US military-issued watches - like this near NOS re-issued JDM-only Benrus Type I Class A military watch here, in a handsome bead-blasted matte case and with its original paperwork and box – are known for their lack of fancy buttons or bezels. Instead, these are nearly always very simple and reliable watches that do what they were designed to – tell time on the battlefield.
Benrus re-issued its famed Type I and II MIL-W-80717 for Japan-based BEAMS clothing retailer, produced in limited numbers and only for sale within the Japanese Domestic Market. Benrus provided BEAMS with 600 Type I models, half in matte stainless-steel cases and the other half PVD.
But now for some Type I/II history…
Type I and II military watches – more on these below – were produced and issued to USMIL forces for nearly a decade, from 1972 to 1980, with a little over 10,000 Type II produced, along with roughly 6,000 Type I’s. There existed a very small number of “sterile” watches outside these numbers, with no military-stamped nomenclature on the caseback and only a single engraved serial number.
Naturally, some insist these sterile watches were issued to Navy SEAL teams and other Special Operations units in the US Army and CIA (in particular during the Viet Nam conflict), since the lack of military markings on the case meant that the watch (and thus its wearer) could not be identified as American. We don’t know what truth exists in this regard, but it does make for a great story.
To understand military-issued watches, you first need to understand a bit about government purchasing. When the U.S. Government contracts for goods, it does not shop like the rest of us. Instead of surveying the market and choosing from what is available, it publishes detailed criteria for exactly what it needs, and private companies.
In this instance, American watchmakers Benrus, Belforte, Westclox, Hamilton, Timex, and Stocker and Yale - submited proposals for how they will meet the DoD need, and at what cost. As a result, a number of different companies produced U.S. military issue watches under different contracts at different times.
In the early 1960s, the US Department of Defense (DoD) put out a call for bids for their specification MIL-W-3818B, a general-purpose watch for military personal - the first contract awarded in February 1964. The DoD contract called for a 17-jewel, hacking wristwatch with an extended service life; however, the 3818B wasn’t around long, and would eventually morph into the MIL-W-50717 (of which the example here is closely modeled).
Fast forward to the early 1970s when the US DoD drafted MIL-W-50717, a military specification that outlined all the design details they were looking for in a diving watch. Benrus answered the DoD call for bid with its Type I and II watches. Type I’s feature lumed markers at each hour: a triangle at 12; rectangles at 3, 6, and 9; and dots at the remaining hours. T ype IIs have a traditional 12/24 military dial, with small lumed triangles at each hour.
The MIL-W-57017 spec Type I and II watches had everything divers and other combat units needed and nothing they didn’t – thick steel cases measured in at 43 mm wide and 16mm tall, and a design that made the watches impervious to disruption from beatings military-issue watches regularly endure during operations.
The Benrus BEAMS Type I here comes with on its original nylon strap, another nylon strap, rugged travel case, and springbar tool.
Limited Edition Near NOS Benrus Type I BEAMS Dive Watch, Box & Papers
DIAL: Sterile dark black military dial with lumed hands; Luminova lume glows brightly, as expected. Dial is standard field watch spec, with no Benrus logo, akin to the original.
CASE: Bead-blasted matte stainless-steel case measures 43mm x 47.5mm, with matching caseback. Case bezel is coarsely notched, allowing easy rotation, even with gloves on. Stainless-steel bezel insert in excellent condition, with numeral marked hours 1 through 11, with minute dash markings from 1 to 20 - just like the original Type I.
CRYSTAL: Slightly domed sapphire crystal, no deep scratches.
BAND: Like the original Type I, this watch features non-removeable fixed springbars. It comes on its original black nylon strap, with bead-blasted matte hardware. It also comes with a black and blue "James Bond" nylon strap (given its military nature).
MOVEMENT: Benrus Swiss quartz movement, which hacks.
CROWN: Unsigned bead-blasted matte stainless-steel screw down crown.
Note this Benrus BEAMS comes with its original strap, box, hang tag, warranty paperwork, and reciept.