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    

Vintage Bulova Diver's Stainless Steel Chronograph Valjoux 7733 666ft (93897)Vintage Bulova Accutron Spaceview M6 All Stainless Steel Original $.99 StartSuper V Rare Bulova Senator H Vintage Gents Watch.fab Case.boxes/papers/tags '55Bulova Snorkel 666ft Date Stainless Steel Automatic Mens Diver Watch1938 Vintage Bulova €Bulova Accutron Automatic Watches For Repair Or Parts And Quartz Just Look WowRare Vintage Mens Bulova Super Seville Automatic 2tone Stainless  # A844Bulova Accutron 214 Big 'b' Spaceview Tuningfork Ss Big Hands 1961 Mens DressMens Nos Bulova Westfield Fancy Lug 17 Jewel Swiss Watch + Original Box & Band Ww2 Bulova Military 24 Hours Black Dial Watch With Original Case1943 Vintage Bulova €Rare Vintage Mens Bulova Super Seville Automatic 2tone Stainless  # A855Modern Men's S/s Bulova Accutron 25 Jewel Automatic Watch W/box Runs1939 Vintage Bulova €Bulova Stainless Steel Mechanical: Automatic Men's Dress Watch C860933 Box/linksBulova Accutron Astronaut Men's Watch New Mens Bulova 98b212 Precisionist Chronograph Black Tachymeter WatchVintage Wwii Bulova 10bnch (wind) Men's Military Watch ! Runs Great !!Beaut.rare Bulova 'president' Vintage Gents Watch.fab Ribbed Case/shadow Dial'52Lot 8 Men's Wrist Watches - Accutron, Bulova, Breitling Chronograph, More..Vintage Bulova Tiger Eye Red Led Solid State Digital Watch N6Huge Scarce Slab O Steel '75 Vintage Bulova Accutron Mark Iv Railroad2 Bulova Accutron Spaceview 214 Movements Red Second Hand $.99 StartMens Bulova 98d109 Black Ion Plated Genuine Diamond Elegant Dress WatchVintage Bulova Accutron Ck N0 Collectible Rare T.v. Dial All Stainless SteelAll Original Vintage 1969 Bulova Accutron 218 D Vintage Watch W/ Date Running !Vintage Bulova Accutron Gentlemans Wristwatch. Swiss Made. Stainless Steel Case.Bulova Oceanographer Snorkel Mens Watch Date AutomaticScarce Mens Bulova Germany Vintage Wrist Alarm Watch To Fix Unusual Rare Gold Bulova Vintage Gents Automatic Wristwatch Crab Lugs Super!Mens Bulova Super Seville Day-date Func St.steel Automatic W/braceletBulova Men's Marine Star Bracelet WatchRetro Vintage Bulova 14k White Gold Hooded Case Diamond Ladies Wrist Watch MhcClassic Bulova Accutron Spaceview 214 Asymmetric Case White Hands $9.99 StartHeavy Art Deco Bulova Long Mens 14k Gold Vintage WatchVintage Bulova Accutron 218 18 Karat Gold Bezel Heavy Electroplated N1 1971 Lovely V.rare Bulova Academy Award Vintage Gents Watch.orig.gold Box/papers 1951Very Nice Bulova Accutron 214 Astronaut Ca. 1966. Stainless Runs Great.Bulova Oceanographer Automatic Mens Wrist WatchHandsome Men's Bulova Gold Tone Accutron Watch W/ Leather Band! #r41Bulova 666 Feet Vintage Ss Chronograph Men's Diving WatchBulova $525 Women's White Dial Date Chrono Diamond Silver-tone Ss Watch 96r19 *Vintage 1966 Men's Caravelle M6 By Bulova 11dp 17j Mechanical Watch, Ex/nm CondRare Vintage Mens Bulova Super Seville Automatic Stainless Date 1980 #a655Bulova Mens/unisex Diamond Watch Ceramic Chrono White. 98p125. BoxedBulova (automatic) Wristwatch / Watch For Vietnam War - Us Army ( No Hamilton )New Ladies Bulova 98l180 Crystal Accented Rose Gold Tone White Sunray WatchVintage Bulova Lot#1 Of (2) Mens Watches For Parts Or Repair No Reserve1940 Vintage Bulova €Bulova 30 Jewel Automatic Wristwatch Runs Great Lqqk!!!Bulova Date Goldplated Automatic Mens WatchVintage Bulova 23 Jewels Self Winding Watch 10k Gold Filled Case!1966 Bulova Accutron 214 Mens Watch 10k Gold Filled Space-view Link Band As/is1940's Bulova Blackhawk Military Servicemen Watch Ww2 1 Day ListingBrand New Bulova 98e003 Marine Star Mens Diamond Black Ion Stainless Steel WatchBulova Diamond Dial Gents 14k Solid Gold Hinged Lugs Vintage 1950s WristwatchBulova Accutron 214, Football Shaped, Hums StrongVintage 40's Bulova Aviators Pilots Mens Watch Military A-11 Mechanical RepairCaravelle By Bulova 44d15 Mens Gold-tone Champagne 4-diamond Quartz Wrist WatchMens Bulova 96b169 Stainless Steel Bracelet 43mm Date Black Dial Sport Watch