Benarus Vintage Moray
Vintage is a term that has come to embody very different meanings worldwide. Correctly used, vintage refers to the year or place wine was produced, especially when addressing wine of higher quality. While it does appear to be a word sensationalized by businesses to help sell anything with an old or dated look, that’s not the case with BENARUS, a company that has proven to under market and over deliver.
Benarus Vintage Moray Specs:
Case Diameter: 44mm
Case Height: 17mm (including crystal)
Lug Width: 24mm
Lug to Lug: 53mm
Straps: Leather strap
Movement: Miyota 9015
Water Resistance: 300m
Retail Price: $420 USD
As an avid “flipper” early on, I have come across several BENARUS watches, but I had yet to receive one directly from the company itself. While we all try to preserve packaging as best we can when buying a watch second-hand, it seldom duplicates the manner in which the company would have sent the watch when new. As a writer and administrator of the largest Dive Watch themed group on Facebook, it was important for me to review this watch from the beginning, and it all starts with the unboxing.
Travel cases have become an obvious choice for many micro-brands as they serve a dual-purpose. BENARUS isn’t known for doing things half-ass, so they went with a well-constructed, fold-over styled black box with white contrast stitching. The latching mechanism is unique, simple and elegant. Inside, you’ll find space capable of holding one tall watch and two straps at a minimum, depending on thickness. An extra set of lug bars is included (applause), along with an orange BENARUS sticker that would look killer on your 72’ AMC Gremlin.
As I’ve previously done when reviewing a brand that uses obvious design cues from an iconic brand, I like to call it out early on. The one time I don’t state the obvious, somebody will do it for me. To me, homage isn’t a four-letter word or a sub-group that should be shunned from our hobby. In the case (pun intended) of the BENARUS Vintage Moray 44, its Luminor 1950 inspired design is just enough to mention, but not enough to dwell on.
While some rave about sunburst dials, I’m not a fan of them. That’s not saying that I don’t find them beautiful to look at in moderation. For that reason, I requested the VM02, which is their only flat-black dial found within the entire BENARUS Vintage Moray line.
Like sunburst dials? You’re in luck, as you still have your choice of either a rust or gray colored dial. Thinking of getting that bad-ass sunburst blue dialed version you’ve seen floating around the forums? That one is sold-out, along with five other dial choices initially offered.
If this dial was to be personified, it would be played by Dragnet Detective and Sergeant Joe Friday, a man whose famous phrase, “Just the facts, ma’am,” has been forever ingrained into our brains. That’s exactly what you get with this dial, “Just the facts!” Brand name: check! Movement type: check! Water resistance: check! Date window? Forget about it!
The brushing on the handset matches the case and supplied buckle nicely. C3 super luminous material is heavily applied to the markers and handset, giving the watch an over-the-top, long-lasting glow day or night. I’m glad that BENARUS chose to break up the marker continuity with the 12 and 6 markers. Personally, I think it works well with the overall design, but I wish they would have gone with a sandwich dial instead. The sloped unidirectional coin-edge bezel is tough to inadvertently turn, and that’s exactly what you want to hear when referring to a watch designed with dive specs. When turned purposely, you’ll hear and feel a series of micro-clicks giving you the ability to center the pip nicely. I found no bezel slop when tested.
A gut-loaded lumed pip is found at the 12, followed by a series of recessed black dots of equal size. Numerical bezel markers separate the dots in 15 minute increments, which gives the bezel a low-profile, classic-inspired look. A domed acrylic crystal sits high above the watch, causing certain aspects of the dial to dance beneath it. I feel the acrylic distortion arguably embodies the vintage feel of the BENARUS Vintage Moray 44 most.
An over sized 8.5mm crown, placed at the 3 o’clock position, is easy to operate and looks right at home sitting against the brushed 44mm stainless steel case. While a 44mm case may be at the top end of what many watch enthusiast like to wear, size wise, it sits on your wrist more like a 42mm watch, which seems to be a happy place for most. The down-turned lugs add to the Vintage Moray’s overall comfort, making it fit better on smaller wrists than its imposing 53mm lug-to-lug length would suggest.
The case back, which is exhibition-styled, gives you a behind-the-scenes look into the heart that makes this Moray tick. A high-beat (28,800 bph) Miyota 9015, which has proven itself to be extremely reliable, powers the watch. While not directly related to this review, I suspect we’ll see less of this movement going forward due to its 40% price increase. The decorated bidirectional BENARUS rotor compliments the watch well, and it’s certainly an unexpected surprise for a watch that hovers near such a wallet-friendly price point. At times, the rotor was a bit noisy and wobbled like a Valjoux 7750 would.
The supplied 24mm brown calf leather strap is among the best I’ve owned, and strap changes were a breeze. While I’m no strap sommelier , I found the Vintage Moray to be an absolute delight to pair straps with. There’s nothing I put on it that didn’t look great. A 24mm ISOFRANE lookalike strap is also included, but it’s light years behind the genuine article.
7 1/2 inch wrist for reference
While I understand the Vintage Moray 44 has been out for some time and reviewed by others, I find it commendable that BENARUS, now STEVRAL Watches, was confident enough in their product that they allowed for it to be scrutinized again. I’m excited for whatever comes next, and I know that no matter what name is printed on the dial, BENARUS’ commitment to quality, value and customer service will remain the same! While reviewing this piece, it was easy to see the similarities between a vintage wine and the Moray 44, a high-quality watch that dates a period in time. It has become the cornerstone of this now iconic name: BENARUS.