The company founded in New York City in 1921 by three brothers – Oscar, Benjamin, and. The brothers were Romanian immigrants. The name “BENRUS” was a combination of Benjamin Lazrus first and last names. Hence “BEN”jamin laz”RUS”
The original company headquarters were located in the Hippodrome building on 44th street in Manhattan. While some watch assembly took place there,
the bulk of the manufacture took place in Switzerland.
Benrus also had a factory in Waterbury CT which is where they made the cases for Benrus watches. The company would later own factories in France, St. Thomas, and Virgin Islands in the late 50’s early 60’s.
In 1923, Lazarus acquired the legal protection of the trademark Benrus from the Swiss federal office for intellectual property.
Benrus, like many other watch manufacturers of the time, manufactured watches for WWII servicemen. Most US companies (including watch companies) were brought into the war effort to produce items for military use. Benrus was no different. Indeed, Benrus was manufacturing items toward the War effort.
In 1940’s. Post-War, Benrus designers went to work fashioning beautiful and dazzling watches that expressed post war civilian life. The company produced memorable watches like the “Embraceable” – a one piece watch that was slipped on like a bracelet, and also the “Citation” which was named after a famous racehorse of the time. The “Dial-o-Rama” which is probably the most recognized of all of the jump hour direct read watch which is highly
In 1950s, Benrus’ had overtaken Hamilton and had grown to become the 3rd largest watch company in the United States, behind Bulova and Elgin (who each were larger than Benrus and Hamilton combined). They were a mid-priced watch company and that relied solely on using swiss movements.
In 1952 a proposal by the U S Tarriff Commission had recommended an increase import duties on swiss watch movements. This would prove to be quite damaging to Benrus who relied solely on swiss made movements.
Benrus held patents for an automobile clock that they were eager to market but did not have the manufacturing capabilities in the US to capitalize upon. Benrus, with it’s influential block of Hamilton stock approached Hamilton and suggested a mutually beneficial deal be arranged.
1950’s Ben and Ralph Lazrus were in their 70’s and ready for retirement. Oscar bought out his brothers shares to become the sole owner of the company. Ralph died shortly thereafter in 1960.
In 1967, the company was sold to Victor Kiam, of Remington Razors
In the 1960’s through the late 70’s, Benrus made military issue watches used by the Army and Navy. These were issued to servicemen fighting in the
By late 70’s an attempt to consolidate all the various manufacturing enterprises under one roof Benrus Incorporated was a diversified manufacturer of a number of consumer products. Companies included: Benrus Watch Co. – Watches, Wells, Inc. – Jewelry, and Destino, Ltd. – Christian Dior Products which proved to be a much more expensive move than anyone calculated, and a final blow to the company which subsequently filed bankrupt in 1977.
The company was then sold, and after passing through several more hands, came under the ownership of the Hampden Company, which also owned “Fantasy Diamonds”, with factories in both the Virgin Islands and Chicago. An attempt was made to bring back the Benrus brand under Hampden/Fantasy, which was somewhat successful but short lived.
Oscar Lazrus died in the early 1990’s (he was in his 90’s). His son Julian Lazrus died Aug. 14, 2004 at the age of 85.