Benrus – Iconic Watchmaker of Midcentury America

Benrus pic

Benrus
Image: benrus.com

The owner of MZ Berger & Co., Bernie Mermelstein guides a respected timepiece and accessory manufacturer headquartered in New York, with 700 employees worldwide. A former U.S. Watch Council member, Bernie Mermelstein maintains an extensive collection of American-made watches, from Gruen to Benrus.

Established as a watch-repair business in the 1920s by three brothers who emigrated to New York from Romania, the Benrus Watch Company quickly established a reputation for top-tier timepieces. The company set up an assembly space on 44th Street in the Hippodrome building and coordinated manufacture of most moving parts in Switzerland.

Benrus experienced major growth during World War II, when it began producing watches for servicemen. Following the war, the company moved into designing unique pieces with exaggerated lugs and bezels, including the iconic Dial-o-Rama and the one-piece Embraceable, which slipped on like a bracelet. These highly collectible watches came to define what is now known as the Retro-Modern period of timepiece design.

Elgin’s Classic American Timepiece Designs

MZ Berger Co pic

MZ Berger Co
Image: mzb.com

As CEO and owner of MZ Berger & Co., Bernie Mermelstein guides a Queens, New York, producer of quality timepieces and accessories. His firm is positioned as a “first-responder to trends” that leverages 60 years of industry experience and maintains offices in locales from Toronto to Hong Kong. Bernie Mermelstein is active with the U.S. Watch Council and collects domestically made watches such as Gruen, Waltham, and Elgin.

Incorporated in Chicago as the National Watch Company in the 1860s, Elgin drew on the talents of veteran watchmakers with the Waltham Watch Co. The founding “Seven Stars” were all veteran machinists and delivered their first $117 retail timepiece in 1867. Over the decades, Elgin gained an international reputation for mid-price quality and pioneered an innovative “convertible” stem-wind watch design in the 1870s.

By the early 20th century, the Elgin Watch Company was the largest in the United States and produced 60 million watches over its first century of operation. Its first wristwatch came in 1910, and in 1958, it introduced the “DuraBalance” horological innovation, which provided free-sprung balance without regulator pins. Today, many classic Elgin watch models are sought by collectors from around the world.