visionary, innovator, legend
Chris Benz, how did you actually come to design watches?
I grew up in Fuerteventura and South Africa and ever since my childhood I spent all my free time in the sea and on the water. I got my diver‘s certification at 15, and at 19, I was the youngest competitor when I took part in my first high-speed windsurfing world championship, where I established a new worldrecord in serial boards. I‘m an active big wave surfer, and I have also done apnoea diving for many years. At the beginning I formed the CHRIS BENZ Ocean Team with other world-class athletes-divers, surfers and windsurfers, sailors, etc. Initially, we were sourcing suitable watches for our own needs and later on, through selling diving watches, we were able to pass on our collective experience to like-minded individuals and other enthusiasts. We soon realized that a watch like the one we and other professionals wanted wasn‘t available on the market.
So eventually we decided to design our own watch based on our own requirements and ideas. Obviously it‘s also quite exciting to wear an exclusive brand which not everyone else has.
What exactly was wrong with the models offered by other competitors?
In practice, many so-called diving watches work as if they had been designed by non-swimmers, or at least non-sportsmen. They try to be fashionable, but have no clear, functional design. Many watches that look really impressive in the shop are virtually useless underwater. Others, which might be suitable otherwise, aren‘t rugged enough for professional diving use.
And so you decided to design a diving watch yourself?
We have sold tens of thousands of diving watches as a dealer before. This meant that we were able to analyze all the weak points of the other brands and exchange constant feedback with other users. We finally came to the conclusion that with a better, super-robust watch we would be able to create a real chance in the market. To meet market requirements, we had to develop a top quality watch that would be able to meet the most stringent demands - both in terms of technology and design.
What precisely is the difference between a real diving watch and a normal waterproof watch?
Accuracy is crucial and we prefer high-precision quartz mechanisms. We add practical and important extra functions, such as a depthmeter or an ascent alarm, which reacts when a diver surfaces too quickly without pressure compensation. To guarantee water-tightness, our minimum specification is 20 bar compression resistance. This pressure equates to a water depth of 200 meters, but can also occur simply when you jump into the water.
To gurantee a water-tightness of 20 bar, a watch needs a screw-down crown, which along with O rings seals the watch at the level of the adjustment mechanism. Watches that are waterproof to less than 200 meters are not real diving watches. However, our portfolio also includes models that are specified for water depths up to 500, 1000 or even 2000 meters.
A genuine diving watch has a single-sided turnable bezel (the upper casing ring), which is used to set the planned dive time. It can only be rotated in one direction, which means it cannot be turned the wrong way and thereby accidentally display a longer dive time, which would be dangerous when calculating decompression time and air supplies (e.g. in the case of cave divers). As watches are often subject to severe mechanical stress when diving, we use ultra scratch-proof sapphire crystal and marine stainless steel for the casing, otherwise collisions with rocks or wreckage, for example, might damage the watches. The luminous hands on the classic black face show up very clearly, which makes them easier to read even during night dives. Our analog and digital models also display dive depth and time.
A watch without a depthmeter function may be suitable as an entry level model or an add-on to a dive computer, but state of the art expectations of modern divers obviously requires the inclusion of the full range of electronic functions, such as water temperature display or maximum depth display, which is what our top models offer.
Are you personally involved in the design of each of your watches?
Obviously not on my own, but as a diver and water sportsman I know what is important and I set the parameters for a new model accordingly. We work with experienced international designers and manufacturers, who assist me as a team with the technical and optical implementation of the specifications. Lastly, I inspect and approve each model myself, after thorough personal tests. The members of the Ocean Team are also involved in development and testing, each contributing their own experience with potential new models. We work on the models together with the aim of continuously optimizing the watches.
What makes CHRIS BENZ diving watches different from the other ones?
The models of the CHRIS BENZ Collection ONE, DEEP, DEPTHMETER and SURF&SAIL represent the top tier in diving watches. Especially with regard to the ladies´ models, we rank as the international leaders, offering by far the largest selection worldwide, with over 48 versions. I must give a special mention to our fashionable watch face colours sea anemone pink and Caribbean blue with mother-of-pearls effect.
Classic, clear design, marine stainless steel, sapphire crystal, depthmeter, water temperature measurement, helium valve technology, ascent alarm, and up to 200 bar pressure resistance can hardly be found anywhere else in similar combinations. And the endurance test performed on CHRIS BENZ watches by real sharks is definitely unique!
Is that why you use your claim – CHRIS BENZ “SHARK PROOF”?
Exactly! Our watches are able to withstand the bite of the Great White Shark. We developed this SHARK PROOF test as an absolutely extreme criterion, not just to ensure a durable memento for someone who inherits a CHRIS BENZ watch.
We did carry out the bite tests under real conditions; they were not just an advertising gimmick, but actual proof of the quality and ruggedness of our watches. That’s genuine!
You place special emphasis on the ladies models - Does that mean that women need different diving watches?
Of course women can wear a men‘s watch - and we have noticed more and more women doing just that. We have observed this growing trend at fashion shows, with celebrities and at parties. But a lot of them want more petite or delicate models, which should also be available with diverse colour combinations. We just want to make sure that we can offer such time pieces for the women that prefer a smaller sized watch but would not want to forgo the quality of a CHRIS BENZ product. Furthermore, it is naturally to be expected that men have different requirements when it comes to design, especially since diving watches are being used more and more for everyday wear, we feel however that these requirements do not always coincide with the women that want to wear a CHRIS BENZ watch.
How long has the CHRIS BENZ watch brand been in existence?
CHRIS BENZ has been an internationally registered trademark since 1996. We specialize in “pure-bred“ diving watches. My great-great-grandfather, Johannes Bürk from Schwenningen, founded the Württemberg Watch Factory back in 1833.
OK, thank you very much for the interview.. All the best. - Thank you very much.