By Sara Wailgum
While some companies have strayed from the values they were founded on, BENRUS, a military-inspired lifestyle brand located in Providence, Rhode Island, has remained true to its classic American heritage. Established by the Lazrus brothers, Oscar, Benjamin, and Ralph, BENRUS originated as a wristwatch company in 1921. In honor of their Romanian descent and strong sense of family, the brothers came up with the name BENRUS by combining Benjamin’s first and last name.
Since its establishment, the company has been committed to producing unique, quality wristwatches at accessible prices. Today, BENRUS offers both men’s and women’s apparel, eyewear, bags, backpacks, and accessories, in addition to their iconic watches.
“We honor our history and that of our founders by remaining true to their mission of creating quality timepieces at accessible prices, with unique value,” said BENRUS Chairman and CEO, Giovanni Feroce.
During World War II, the company became one of the leading manufacturers of watches for the United States Military and eventually became the third largest watch company in the country. The company’s reputation won it numerous government contracts to manufacture timing devices for use in bombs and other sophisticated weaponry. BENRUS’s battle-proven watches were issued to airmen, soldiers, and sailors. The company also helped pioneer the waterproof watch that became standard issue for World War II-era frogmen, which later evolved into the high-performance Navy SEAL watch issued during covert operations in the Vietnam War. Air Force pilots were given BENRUS watches during the Korean War, as they were recognized for their reliable precision during formation flying.
Following a change in ownership in the early 1970s, the company ceased production. After BENRUS remained dormant for around 40 years, Feroce, a former combat veteran and entrepreneur, purchased the rights to the brand in the spring of 2014. After acquiring BENRUS, Feroce assembled a team to completely relaunch the brand and reclaim its presence in the marketplace.
“The BENRUS brand has a long history of quality and collectability from its original roots as a watchmaker. Watch collectors and military personnel alike know and respect the brand,” said Feroce. “The BENRUS brand is synonymous with ‘military’…respected, stable, high quality, durable, contemporary, and reliable.”
In order to market their company, the Lazrus brothers hired popular brand ambassadors, including Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and Walter Johnson, to appear in advertising campaigns and attend events for BENRUS. Today, Feroce is creating similar unique partnerships with sports teams such as the Boston Celtics and the Buffalo Bills, as well as other regional franchises.
With a vintage aesthetic, apparel and accessory products are offered in neutral colors of olive green, navy blue, black, and brown. BENRUS now offers a premium denim line, as well as two different bag collections. Both the Elite Bag Collection and the Originals Bag Collection offer backpacks, duffel bags, and messenger bags in stylish, yet functional, designs. From classic T-shirts to aviator sunglasses, all BENRUS products honor its history with the military.
“BENRUS is a military-inspired brand because of our heritage of being one of the leading suppliers of watches to our military. Thus, our designs reflect what was created by BENRUS during World War II up through the Vietnam War,” said Feroce. “We have enhanced some classic BENRUS military styles which were staples throughout the war years.”
The best-known BENRUS watch model is the Sky Chief. Originally engineered in 1940, the watch is still admired, collected, and sold to BENRUS customers today. In honor of its history, BENRUS took inspiration from its classic and simple design, as well as its highly regarded precision, when designing the watch for today’s consumer.
As for the next ten years, the company aims to become a multi-billion-dollar lifestyle brand. “Our plan is to become a disruptor in the backpack industry,” said Feroce. “We expect to achieve that status through our innovative designs, improved functionality, partnerships, and marketing of our backpacks.”
While the company is currently focused on its two core products, watches and backpacks, BENRUS has plans to expand its offerings to include other accessories as the company grows. This fall, the brand will be introducing a new line of watches that will be sold at select Nordstrom stores across the country. The new collection will feature a unique engraving component that pays tribute to the history of the innovative brand.
BENRUS products are available for purchase online, at the brand’s retail partners, or at the company’s Providence showroom. Customers can also check out @BENRUSusa on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.