NEW YORK — On the evening of March 19, 2003, Giovanni Feroce was a ground operations officer in the United States Army stationed at the Command Forward Headquarters in Qatar when he was called on to help kick off Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The Navy’s launching Tomahawk missiles, the Army’s launching Shock and Awe — the timing of everything has to come together, down to the minute,” he recalled in a recent phone conversation.
Mr. Feroce retired in 2010 after 24 years of military service to enter the world of business — he served as chief executive of the jewelry brand Alex and Ani until March — but he still attributes his operational philosophy to the timekeeping habits he learned in the armed forces.
“I run business based on a military management system,” said Mr. Feroce. That includes using the phonetic alphabet adopted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO: “We’d use NLT — November Lima Tango — to mean you have to hit an objective ‘no later than’ such-and-such hours and such-and-such date,” he said.
On July 1, Mr. Feroce hit one timely objective when he acquired the license and trademarks for Benrus, an American watch brand best known for its military-issue timepieces. The company, founded in 1921, filed for bankruptcy in 1981; Mr. Feroce is in the midst of bringing it back to market. His goal is to transform Benrus into a lifestyle brand — selling things like backpacks, bomber jackets, even a men’s cologne called Benrus Black, a reference to “black ops” — with the watches taking center stage…