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Brand Spotlight

Leonid Khankin: Ernst Benz’s Creative Dreamer

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“I feel like I am just getting started,” said Ernst Benz President and Creative Director Leonid Khankin to LeCity. “After eight years in the business, it feels like day one.”

This is how Khankin directs Ernst Benz—with a steadfast forward sprint and an unrivaled creative energy. He brings the watchmaking traditions he’s been learning all his life under the tutelage of his father, a highly respected watchmaker, and his passion for the brand together to create a refreshing palette of watch designs and an incredibly strong brand identity.

Leonid Khankin at his watchmakers benchKhankin said that though he is now the leader and face of the company, he hasn’t stopped thinking of himself as a watchmaker. Still deeply entrenched in his humble roots at heart, he calls himself “an artist who wants to leave tomorrow better than it is today.”

Since he inherited the Ernst Benz brand, he has infused that philosophy into every new design and every new partnership that he makes. The result has been a shedding of the old skin for a brand that has been reinventing itself constantly—yet simultaneously staying true to its storied history—since Khankin stepped up to his position in 2005.

Leonid Khankin’s Early Years at Ernst Benz
Before taking the helm at Ernst Benz, Khankin worked as one of the brand’s skilled watchmakers. In the years leading up to his promotion, he developed some of the most iconic Ernst Benz watches, including the ChronoLunar, the first Ernst Benz model with a moon phase complication. This model was representative of Khankin’s revolutionary vision of the company: he wanted to make watches for the high-minded adventurer, one who placed in high regard the tradition of watchmaking as well as the color and vitality of a life well-lived.

Following the ChronoLunar’s success after its debut in 2002, Ernst Benz himself handed the reins over to Khankin and his family. Khankin had proved that he could marry the artisanship he learned from his father with his sophisticated understanding of the Ernst Benz watch wearer to create a better, brighter future for the brand.

Ernst Benz Under Leonid Khankin’s Direction
Ernst Benz timepieces are now living proof of Khankin’s dedication to the craft. Since 2005, the brand has released updates to old favorites like the Great Circle Chronoscope as well as entirely new models of diving watches, chronographs, and world time indicators. These timepieces are quite large, easy to read, and incredibly durable to accommodate the rugged life of the adventurer.

Leonid Khankin with Fashion Designer John Varvatos

The brand has also partnered with several unique celebrities to create opportunities to donate to charity. For example, the limited edition Dan Marino collection’s profits went entirely to funding the Dan Marino Foundation, an organization built to provide college-level educational programs and virtual job-seeking workshops for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 2009, the brand released a 47 mm ChronoDiver in conjunction with Stay-Focused, a non-profit dedicated to helping mobility-challenged young adults become certified scuba divers.

There is something to be said about people who do what they love and use that passion for their craft to make the world a better place. In committing to the art of watchmaking and diving in to the spirit of travel—and, by extension, the celebration of the human connection across borders and seas—Khankin has changed the lives of countless people and made the world a much better place.