Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Benrus Heritage Field Watch

Benrus is back! Yes, it is the same storied American brand that produced the Sky Chief chronograph in World War Two, built mil-spec field watches and divers in the 1960s and 70s, and even made a line of automatic steering wheel-mounted clocks. Well, it’s the same name, at least. The Benrus brand has been around the block a few times and in out of court the past few years, but it has now been resurrected under new ownership, and more importantly, it has three new models to sell. They let The Time Bum take a turn with a Heritage Field Watch for this review.

Benrus Heritage Field Watch white

The Heritage Collection watches draw their inspiration from classic Benrus models, so it should be no surprise that the Field Watch is an homage to the iconic Vietnam-era U.S. Government-issued piece, or more specifically, its civilian version, the Benrus #3061. It is, after all, the quintessential field watch design with its Arabic 12- and 24-hour indexes and triangular hour markers. Even the needle-tipped handset remains the same, and the red arrowhead on the second hand provides a welcome pop of color, just as it did back in the day. I think it looks especially sharp against the pearl white dial.

It is not an exact replica of the military dial. Most notably, the Benrus designers employed a sharper-edged typeface for the numbers that looks both older and more sophisticated than the original.

Benrus Heritage Field Watch lume

Vintage SuperLuminova graces the markers and hands, and while many watch reviewers bemoan “faux-tina,” I am not one of them. The creamy lume looks fantastic and maintains a healthy green glow at night. Benrus also offers the Field Watch in classic black as well as a fetching dark gray in a black ion-plated case. All are winning combinations. My only gripe is the way the tastefully framed date window cuts off the 3. It’s not the worst design offense, and certainly not uncommon, but it always strikes me as a sign that dial should have been a different size.

Benrus Heritage Field Watch white wrist shot

The stainless steel case is 41mm wide, 49mm long, and 13mm thick from the case back to the top of its K1 mineral crystal. While it is not huge, its proportions make it seem so. I’m not going to lie, my 6.75" wrist would have preferred something closer to 38mm to better reflect the smaller sizes of yore, but I can’t fault them for choosing a case size with broader appeal. On the other hand, I do fault them for its slab-like lines. The sides are flat, there is no beveling save for that on the bezel, and the lugs display minimal tapering. A generous undercut helps to lean out the profile a tad, but the overall impression is still bulky. I blame the lugs more than anything as they are so broad they nearly square off the round barrel.

Benrus Heritage Field Watch white

Considering its burly stance, you would expect the Field Watch to be prepared to take on actual field expeditions, and it is. The knurled crown is large enough for easy operation yet not so tall as to appear ungainly. The case is water resistant to 100m, so you should have no issue using the watch for any sort of outdoor adventure, although you might pick up some scratches along the way. Given the watch’s aggressive stance, I was initially surprised to see a mirror-polished finish instead of more tool-like brushing, until I realized the #3061 was polished too.

Benrus Heritage Field Watch white crown

Benrus did not miss a chance to remind us who made the watch. We have branding on the dial, the rotor, the display window, the outside of the strap, the buckle, and the left-hand side of the case. Add the stamped stair on the crown, and the watch is signed six times. I understand the pride in restoring a classic name, but this is overkill.

Benrus Heritage Field Watch side

Inside, is a Miyota 9015 automatic movement, the same smooth-sweeping stalwart used by many an independent brand. You know the specs: 28.8k bph, 24 jewels, 42-hour power reserve, hacking, and hand-winding. Aside from its loud rotor (they all do that), it is all good stuff.

Benrus Heritage Field Watch case back

Depending on the model, the Heritage Field Watch will arrive on a nylon NATO (grey dial) or a straight-cut leather strap like this one. It is 22mm at both ends and minimally stitched. Like many straps I’ve encountered lately, it is equipped with rather handy quick-release pins. I loved the British Tan color as the red tones really complemented the tan and white dial; however, the leather is stiff with the sort of overly processed finish that rarely ages well.

Benrus Heritage Field Watch buckle

Which brings us to the last element of this review, the price. Benrus asks $1,095 for the Heritage Field Watch, and that my friends, is hard to justify.

Back in the day, Benrus’s old rival Hamilton produced watches under the same government contract, and not coincidently, they offer dozens of field watch variations today. For example, the desirable Hamilton Khaki Murph has a domed sapphire crystal, Swiss H-10 automatic movement (modified ETA 2824), a more traditionally attractive case, and it retails for $995. Before you chalk that up to Hamilton’s deep Swatch Group pockets and the economies of scale, I’d mention that several microbrands offer excellent, low-volume field watches for even less. The Hemel HM series has similar specs to the Benrus, a sapphire crystal, runs a Miyota 9039, and sells for just $399. I’m just saying.

Benrus Heritage Field Watch white

It is unfair to judge the Benrus Heritage Field Watch through the same lens as one would a vintage Benrus Field Watch. After all, decades have passed, tastes have changed, and while the name may be the same, this is, in fact, a totally new venture. So I asked myself how I might consider this watch if it was released by an unknown start-up. I’d probably say it has potential, but only if they revise the case and slash the price.

If you like the iconic field watch look and dig the Benrus’s commanding presence, then head over to Benrus.com and check out the rest of the collection. But I’d wait for a generous sale before you buy one. ⬩

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