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    

Vintage 1000m Divers Watch Bulova Sea Hunter Rare Squale Cased Diver UnpolishedLovely Gift! Quality Vintage Military Style Bulova Mens Watch Boxed NewRare 1971 Bulova Deep Sea 666 Stainless Steel Diver Chronograph Swiss 7733Oversized 4x Signed Vtg 1965 Bulova Ambassador Date Micro-rotor Automatic WatchVintage U.s. Military Watch Bulova Black 24 Hour Dial For RepairsClean S/s Vintage 1969 Men's Bulova Oceanographer 333 Feet Automatic Watch RunsPristine, 14k Solid White Gold Bulova Ladies Watch, 10 Genuine DiamondsVintage Gents Bulova Accutron Spaceview Watch M7 G/filled & S/steelVintage Bulova U.s. Military Wrist Watch 1940s Mil W 3818a Runs Ser. 68458081407Men's Bulova 98a123 Bva Two Tone Stainless Steel White Automatic Dial 7.5 "watchVery Rare Vintage Bulova Accutron "d" Asymmetrical Watch With 218 MovementLovely Bulova '23' Gents Vintage Auto Watch.super Scalloped Case/sunburst Dial57Nice N Very Scarce 1969 Vintage Model 218 Ygf Bulova Accutron Spaceview U.s. Bulova 10 Akcsh Military Ww2 Vintage Wrist WatchCrisp 1960's Unused Caravelle Divers Style Watch With Rotating Bezel By Bulova. 60's Bulova Accutron Spaceview 214 Asymmetric Ss 10k White Gold F. Watch WorkingBulova Computron N6 Works ExcellentU.s. Bulova 10ak Military Ww2 Vintage Wrist WatchVintage Steel Bulova Accutron Space View Watch M6 Ready To Wear1963 Bulova Accutron Silver Tone Dial Stainless Steel Tuning Fork Watch (00376)Vtg Serviced 10k Gold Bulova Automatic Oceanographer German Diver Watch 666 Ft Men's Bulova Precisionist Chronograph 98b228 Stainless Steel Two-tone Watch Bulova Solano Marine Star Chronograph Quartz Mens Watch 96b154 Retail $499Stunning 20's Solid 18k Diamond Sapphire Bulova Vintage Ladies’ Watch, Serviced!Bulova Men's 96b131 Black Dial Precision Steel Bracelet WatchBulova 96b175 Precisionist Champlain Chronograph Carbon Fiber Dial Mens WatchBulova Accutron Astronaut Gmt Ca.1970- No ReserveDeco Bulova Princine Vintage Ladies’ Watch, W/ Floral Filigree Band, Serviced!Lovely Bulova Senator Gents Vintage Watch Super Case/great Angel-wing Lugs.1945.Lovely Bulova Minute Man Gents Art Deco Vintage Watch.super Long Curved Case.'38Mens Bulova Accutron 214 Spaceview Stainless Steel Wristwatch Watch W/orig BoxBulova Accutron Electronic Tuning Fork WatchBulova Accutron Deep Sea World Time Super-rare 1977 Diamond Bulova Accutron Tuning-fork (2182.g) Vintage Mens WatchNice 1972 Vintage Stainless Steel Bulova Backset 214 Accutron SpaceviewMen's Bulova 96b175 Precisionist Stainless Black Chronograph Dial 8" WatchUltra-rare 1962 Bulova 23 Selfwinding Automatic 2-tone Dial Vintage Mens WatchWatch Wholesale Lot Bulova 96d106 96d110 (5watches Total)Women's Bulova 96r000 Stainless Diamond Accented Chronograph Dial 6.75" WatchBulova Accutron Accu Swiss Made Automatic Chronograph Watch (valjoux 7750)Ww 2 Bulova Wrist Watch Type A-11 Original WorkingBulova Accutron 214 Running, Gorgeous Condition W/ Original Bracelet & Box Mint!Men's Bulova 98d109 Black Two Tone Stainless Diamond Accented Dial 9" WatchVintage Bulova Accutron Wrist Watch No ReserveMen's 2005 42mm Bulova Diver Style WatchNos Bulova Computron Masonic Wrist Watch Running 1977 Lot #131Lovely Bulova Minute Man Gents Vintage Watch.super Bowed Case/great Lugs.1957.Watch Wholesale Lot Bulova 96b160 96d108 96a115 98d103 (5watches Total)Watch Wholesale Lot Bulova Classic 96b224 Stainless Steel (5watches Total)Vintage Gents Bulova 30j Selfwinding Wrist Watch Running No ReserveBulova Accutron Tuning Fork Gents 218 Watch1940's Vintage Bulova Mens Yellow Gold Filled Wrist Watch -runs - No Reserve!Bulova 98c120 Mens Two-tone Stainless Steel Day/date Black Dial 45mm Watch Vintage Bulova Accutron 14k Gold Band Mens Watch Gents Bulova Accutron Tuning Fork Watch Part Working Spares RepairsBulova 42mm Men's 96b230 Military Analog Display Japanese Quartz Brown Watch NibBulova Accutron Spaceview Stainless 214 M8 Just Serviced ExcellentVintage Bulova Led Computron Digital 2553.10 Wrist Watch Movement Lot #132Bulova Fancy Lugs Gold Filled Running Mens Wrist WatchWatch Wholesale Lot Bulova 98d107 98d001 (5watches Total)