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    

Swiss Men's Vintage Bulova Super Seville Automatic Date Blue Dial Analog WatchBulova Accutron Deep Sea Rare N1 1971 Shark Mesh Very Well Made & Cool V/g/cBulova Snorkel Oceanographer 666 German Made Diver WatchStuns! Bulova Sea King Watch.fab Case/amazing Fish-scale Dial/ Cat-ear Lugs.'62.Men's Vintage Watch Lot Vintage Art Deco Bulova Elgin Hamilton Rose Gold Fill Lovely Bulova His Excellency Gents Vintage Watch.fab Case/dial/cat-ear Lugs.1948Bulova Super Seville Men's Hi-beat Day & Date Automatic Watch Stainless Steel NrGents Vintage 17 Jewels Bulova 14 Efad Cal 12 Auto Chrono C1972 (lefty)Classic Bulova Accutron Spaceview 1968 Watch 214 Stainless Steel $9.99 StartWorking 1970s Bulova Computron N6 - Digital Driver's Watch - Side View - LedVintage Watch Parts Lot Estate Accutron Bulova Omega 214 218 $9.99 StartMens Bulova 96b182 Chronograph Precisionist Black Leather Date WatchStunning Vintage Bulova Superseville Automatic Swiss Made Watch Men's C. 1980Vintage 1990s Massive Bulova Automatic Chronograph Eta 7750 Gf Wristwatch. Nr!!!New Men's Bulova Accutron Automatic Chronometer Limited Edition 63b159Vintage Bulova Ambassador 30 Jewels Automatic Date Steel Genuine Dial Watch MintStunning Vintage Bulova Automatic Swiss Made Watch Men's C.1960s 23 JewelsXtra Nice 1968 Vintage Backset Bulova 214 Accutron Railroad W/24 Hour DialBulova Accutron Spaceview Watch N0 1970 Stainless Steel Case Not Running 1930's Vintage Bulova Art Deco Jump Hour Wristwatch 15 Jewel 13at MovementVintage Bulova Accutron Astronaut Stainelss Steel M9 Gmt WristwatchBulova Accutron Spaceview M3 Yellow Hands Dot Dial 36mm Cal 214 Stainless SteelBulova 666 Divers Men's Analog, Antique, Day / Date Heavy Stainless Steel Rare Stunning Vintage Bulova Chronoprecision Automatic Swiss Made Watch Men's C.1980Gorgeous Bulova President Gents Vintage Watch.fab Case/hook Lugs/great Dial.1942Vintage Watchmaker Job Repair Lot Of Watches Gruen Bulova Oris Tavannes BenrusSolid 14kt Gold Vintage 1950s Mens Bulova Wrist Alarm Runs Great Needs Repair1929 Mens Art Deco Bulova 'lafayette' Rare Hinged Case 14k Gold Fl Vintage WatchVintage 2-tone Gold Fd Large Antique 1920 Art Deco Bulova Curvex Mens Watch NrBulova Accutron 63a110 Kirkwood Men's Automatic Black Dial Rubber Watch New NibBulova Accutron 14kt Spaceview Watch 214 Asymmetric Case White Hands $9.99 StartBulova Accutron 214 - Vintage, Running, Dress, Black DialMens Bulova 96a143 Automatic Rose Gold Tone Skeleton Display WatchBulova Accutron Mens Watch Astronaut Gmt Ss Case 24 Hour Bezel216 Stunning Bulova Tungsten And 18k Gold Quartz Swiss Made Watch Men's C.2000Vintage Bulova 17 Jewel Automatic Men's Wrist Watch 11 Afacd Runs All StainlessScarce- Bulova Accutron Spaceview Skeleton Ca. 1966- No ReserveLovely Bulova 'ardsley' Gents Vintage Watch.fab Case/dial/cat-ear Lugs.1951.Very Nice Genuine Vintage Bulova 214 Accutron Spaceview Watch $9.99 Start1964 Original Classic Bulova Accutron 214 Spaceview Stainless Steel $9.99 StartVintage Men's Bulova Chronograph 666 Ft. As Is Wristwatch Not RunningVintage Mens 1941 Bulova "admiral" 10k Gold Filled Wristwatch-keeps Great TimeLovely And Rare Bulova 'tuxedo' Gents Vintage Watch.fab Case/amazing Lugs.1947.Vintage Bulova Accutron Watch1957 Vintage Bulova 23j Automatic Gold Mens Sunburst Radiating Dial 10krgp WatchBulova $525 Womens Diamond Mop Dial White Ceramic & Silver-tone Watch 98p124 *Bulova Accutron Astronaut 214 Mens Tuning Fork Watch Gmt Runs Needs Little WorkBulova Super Seville Day & Date Automatic 17j Two Tone S/s. Swiss MadeVintage 1964 "bulova Accutron" 214 All Stainless Steel Rare Blue Dial WristwatchBulova A-11 A11 Wwii Ww2 Korea Army Air Force Us Military Pilots Wrist Watch* Gents Bulova Accutron Circa 1969 Tuning Fork WatchVintage 1963 Ss Bulova Accutron 214 Spaceview.Vintage Faceless Bulova Accutron Spaceview Ss Men's Wristwatch # H91132Vintage Mens Bulova Two Register Chronogrpah Wristwatch WatchBulova Accutron Spaceview Watch ~ New Battery Installed & Keeping Good Time ~Bulova Automatic Snorkel 666ft Watch (orange Face)New Men's Bulova Accutron Kirkwood, Box And Papers. Ref 64a103Vintage Bulova Accutron Astronaut Mark 2 Date Stainless Men's Watch, Sold As IsBulova Accutron Gold Spaceview 214 Asymmetric Case White/red Hands $9.99 StartLovely Bulova Treasurer Gents Vintage Watch.fab Engraved Case.orig Boxs/paper'51