This unsuspecting yet charming diver holds a wealth of intrigue. This is partly due to its monoblock frontloading single-crown compressor case, immense legibility, and bakelite bezel. Perhaps even moreso, however, for its mysterious and shrouded military history embroiled in the Vietnam War. Scholarship is very much currently developing. The 6088 is not a common Ultra-Deep by comparison to its siblings the Type 1 or 2 and made all the more special here for its exceptionally well-preserved state.
Collectors have, for some time, speculated that the 6088 saw some capacity of service if not official issuance. There are many tales of SEALs and CIA in the 1960s and 70s using variations of the ‘devil diver’ format (a loose category of vintage diver so named for the 666ft depth rating) whether Benrus or otherwise. This was all heresy until Phillips 2019 auctions, in which a Benrus 6088 was consigned by the daughter of United States Air Force Senior Master Sergeant James J. Stanford, with confirmation of the watch being originally issued to him by the CIA. The 6088 was said to be ‘very special’ to him, and used during paramilitary operations in the Kingdom of Laos in the 1960s and 70s. Stanford flew 218 combat missions with this and one other watch, often using them to time bombing runs. The time of speculation had ended, and this quite rare reference is now highly collected for its rather covert military ties.
Aside from the fascinating history, the watch is a tank. First, it’s a compressor. But then, it’s built with a one-piece case design that front loads its calibre and then uses a locking crystal design to eliminate points of failure. But the FE 2D1 (ETA 2452) movement it uses measure only 10mm in height, allowing this technical diver to not be bulky to the point of annoyance. Final proportions are just 36mm across (46mm lug to lug) and 12mm rise. The diver has charm, rarity, fascinating history, and (perhaps most of all) extreme value.
This example is in a staggering state. The case is sharp and only displays minimal wear. Back engravings are deep and clear. The dial and handset are unrestored, matching, and preserved in full. Tritium tones have stopped at a deep cream. The unsigned crown is correct based on other examples. The bakelite bezel is not cracked anywhere. It comes on a NATO from a well-regarded New York retailer.
Find this 6088 Ultra-Deep here from Collectors Corner NY for 6500 USD.