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”)

Watchophilia

Watchophilia

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    

Bulova Super Seville Hi-beat Day & Date Automatic Watch Stainless Men’s [733]Swiss Men's Bulova Super Seville Automatic Day&date Blue Dial Analog Dress WatchVintage Bulova Military Pilot/navigator Watch Wind Up 10bnch . Circa 1950s UsaBulova Accutron 100th Anniversary Spaceview Cal.214 Rare S/steel Fantastic Cond1938 Art Deco Engraved Bulova Rite Angle Vintage WatchMen's Bulova 23j Vintage 1960 10kt G/flld Fantastic Lugs Super Original DialNew Rare Model!! Bulova "super Seville" Men's Day & Date Watch Blue Dial Swiss Bulova Super Seville Mens Watch Automatic Day & Date Split CalendarBulova Super Seville Day & Date Automatic Gp 17 Jewels . Swiss MadeMen's Caravelle (by Bulova) Jump-hour Mechanical Vintage Watch From Mid-1970'sRare Vintage Bulova N4 Led Men's Digital Wristwatch Runs No Reserve Really Nice 1968 Vintage Very Original Bulova 214 Accutron SpaceviewVintage Bulova Men's Accutron Astronaut Wrist Watch1959 (l9) Men's 10k Gf Bulova 23 Jewels Calendar Automatic Wristwatch RunningBulova Selfwinding 23 Jewel Ss Case Is Exlt Original Dial Is Exlt. Cira.m4-1964Mens Steel Bulova 96a118 Bva Series 21 Jewels Automatic Military Time WatchBulova Valjoux 7733 Chronograph-"triple Signed" VintageBulova Accutron 214 Stainless SteelMens Bulova 96b132 Precisionist Champlain Titanium Charcoal Dial Watch Vintage Mens 1959 Bulova Selfwindin*clean Sunburst Dial*newly ServicedWw2 Bulova Military 24 Hours Black Dial Watch With Original CaseHarley Davidson Men's Bulova Wrist Watch Bar & Shield Leather Band 76a04Vintage Swiss Made Bulova Super Seville Day & Date Automatic Men's WatchLovely Rare Bulova Lenox Vintage Gents Watch.super Case/dial.music Note Lugs '51Mens Original 1947 Bulova 14k Solid Gold Diamond Dial Beau Brumell Deco Watch A+Bulova 96a135 Automatic 21 Jewels Leather Strap Men's WatchBulova 96b175 Black Ion Precisionist Chronograph Carbon Fiber Dial Men's Watch1950 Unusual 14k Solid Gold Knotted Lug Vintage Bulova WatchStunning! Unique! 1977 14 Carat Gold Nugget Bulova Masonic Vintage Mens WatchAuthentic Bulova 96b175 Precisionist Chronograph Carbon Fiber Dial Men's WatchEx-condition Deco 1920's Bulova Enameled Bezel Hinged Lugs C.10ae 21j's Must-cVintage Seiko Chronograph Bulova Oceanographer Snorkel Parts Or RepairBulova Vintage Fancy Knotted Lugs Running Wrist Watch 10bc Nr32 Pc Wrist Watch Lot Tissot Accutron Bulova Longines Croton Seiko For RepairHuge Watch Lot 127 Jules Jurgensen Bulova Timex Pulsar Benrus And More VintageAwesome 1970 Bulova Gents Ref 2940 Sea King 17j Automatic Pie Pan Dial Runs! N/rBulova Accutron Astronaut Mark Ii `rare` Solid 14kt Gold Start $9.99 Bulova American Time Products Ultrasonic Watch Cleaning MachineBulova Selfwinding 14k Gold Watch 1951 MensBulova Accutron Stainless Steel Chronograph Watch, Analog Divers Watch 25 JewelsBulova Men's 96b183 Precisionist Chronograph WatchAwesome 1940 Bulova "engineer" 14k Rose Gold Filled 21j Mens Watch!!Bulova Men's 98b196 Black Bracelet Watch With DateGiant Lot Watch Parts Omega Longines Tissot Bulova Crowns Movements Dials New Mens Bulova 96c105 Stainless Steel Calendar Day Date Black Dial WatchVintage Bulova Accutron Asymmetric 214 14kt Solid Gold Inlay Steel Back 1960Lot 3 Vtg Gold Filled Men's Wind Up Watches Rectangle Case Hamilton Bulova As-isMens Bulova 96b104 Black Croc Embossed Leather Strap 37mm Thin Executive Watch£189 Rrp Bulova Ladies White Rubber Strap Multi Function Watch. 3 Yr WarrantyAll Original Stainless Steel Bulova Accutron Mickey Mouse Watch, N7Mens Bulova 96b175 Stainless Steel Precisionist Tachymeter Chronograph WatchBulova Oceanographer Automatic 666 Feet Wristwatch Rare VintageNew Ladies Bulova 98r149 Genuine Diamond Two Tone Chronograph Quartz WatchRare Vintage Watch Collection Girard Perregaux, Hamilton, Bulova, Olympic, NrMen's Ss Side View Original 1970's Bulova Computron Led Lcd Digital Retro Watch Bulova Accutron Railroad Approved Wrist Watch Ca. 1969- No ReserveMiniature Bulova 214 Accutron Spaceview TimepieceBulova Super Seville Day-date Plated Automatic Men's Watch #2Vtg Bulova Mens Wristwatch Self Winding Automatic 23 Jewel 6 Adj Running Bur A/iMens Bulova 98b180 Precisionist Champlain Stainless Steel Quartz Date Watch