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Iconic Vietnam-Era Field Watch Reissue: Benrus DTU-2A/P Review

Benrus dug into its archives to release a near exact military spec of the original 1964 field watch. With just a little extra oomph in size, the DTU-2A/P is an approachable reissue for the mil-spec curious. But is the backstory enough to trigger a purchase?

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How does an aging brand stay relevant? It releases the classics and goes on tour. I once caught a flight with the members of the band Kansas. No, it wasn’t on a private jet, and we weren’t flying high on booze and lines. It was a commuter flight. Seated in coach, the band was shuttling between business as usual.

The greatest hits strategy works. Last year, Kansas went on tour to celebrate 50 years of making music. Heart attacks, drugs, controversy — the members have swapped in and out, but the band plays on. Wailing guitars, long hair, and all.

Time is a fickle business. To avoid becoming, um, dust in the wind, watch brands follow the same beat and reach into their archives to play their greatest hits. Many of these watches are mid-century classics that our grandparents wore as daily beaters.

Benrus DTU-2A/P Watch Review

Don’t believe me? IWC rereleased the Ingenieur, Seiko released the Seiko Sport 5, and Timex hit the market again with its quartz Q Timex Reissue.

A few years back, Benrus brought back its own hit, the DTU-2A/P ($495-595). We gave it a spin on the wrist this spring to see if it’s a one-hit wonder or a classic worth buying tickets for.

In short: The reissue of the DTU-2A/P is an affordable way to dip a toe into a vintage mil-spec field watch category. For just under $600, you get nostalgic horological vibes with a solid Swiss caliber movement.

For a look at our favorite field watches of the year, check out our Field Watch buyers guide.

Benrus DTU-2A/P


  • Reference number DTU-2A/P
  • Case size  39.5mm
  • Lug size  20 mm
  • Movement  Sellita SW200 Automatic [+/- 12 seconds a day]
  • Case material  Bead-blasted stainless steel
  • Strap color  Olive drab single-pass nylon strap
  • Case water resistance  5 atm (169')


  • Near-exact replica of the original
  • Mid-century military pedigree
  • Assembled in USA
  • Comes with a strap compass


  • 38-hour power reserve
  • Lume loses glow rapidly after light exposure
  • Acrylic crystal

Benrus DTU-2A/P Review

Design. Build. Story. When talking about watches, the decision to purchase almost always comes down to one of these three. When talking military watches, the design sheet and build specs are set in government ink. The decision to buy often comes down to just the story.

Take the Dirty Dozen watches. The 12 brands were commissioned because they could manufacture identical watches to meet the military need. With nearly indistinguishable designs, the individual brand story carries a little extra horological weight. For Benrus, its story is its most compelling asset.

As the U.S. was ramping up for the inevitable entry into Southeast Asia, the D.O.D. drafted plans for a new, standard 17-jewel field watch. The requirements were simple and specific: a case milled from non-ferrous metal with a 36-hour power reserve, a matte black dial with high-contrasting white luminescent triangular indices, and a 2-year lifespan. Just long enough for a tour or two on the peninsula. And because it was a military contract, the watch needed to be made from mostly U.S. components and manufactured in the USA.

In 1963, Benrus was awarded the sole contract for the MIL-W-3818B spec; by 1964, the DTU started arming soldiers’ wrists.

Over the last century, Benrus has had its ups and downs, with the high-water mark being the 1963 military contract (and the low mark perhaps the failed attempt to buy out Hamilton).

While Benrus no longer supplies the military with timepieces, enthusiasts primarily recognize the brand for its military watch pedigree. The Type I and Type II divers are reissues of underwater demolitions team watches, and the DTU is the definitive Vietnam-era field watch. And at $595, the DTU is the more price-friendly piece in its lineup.

Changes and Updates

What to keep, and what to cut is always a reissue quagmire. Benrus clearly had to tread lightly to call it the DTU. In my opinion, designers made a few smart changes.

Most notably, the dial is upscaled from 34 mm to a more modern 39.5 mm. I have no machismo beef with smaller watches, and I generally prefer reissues that follow the original size specifications. But I also genuinely appreciate the upscale on the DTU.

With a 24-hour military time running under the shark-toothed 12-hour markers, the face can feel cluttered. The extra mils give the tactical design room to breathe, and in my opinion, works better at 39+ mm. No doubt many modern buyers will agree.

While the original watch was powered by an ETA 2372, the refresh cases a new Sellita SW200. The SW200 is an automatic Swiss workhorse, with ±12-second deviation a day (the original ETA had a slush fund of ±30 seconds). Many top watch houses drop the SW200 under the crystal, including Oris, Christopher Ward, and the cult classic Sinn 556.

Oddly, the caliber has a date function, which Benrus doesn’t utilize (nor should they). But, you can feel the ghost day position when you pull the crown out. There are two stops on the pull. You set the time at the second click. You need to push the crown all the way in to guarantee the 50 m of water resistance.

Benrus DTU-2A/P field watch on wrist
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

The downside of the SW200 is the 38-hour power reserve. The original DTU had a 36-hour reserve, so we can give Benrus a pass. Maybe a pass with an asterisk. I found myself having to reset and wind up the watch after the weekend. Sure, I’d like more reserve, but I frequently rotate through watches and have gotten used to resetting the time every few days.

So, there are a few changes, but it’s good to know that the retained design elements are gold. The DTU secures around the wrist with a supple pass-through seatbelt nylon NATO that ducks under/over the gently angled lugs.

The turn of the lugs initiates the curve of the strap around the wrist, which gives you a secure feeling of wearing over strapping the watch to the wrist. It buckles down snugly and the extended strap cleanly tucks under the bead-blasted keepers and out of the way.

Benrus DTU-2A/P field watch
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

While some don’t like the slippery Nylon, I think it’s perfect for active users. I was suiting up for a run with the DTU still on my wrist, shrugged my shoulders, and stepped out the door to catch my 8-mile loop. Stride for stride, the combination of strap and lugs is sublime and wears better than many sports watches. The watch is so light, that it virtually disappears.

Following the original design, the white on black gives the DTU a stoic contrast. The hour and minute hands are close in length. With the busy dial, catching the accurate time at a glance on the go can be harder. When charged, the painted indices, hour, minute, and seconds hands illuminate a turquoise blue with Super-LumiNova lume.

The watch comes with a removable strap compass, which has some historical relevance, but I opted to leave it off while testing.

In the Hand 

When I first picked up the DTU, it reminded me of my Moonswatch. I’ll chalk that up to the acrylic crystal. It feels, well, a little plasticky. But this also follows the Benrus playbook and is absolutely the right choice. Benrus released the original DTU in steel (and later plastic) with an acrylic dome. Now, if Benrus opted to reissue the DTU with a plastic case, that would be a hard sell at this price point and an even harder lean into Swatch.

The double-domed 5mm acrylic crystal cuts some of the glare and contributes to the nearly 13mm thickness. While a little fat, the taper easily slides under a shirt cuff. But the acrylic raises concerns about scratches. If you play hard enough, you will eventually find a surface that meets its match. Light scuffs can be buffed out. Deeper gouges will require a replacement crystal, or, as the Army probably intended, simply replacing the watch with a new watch.

These were built for hard use, with a short, 2-year intended lifespan. Since the watch is now retailing at $600, I would be cautious around rocks and rough objects around the shop. That said, the DTU is still priced within the general range of many entry field watches.

Benrus DTU-2A/P Watch review
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

Benrus DTU-2A/P Watch Review: Value

Of course, this inevitably brings us to value. The Benrus DTU-2A/P watch reviewed here has the provenance. The fit is wonderful. Benrus hand-assembles the foreign components in the U.S. with a Swiss-caliber motor. But is it worth the $595? Well, let’s talk about the Hamilton in the room.

To quote another Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda said, “History is entirely created by the person who tells the story.” And Hamilton gives us a real story. It supplied watches for the U.S. military in WWI, and during the 1940s, it entirely paused consumer watch production to focus solely on supplying soldiers with timepieces for the second war.

A few years after the original 1963 MIL-W-3818B contract, Hamilton signed with the government to release one of the most recognizable modern field watches ever made, the Khaki Field Mechanical.

Benrus is clearly aware of the H-effect and leans on its first-to-market laurels, pricing the DTU at $595 (with a currently priced reduction marked down to $495). By no coincidence, this is the same price you pay today to pick up a new Khaki Field Mechanical.

Both watches were developed to meet the stringent military specifications of the day, so in many ways, they are fraternal twins. But with the Khaki Field, you not only get a good story, but you also get a new sapphire crystal and a modern Swiss movement with an 80-hour power reserve. That’s a significant boost both over and under the hood.

If you like a good story and are looking for something a little different, strapping the DTU gives you that. You’ll just have to bone up on the story to tell. It’s there, it’s unique, and it’s perhaps even more relevant. But it’s looking for people to tell it.

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Steve Graepel

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