Behind every high-performance watch is a story of an extraordinary man's adventure and challenge - stories of extreme conditions like deep-sea diving, high-speed racing and astronaut's space walking. Elite soldiers also frequent similar chapters of exceptional human achievements. A few chosen group of soldiers, such as fighter jet pilots and special forces personnel, get issued special watches that will endure the harsh conditions their missions usually take place in. When the need for special watches emerged, military organizations around the world first purchased high-end diver's watches and chronographs from Blancpain, Rolex and Tudor and issue them to raise the morale of their special soldiers.

TR900 Made for U.S.NAVY Frogman and Marines . Tornek-Raville by Blanpain Company  late 1950's  "Credit Nicolas" 

UDT SEAL Issued Submariner REF.7928  TUDOR by ROLEX  1960s

In early 1970's, US government developed its own specifications for a high-performance military watch and had it supplied by an American watchmaking company, Benrus. Benrus was relatively well-knwon at that time in the US domestic market for its technology for civilian pilot and diver watches. (Later Benrus brand was sold to Japan, and then recently returned to the US)

The watch I am writing about in this article is officially titled by the US military as 'Watch, Wrist, Submersible and Navigation' with Mil-Spec no. MIL-W-50717. As the name indicates, this watch was designed for underwater operators and pilots. 

This watch was categorized into Type I and II by function, and each type again into Class A and B. However Type I was not categorized further into sub-classes, so there were three variations manufactured between 1971 and 1980. Diver's watch Type I, issued to Navy SEALs and UDT personnel during the height of Vietnam War, took the face right off the Rolex Submariner. Type IIs, with 24-hour index added on the dial, were issued to fighter jet pilots of the Marine Corps and Navy. Interestingly, Class B of Type II was issued to the nuclear-powered submarine crews, and for that reason tritium luminescence was removed.  

A true 'military' watch in every aspect, the Benrus Type series carried 'GS1D2' movement which basically was Swiss-made ETA 2620 automatic caliber modified to the Mil-Spec standards - a safe call. With strong luminance under water and certified water-proofness upto 300m, it was as good as any high-end diver's watch of the time could get.

When you find out that the Benrus diver was the first and the last of America's domestic brand automatic watch ever officially issued to Navy SEALs, I am sure this watch will immediately pop up on your wish list. I am sorry to inform you however that a still functioning Benrus diver watch is extremely rare to come by these days due to its very short production period (less than 10 years). There are many watch companies making copies of this classic Benrus Type series trying to bandwagon 'military fashion' trend, but looking like a Navy SEAL does not make you a real Navy SEAL - none of such imposter's can ever compete with the original piece from the 70's