen up for grabs at well over $1500 and while I consider them to be worth that, I’d be hard pressed to find the expendable income. As such, I started looking for a suitable homage of sorts. Enter the Ollech & Wajs Cobra.

O&W was started in 1956 with an eye on sports watches. Their rugged construction and good looks made them popular with fellas in militaries all over the world. The advent of the cheap quartz movement, however, put them out of business in the 1970’s. In the 1990’s, the company came back under the leadership of family and they’ve been kicking out some pretty impressive tool watches ever since.

The Cobra is a newer watch by O&W and appears to be heavily inspired by the Benrus Type I. It features a 40mm (43mm with the crown) bead blasted case and the honorable ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. For those not in the know, the 2824 is a work horse of a movement proven to be very reliable and flexible. In fact, this very movement can be found in many watches costing thousands of dollars more than the Cobra. Put frankly, it’s a serious selling point.

As for that bead blasted case, it’s simply gorgeous… O&W is quickly becoming one of my favorite brands simply because their attention to detail is so apparent in all of their offerings. Finish is great, the seams are seamless, the lum is respectable, etc… It’s just hard to beat them for the price.

And what about the dough? New Cobras are offered by Gnomon Watches for $440. Certainly, that’s not a price to sniff at… 400 bones is 400 bones and that’s a lot of scratch. However, if you are into the Benrus and find yourself with the need for a super high quality auto, the Cobra is one hell of a value. And if you are patient, you can pick one up on the used market for less than $300. That’s the route I went and I couldn’t be happier.

My Cobra on a Bond Nato strap. . .

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