Growing up watches were not really something I thought about. As a kid and all the way through college, some outside reference of time like a clock had always felt accessible. And if it wasn’t, I probably didn’t need to know or care to know the time. (In retrospect, many of my friends, family, and college teammates might have appreciated me finding my watch interests at a younger age as I was almost always late, but I digress.)
My mid-20s found me in a few placeholder jobs with quite a bit of downtime, and that time was quickly filled perusing gear and watch sites, among them Uncrate, A Continuous Lean, and Watchuseek. Curiosity quickly bloomed into fascination, which developed into obsession—a trajectory I’m sure many a watch lover can relate to. I’ve always been predisposed to hobbies and interests with a mechanical bent—from taking apart broken appliances to working on boats and Go-Karts—so naturally watches quickly became a fixation. That coupled with a lifelong interest in military history (for a time I majored in Civil War history), I gravitated toward military watches from the likes of Waltham, Hamilton, Smiths, Rolex, IWC, Omega, and so on.
But of all the available options that fall under the umbrella of military timepieces, the one that called out to me most was undoubtedly the Benrus Type 1. The Type 1 is a bluntly simple tool watch that was once manufactured for US military special operations forces throughout the 70s. Aesthetically it was everything I wanted, but the price point for a good example far exceeded my means. Plus, I led and an active lifestyle that often meant getting wet, and I just did not want to risk submerging a vintage piece. That was when I found a small company out of Pennsylvania called MK II.
(Full disclosure: As of 2016, I am consulting with MK II on marketing and branding. However, my ownership and interest in MK II watches far predates my current professional affiliation.)
MK II, for those unfamiliar, is a contemporary watch brand reinterpreting military watches of the past using the technological know-how of today. When I first discovered the brand, MK II was producing an homage to the Type I called the Blackwater. I was smitten, but it was still more than I could afford at the time, so I filed it away under “someday.”
Eventually I became a gear and watch writer and had the opportunity to test out some truly spectacular watches, but the simple face and bezel of the purposeful MK II Blackwater kept its hold on me. And when MK II replaced the Blackwater with the more robust Paradive, it became the new focus of my obsession.
At the very beginning of the summer of 2014 I received a text from a friend and fellow watch collector who owned a Paradive and who knew how much I wanted one. “I’m going to flip my Paradive. Any interest in a trade?” My eyes lit up. I scrambled to respond as quickly as possible. Some hurriedly exchanged texts led to an agreeable trade, and so I boxed up one of my vintage finds, thoroughly packing and protecting it, and sent it right off. Then I was left to wait, eagerly anticipating the Paradive’s arrival. And then it came. I couldn’t tell you how fast I tore open that box, but I couldn’t wait to get it on my wrist.
Two years on and I’ve both acquired new watches for my small collection and tested quite a number of others. I’ve had to send a few back that I sorely wished I could have kept, but such is the plight of a watch reviewer. But after each digression with something new and shiny, the Paradive has always found its way back to the top of my rotation. This has become my watch.
The case of the Paradive improves on the one found on the historical model, swapping out the monocoque design for a more easily serviceable three piece construction. Its case back reflects the military issue engraving of the original and has a convex shape that’s incredibly comfortable on the wrist. The 316L steel is bead blasted to replicate the finish on the original Benrus, a feature critical for preventing reflection in the field. The one downside to the finish is that it is somewhat prone to scratches and scuffs, but when considered through the lens of its intent as a tool watch the marks are part of its character. My piece has accumulated a fair number of dings over the last two years. I don’t abuse the watch, but I don’t baby it, either. It goes where I go and does what I do. That patina is well-earned.
The Paradive clocks in at 41.25mm in bezel diameter, but with the asymmetrical case it is closer to 43mm. Normally I would find that a little big for comfort, but it’s a deceptive number and the watch wears quite well on the wrist. The 12-hr, 120-click bezel is tightly engineered, and features a sure click as it snaps into each position. The bezel’s numbers are engraved and filled with luminous material (BGW9), and the aluminum insert is hard anodized for superior durability. After two years of heavy use my example still looks pristine.
Inside the Paradive, MK II opted for a decorated ETA 2836-2 with Incabloc shock protection. While I have yet to crack the watch open I can only imagine the same eye for detail that was shown to the exterior was taken with the movement. It has kept incredibly good time throughout my owning it.
The Paradive has passed through a number of proving grounds to earn such admiration on my part. It was with me when I traveled the country and lived out of my camper van. It was strapped to my wrist when I climbed to over 10,000 ft on South Sister in Oregon, hiked throughout Glacier National Park and the White Mountains, and went flying over Mt. Hood. It got wet with me when I went surfing in Marin County and wet and cold when I went body surfing in the thick of February in Maine. I used the 12-hour bezel to track the timezone my family was in so that I felt a little closer to them while so far away. It was a daily companion and a tool watch through-and-through.
Being a watch collector can often be a fleeting experience of new obsessions—the hunt, the buy, and then the cycle repeats. For me, MK II’s Paradive has satisfied a long-lasting itch, and it’s earned a permanent spot in my collection. It’s up for whatever I can throw at it, and you can’t ask much more from such a great watch. My girlfriend doesn’t really understand my watch obsession. If you asked her, she’d say they all look the same. But speaking of the Paradive, she once said, “I like that one. It’s just you, very you.” I couldn’t agree more.