Antique and Vintage Bulova Wristwatches

When 23-year-old Bohemian immigrant Joseph Bulova opened a small jewelry store in New York City in 1875, he probably could not have guessed that one day, America would run on Bulova time. But thanks to his company’s revolutionary production techniques, quality timepieces, and a whole lot of good-old-fashioned marketing, by 1926 that claim would largely be true.

Two events in particular contributed to Bulova’s early success. The first was Bulova’s decision in 1912 to set up a watch making plant in Switzerland, where, by 1923, standardized parts were used to assemble his pocket watches and desk clocks. It also made the servicing of Bulova watches a breeze.

The second event was World War I, during which wristwatches were issued to military personnel. When GIs returned home, the watches strapped to their wrists became more fashionable than pocket watches. By 1919, Bulova had introduced a complete line of jeweled, Art Deco-style men’s wristwatches. Ladies wristwatches would follow a few years later

In the 1920s, Bulova watches were so highly regarded that when the Washington Senators won the World Series in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge presented a Bulova watch to player-manager Stanley "Bucky" Harris. That same year, the company created its President wristwatch to capitalize on Coolidge’s use of one of its watches for such a gift.

For Bulova, the 1920s was also the decade of its corner-cut, enamel-inlay Conqueror wristwatch, which was rebranded and redesigned ever so slightly in 1927 as the Lone Eagle to commemorate Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic. The first batch of 5,000 Lone Eagles (packaged with photos of Lindy) sold out within three days, making these watches among the most collectible antique Bulovas today.

In 1930, Bulova introduced a watch that some think is even more collectible: the Doctor’s Watch, whose inner second-hand dial was supposed to make it easier for doctors to check the pulse of their patients.

Another World War caused Bulova to once again focus on the needs of its founder’s adopted nation. In 1941, Joseph Bulova’s son, Ardé, who was now running the company, offered to ...

The company’s patriotism continued in 1945 when it founded the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking to train disabled veterans. American jewelers pledged 1,500 positions for the graduates, whose education was entirely funded by the Bulova Foundation.

The 1950s saw the introduction of new technologies. In 1953 it added a self-winding and shockproof watch, as well as the Wrist-Alarm, a terrific vintage find for any Bulova collector. The Bulova 23 followed in 1954. This made-in-the-U.S.A., waterproof self-winder had 23 jewels and an unbreakable mainspring.

But the real innovation came in October of 1960 when Bulova released the world’s first electronic watch, the Accutron. The watch featured a tiny tuning fork that was powered by a one-transistor electronic circuit. The fork’s 360-hertz vibrations drove a mechanical gear train that turned the watch’s hands. No springs, no escapement.

Much to Bulova’s dismay, the technologically advanced watch was not be selected by NASA for use by its astronauts—that honor went to Omega. But between 1958 and the first moon walk in 1969, NASA relied on Accutron technology for numerous timing mechanisms on the ground. The space agency even brought one to the moon—today a Bulova timer still sits at the Sea of Tranquility.

The first Accutron had an opaque dial, but Bulova has used a model with a transparent dial for its advertisements and in-store displays. The idea was to show off the tiny tuning fork inside the watch at 12 o’clock. The design of these transparent display pieces proved so popular with customers that in 1961, Bulova introduced the Spaceview Accutron. Demand was so intense that Bulova could not produce the watch’s 14-karat gold cases fast enough. The following year, 1962, Bulova introduced a Spaceview with a stainless-steel case.

Also in 1962, the Accutron breached that bastion of pocket watches by becoming the first wristwatch to be certified for use by railroad personnel. That same year, Bulova introduced its Caravelle line of jeweled wristwatches. Another Accutron model, the Astronaut, followed in 1964 (Kirk Douglas wears one in Seven Days in May), and in 1970, the pricey Bulova Accuquartz calendar wristwatch became the first quartz watch sold in the U.S.

Key terms for Antique and Vintage Bulova Wristwatches:

Escapement: A device that converts the pressure of a spring or coil into a fixed release of movement.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



Lisa Andrew’s Watchophilia dives deep on Bulova wristwatches, with more than 500 examples to peruse. Bulovas are … [read review or visit site]

The Accutron Watch Page

The Accutron Watch Page

Rob Berkavicius' labor of love for Accutrons and Accutron technical information contains extraordinarily detailed d… [read review or visit site]

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Running Vintage Bulova Stars And Stripes Chronograph C Watch Valjoux 7736Bulova Accutron Electronic Tuning Fork WatchVintage Bulova Automatic 666 Feet Diver’s Watch Men’s Day / Date 1970’s DiverVintage Bulova Snorkel Diver Watch Automatic Self Winding 666 Ft. 200m Runs FineBulova 666 Snorkel-vintage DiverBulova Oceanographer Snorkel Vintage Diver Automatic Wrist Watch 666 FeetVintage 1940-50s Bulova 2-register Valjoux 23 Chrono Original Dial + No ReserveBulova Accutron Electronic Tuning Fork WatchBulova Men's Marine Star 98b120 Black Blue Stainless Steel Band Watch BoxMens Vintage Bulova Computron Drivers Digital Led N7 10k Gold Plated WatchVintage 1970s Bulova Computron Drivers Wristwatch Digital Led WorkingBeautiful 1967 Bulova Minty Accutron 218 Black Dial & Date!Bulova Accutron 214 Spaceview Oval Case Vintage 10k Gold Electrolated Mens WatchVintage Bulova 10 Atm Automatic Diver’s WatchBulova Automatic Eta 7750 Chronograph Day Date Swiss Made Working GreatBulova 214 Accutron Astronaut Model Running Great ! No Reserve !Vintage Swiss Bulova Gold Plated Manual Wind Gents Wristwatch 1940s Vintage Bulova Accutron Spaceview, 10 Kt Gold Filled Bezel, No BandRare Bulova Sea King Whale Vintage Gents Watch.super Case/date Vintage Mens Watches Repair Bulova, Accutron 218, Omega Seamaster 14k GoldHuge Estate Watches (lot Of 200+) - Fossil, Bulova, Hamilton, Seiko, & Many MoreNew Mens Bulova 98b212 Precisionist Chronograph Black Tachymeter WatchVintage 1970 Bulova Swiss Accutron World Time Deep Sea Diver WatchVintage 70s Gold Bulova Computron N6 Wrist Watch Red Led Display 1970s Works!Mens Bulova Super Seville Day-date Blue Dial Stainelss Steel AutomaticRare Vintage Mens Bulova Super Seville Automatic Stainless 1980 #a2070Bulova 23 Jewel Automatic Watch Cal. 11aoacb, Stainless & Gold Plate, Day / DateVintage 14k Solid Yellow Gold Bulova Accutron Mens WatchBulova Accutron Astronaut Watch M4 Stainless With Black Dial RunningRare 1950's Vintage Bulova Automatic Solid 14k Gold Man's Watch 100% Orig No ResBulova Accutron Spaceview 1965Bulova Submariner Style Stainless Steel Automatic Mens Diver Watch Bulova Accutron Spaceview Caliber 214 *** Not Working Or For Parts OnlyLadies Bulova 21 Jewels Diamond Bezel Open Heart Automatic Watch 96r122 3@92734Vintage Men Watch Lot, Bulova, Longines, Hamilton, Wittnauer, Marvin For Repair Mens Bulova Auto Vintage 1967 Excellent Original Dial Gold Plated Runs WellWw2 Bulova Military 24 Hours Black Dial Watch With Original CaseGenuine Bulova Ww2 Usa Issued Military Watch, A Great Survivor !Top Of The Line 1957 23j Bulova Automatic 6 Adjustments! Wow!!Antique Vintage Art Deco Bulova 1942 Chief Stepped Case Runs Fine 10ax 15 Jewels1952 Vintage Bulova Gentleman’s Rgp Gold Art Deco Dress Watch €Rare Vintage Mens Bulova 1950's Automatic Immaculate  #a2050Vintage Bulova Accutron Railroad Watch 214 Runs Great 6x Signed Stainless SteelPristine Vintage Bulova Snorkel Oceanographer 666ft Diver!Brand New! Mens Bulova 96b132 Precisionist Champlain Titanium Divers WatchRare Type A-11 Bulova Vintage Military Watch With Order # Engraving Black DialHuge Scarce Slab O Steel '75 Vintage Bulova Accutron Mark Iv RailroadBeautiful 1965 Bulova Accutron 214 Humming Strong Excellent Condition!Superb Men's Bulova Millenia Perpetual Calendar Quartz WatchBulova Oceanographer 18kgp/stainless Steel Automatic Mens Diver WatchLovely Rare Bulova Clipper Auto Vintage Gents Watch.super Case/great Tex Dial'57Bulova Harley-davidson 78a109 Wrist Watch For MenBulova Accutron Spaceview Model 214 Ca. 1972- No Reserve AuctionVintage Mens Bulova 10k Rolled Gold Plate L8 23 Jewel Watch RunningLovely Rare Bulova Winchester Auto Vintage Gents Watch.super Case/great Lugs '53Brand New! Bulova 98b166 Mens Precisionist Catamount Black Resin 300m Dive WatchVery Nice Classic 1971 Vintage Yellow Gf Bulova 218 Accutron14k Solid White Gold Bulova Ladies Watch, 6 Genuine Natural Diamonds, PristineBulova 24 Hours Black Dial Center Second Watch With Original Military Case1977 Bulova Accutron Quartz 666 Feet Wrist Watch Nr