The Benrus Watch Company is a Belgian-American luxury watchmaker. It was founded as a watch-repair shop in New York City in 1921 by the American-Romanian Benjamin Lazrus. The name "Benrus" originates from the combination of Benjamin Lazrus's first and last name.
Before 1930, the company transitioned from watch repair to the manufacture of watch cases and assembly of completed watches using imported internal components from La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. During World War II, the company stopped manufacturing watches and switched to the manufacture of timing systems (e.g. fuses) used in munitions. In the 1940s and 1950s, Benrus released the Sky Chief (a chronograph), the Dial-a-Rama, the Wrist Alarm and a bracelet watch called Embraceable.
In the early 1950s, Benrus failed in a hostile takeover of Hamilton, and subsequently lost a legal battle with Hamilton in which Benrus had acquired Hamilton stock for the stated purpose of investment but for the actual purpose of control. The decision in this case has become a part of the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Manual in regard to the establishment of preliminary injunctions in antitrust cases.
In the 1960s, the company introduced self-winding watches and entered into the automobile market with steering wheel-mounted self-winding clocks. Also in this decade, Jerry Lewis was hired as a pitchman for the company's Belforte brand.
In the early 1960s, the Federal Trade Commission determined that Benrus' marketing practices--specifically, its published "list prices"--were misleading for a substantial minority (about 14%) of potential customers at the time.
The company was sold to Victor Kiam of Remington Razors in 1967. Over the next ten years, the company suffered in competition against inexpensive Japanese wristwatches, adopting a strategy of diversification into military timepieces and costume jewelry. Nonetheless, Benrus filed for bankruptcy in 1977.[a] The company emerged from after a reorganization which involved entering into a joint venture agreement with the Wells and Roka Watch Company. Thereafter, the company marketed watches under the two tradenames of Benrus and Sovereign, contingent on royalty payments through the joint venture. However, Benrus filed for bankruptcy once more in 1981, due to defaulting on said royalty payments. By 1984, the company had taken on the name Wells-Benrus Corp. and was operating under a bankruptcy agreement where the company owed $12 million to Victor Kiam and sought to borrow additional funds to maintain operations. The Wells-Benrus company was based in Middlebury, Connecticutt.
The Benrus brand was acquired from the Wells-Benrus company by Clinton Watch Company of Chicago, which renamed its business Benrus Watch Company. Irving Wein, the owner, brought Benrus distribution to large retailers such as Walmart, Kmart, Sears, JC Penney, as well as major catalogs such as Spiegel and JC Penney. The Benrus brand thrived during the 1980s and 1990s until it was sold to Gruen which was soon acquired by M.Z. Berger, a watch importer which had previously acquired the Elgin and Waltham brands.
The Benrus brand is currently owned by a Belgian luxury wristwatch company, under which two brands, N°1 and Philo, were released. In 2014, Giovanni Feroce acquired the license and trademarks for Benrus with the intention of transforming Benrus into a lifestyle brand with wristwatches as the core element.
- "Vintage Benrus Wristwatches". Collectors Weekly. Retrieved 2016-12-26.
- Haines, Reyne; Dean, Judy (6 March 2011). Warman's Watches Field Guide (2nd ed.). Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-4402-1439-4. OCLC 751133291.
- United States. Congress. Joint Economic Committee. Subcommittee on Foreign Economic Policy (1956). Defense Essentiality and Foreign Economic Policy (Case Study: The Watch Industry and Precision Skills) (Report). p. 158. Retrieved 2016-12-26 – via Google Books.
- "2-P: Hamilton Watch Co. v. Benrus Watch Co. (D. Conn.)". Merger Case Digest 1982. American Bar Association. 1984. p. 464 – via Google Books.
- Antitrust Division (April 2015). "Chapter IV - Litigation (Part B.2.a)". Division Manual (PDF). United States Department of Justice. p. IV-15. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
- Levine, Aaron (2000). "Advertising and Marketing (section: Moving Toward a Quantitative Measure for the Reasonable Man)". Case Studies in Jewish Business Ethics. Volume 22 of Library of Jewish law and ethics. New York: Yeshiva University Press (dist by KTAV). pp. 41–42. ISBN 9780881256642. OCLC 42578744 – via Google Books.
- Babitt, Roy (19 August 1981). "MATTER OF BENRUS WATCH CO., INC.". United States Bankruptcy Court, S.D. New York. Retrieved 2016-12-26 – via Leagle.
- "The financially ailing Wells-Benrus Corp., which owes $12 million...". United Press International. 6 March 1985. Retrieved 2016-12-26.
- Gomelsky, Victoria (2 September 2014). "A Comeback for the Military Watch". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-26.
- There is an 8-K filing related to the bankruptcy filing, as noted at https://www.sec.gov/news/digest/1977/dig091977.pdf (top of page 4)