Glamor and practicality used to be on closer terms than they are today, and nowhere is that more apparent than in watch design. If you’re like me in preferring a feminine style that’s properly scaled for a lady’s more delicate wrist, this antique timepiece may be just what you’re looking for.
Its shape, as you see, is very Art Deco, featuring fancy geometric lugs on which four small diamonds twinkle amid black enamelwork, plus gracefully stepped sides and even a domed crystal that arches like a moon bridge. Also indicating a Deco dating, the surface is white gold, rather than yellow. The numerals are of icy white metal, too, applied on an ivory-colored dial. Because they’re on the large side and alternate with slender teardrop, the time is easy to read without strong color contrast. Even the hands, also of white metal, have a jazzy streamlined form.
The case was crafted circa 1925-1935, at a time when the Benrus Company took the lead in style, edging out competitors whose watch designs were less fashion-forward. The mechanisms were also of excellent quality, all imported from Switzerland, and this one uses 21 jewels, well above the norm of 17. The face is marked Benrus 21 Jewels and the case back reads 10 K.R.G.P. Bezel and St. Steel Back 594197, telling us the front is of rolled gold, which is far more durable than ordinary plating, joined to a sturdy backing of stainless steel. The number must have meant something within the company; it can’t be a patent registration or would mean 1897, when the founder was only three years old. Benrus is a contraction of the name Benjamin Lazrus, who was an early 20th century immigrant from Romania, working in New York City. His firm later became notable for a host of technological innovations, such as date indicators, waterproofing and eventually electronic components. By the mid-20th century, Benrus dominated the market, but this beauty comes from the time when it employed just a few skilled artisans dedicated to producing chic designs for the first generation of liberated American women.
The watch reached us in entirely original condition from a New Mexico estate, where the dry air preserves historic jewelry well, and there’s been no restoration. We added only a fresh black cord band right for the period, easily replaced by your jeweler in the size and color you prefer. It takes high magnification to notice any wear, mainly fine scratches to the crystal. We'll pack with great care, of course, but antique watches can be temperamental about transport. Although it’s running fine now, it could need minor adjustment after shipping.
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