Benrus, a brand that can trace its history back to a New York watch repair shop that opened in 1921, is back in business with the opening of a showroom in the heart of Manhattan’s fashion district.
Benrus has a fascinating history. The watch repair shop was opened by a Romanian immigrant Benjamin Lazrus, who quickly added watchmaking to his business.
While other watchmakers were forced into switching their entire production from timepieces to military equipment for the war effort in the 1940s, Benrus continued with its core business and its watches were popular with service personnel during World War II.
The company emerged from the war years ahead of its competitors in scale and sophistication, and was producing calendar watches and chronographs by the end of the 1940s.
Its best years were the 1950s and 60s when the heritage of the American maker and lively advertising campaigns made it popular with celebrities and politicians.
A series of business missteps in the 1970s and the quartz crisis that damaged so many mechanical watchmakers, drove Benrus into bankruptcy in 1977 and again 1981.
Since then the Benrus name and intellectual property has passed through the hands of several owners, most recently Giovanni Feroce, the man behind jeweler Alex and Ani, although he is no longer thought to be linked to the Benrus business.
Benrus Holdings, LLC an affiliate of New England Partners Opportunities Fund, acquired the brand in November last year, and announced a plan to restructure Benrus to the US and global markets by offering signature pieces and an updated look to the historic brand. It now sits within the portfolio of Lyft Brands Group.
Lyft Brands Group chief executive, Sara Fernstrom, says she wants to develop a direct to consumer business for Benrus via its New York showroom and e-commerce. “Benrus has a real story that speaks to the American dream. The customers connect with it and this will play a valuable part in how we position the brand going forward. We will stay true to the heritage though our high-quality military inspired detail. Benrus certainly has strong customer awareness, but our marketing strategy provides room for growth, which will be a key focus in growing the brand,” Ms Fernstrom said at the time of the acquisition.