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    

Rare Swiss Vintage Bulova Diving Watch Automatic Diver Original Dial Serviced ++1965 Bulova, M4, Accutron Astronaut 24 Hr Gmt 4 Hand Watch 214.Nice Vintage 1970 Men's Bulova Accutron Railroad Approved 214 Tuning Fork WatchVintage Bulova Oceanographer Diving Watch Snorkel 666 Diver Orig. Dial +bakeliteVintage Bulova Diving Watch 666 Ft Diver Original Stunning Dial Strap & Buckle Vintage Bulova Accutron Spaceview 214 Super RareVintage 1965 Bulova Accutron Railroad Approved 214 H Men's Watch Stainless SteelMens Bulova Super Seville Day-date Func St.steel Automatic Blue DialBulova Accutron Electronic Tuning Fork WatchBulova Champlain Precisionist Titanium Mens Watch (96b133). (s03015058)Bulova Curvex Type Drivers Watch 10ak Military Caliber Vintage 1930s Gold CaseMens 1946 Bulova 14k Solid Rose Gold Excellency 21j Usa Vintage Art Deco Watch Vintage Bulova Accutron Astronaut With The Original Champion Metal Band Runs Bulova Accutron Ii Spaceview, Brand New, Box/papers, 42 MmVintage Bulova Stainless Steel Automatic Selfwinding Waterproof Mens WatchLot Of Old Watches Bulova Blancpain Hamilton Elgin Benrus Arnex Omega Box ++Bulova Accutron 1968 Spaceview Yellow Dot Hands Crystal Champion Band Ladies Vintage Watch Lot,wittnauer Benrus Bulova Gruen Waltham Wyler Elgin MilosLot Of 8 Vintage Automatic Watches: Seiko Miracle Wittnauer Bulova Delbana Etc.Caravelle By Bulova Mens Collection Watch Ss Silver Tone Link Date 43b114 BlackVery Nice 1970 Vintage Blue Dial Stainless Steel Bulova Accutron Scarce No DateVintage Diver Caravelle Bulova N2 Swiss Automatic Wrist Watch S Steel.Vintage Gold Fd Large Antique Art Deco Bulova Jump Seconds Mens Watch ... NrBulova Accutron Spaceview 1965 214 Asymmetric Watch Red Second $29.99 StartHuge Lot Vintage Ladies Mechanical Windup Watches Bulova, Waltham, ElginBulova Accutron 218 Model Wristwatch Bulova Tuning Fork Watch Working HummingExcellent 1971 Vint All Original St Steel Bulova Backset 214 Accutron SpaceviewBulova Date Submariner Style 18kgp/ss Automatic Mens Diver Watch (all Orig)C. 1966 Accutron By Bulova "spaceview" W/ Chapter Ring 214 Tuning Fork S.s WatchArt Deco 18k & Platinum Trim Bulova Pendant Style Watch W/ Diamonds & SapphiresBulova Precisionist Gents Watch 300m DiversCaravelle By Bulova Mens Rose Black Crystal Silicone Watch Ss Date C969997Bulova Date Submariner Style Stainless Steel Automatic Mens Diver WatchBulova Vintage 1960s Diver 666 Feet AutomaticWatch Wholesale Lot Bulova 98b215 97b63 98b177 98c109 98a123 (5watches Total)Bulova Accutron 218 Model Wristwatch Bulova Tuning Fork Watch Working HummingBulova Mens 98b159 Marine Star Stainless Silicone Date Analog Black WatchBulova Accutron 218 Model Wristwatch Bulova Tuning Fork Watch Working HummingHuge Lot Vintage Ladies Mechanical Windup Watches Bulova, Benrus, WalthamVintage "bulova" Watchmakers Repair Watch 'microloupe' #9020 W/case MicroscopeBulova "super Seville Day Date" Men's Automatic Watch St.steel Silver Dial SwissBulova Precisionist Mens Black Rubber 262khz Carbon Fiber Face Blue Watch 98b1421940's Bulova Lone Eagle Long Curved 21 Jewel Men's Deco Vintage WatchWatch Wholesale Lot Bulova Model 96c002 Crystal Accented (watches Total)Watchmakers Estate Parts/repair Bulova Accutron 214 Astronaut Watch M7 1967Old Wristwatch Bulova Accutron Railroad Approved Cal 214 Stainless SteelLadies 14k Gold Bulova Retro Diamond Manual Wind Dress Wrist Watch No ReserveWw2 Bulova 24 Hours Day/night Dial Watch With Original Military CaseBulova Accutron Spaceview Men's Watch Chapter Ring - Not RunningBulova 98b212 Precisionist Chronograph Black Tachymeter Steel Date Mens WatchWomens Vintage Mechanical Watch Lot.overwound 5 Elgin Some Bulova Etc.Bulova Accutron Spaceview 214- Factory Spaceview Ca. 1965- No Reserve1966 Bulova Micro-rotor Ambassador 12ebacd Black W.germany Excellent Runner Accutron Bulova Spaceview M9 1969 Tuning Fork Auction Watch Makers Estate New Bulova Women's 96p116 Adventurer Quartz Watch $395 - ReadVintage Bulova Accutron Man's Watch! 14k Solid Gold Asymmetric! Tuning Fork HmmsVintage 14kt Solid Gold Bulova Accutron Doctors Watch Enumerus Ad Xx PulsusBulova Accutron 64c104 Gemini Swiss Chronograph Rose Gold, Mens Wrist Watch, NewBulova Accutron Kirkwood C860679 Automatic Watch Excellent ConditionVintage 1960's Bulova Diamond Lady's Watch Manual Winding 14k Yellow Gold