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    

Swiss Men's Bulova Super Seville Automatic Day&date Blue Dial Analog Dress WatchVintage Bulova Divers Chronograph 666 Feet Valjoux Original Bracelet For RepairVintage Bulova Oceanographer Snorkel 666 Feet. Automatic. Diver. Cal 11 BlacdMint Bulova Heavy 14k Solid Gold Mens Wrist Watch With BoxBulova Date Submariner Steel Automatic Men's WatchVintage Bulova 17 Jewel Automatic Mens Whale Wrist Watch Runs 11 Anacd StainlessVintage Bulova 30 Jewel Men's Self-winding Wrist Watch 10 Coac Runs StainlessLadies Bulova Fancy 14k White Gold Elongated Diamond Case Running Wrist WatchVintage Swiss Men's Bulova Super Seville Automatic Day & Date Analog Dress Watch1954 Bulova Automatic 23 Jewel Mens Wristwatch W/textured Dial - Mint W/box, NosBulova L6 Mechanical Manual Wind 10k Rolled Gold Plated Vintage Men's Watch Vintage Bulova Accutron Space View Wrist Watch New Battery, WorkingBulova Day Date Automatic Swiss Made Valjoux 7750 Movement+dialBulova Mens 64c100 Accutron Gemini Swiss Automatic 7750 Valjoux Eta Strap Watch Bulova Precisionist Mens Carbon Fiber Navy Blue Stainless Steel Watch 96b131 Bulova Accutron Doctor's "pulsation Dial", 214 Stainless Steel Watch, 1971 (n1)Mens 1945 Bulova President Watch 7ak 21j 10k Rose Gold Filled Usa Roman NumeralVintage Bulova 17 Jewel New Old Stock WatchBulova Precisionist Mens Stainless Steel Carbon Fiber Navy Blue Watch 96b13114k Solid White Gold Diamond Bulova 23j Vintage Wrist Watch NrMen's Bulova 96c107 Stainless Steel Black Dial Bracelet 8" WatchVintage Bulova 330 Feet Automatic Divers Watch Day Date With Screw Down CrownBulova Mens Accutron Amerigo Black Dial Swiss Two-tone Stainless Bracelet Watch 1966 Bulova Accutron Men's Wristwatch Cal. 2181 14k Gold Filled Case Vintage Bulova Accutron 218 0 Tuning Fork Men's Wrist Watch 3083 RunningBulova Accutron Spaceview 214-h M5 Bulova Accutron 214 "cushion Case" Chapter Ring Space View, 1971 (n1)Vintage Bulova 17 Jewel New Old Stock WatchBulova $299 Men's Black Dial Day/date Silver-tone Stainless Steel Watch 96c107 *Bulova Mens Black Leather Strap 96c113 Calendar Chronograph Quartz WatchBulova Diver Mens Watch Date Submariner Automatic SsBulova 96b175 Precisionist Stainless Steel Watch1957 Bulova 23 Jewel Selfwinding 10bpac 10k Rgp & S/s,black Sunburst Dial,fancyVtg Working Men's Bulova Watch 23 Jewel Self Winding Automatic MovementVintage Bulova Ambassador Mens Automatic Watch Rare Micro Rotor Microtor M6Vintage Bulova Selfwinding Men's Wristwatch-d91824 M5-10k Rgp-working-no ReserveLot Of 3 Vintage Ladies Watches - Bulova 14k & 19k Art Deco Styles - Fabulous Lot Of New (13) Watches Bulova, Citizen Eco-drive, Daniel Steiger, Tommy BahamaVintage Bulova Doctors Watch Rare Variation The 1st. I've Seen Like ThisNew Bulova Men's Marine Star Titanium Watch - Chronograph - Swiss Model # 96a116Mens Harley Davidson Bulova Willie G Skull Watch 76a11Bulova C9671396 Marine Star Chronograph Men's Wrist WatchBulova 20 Mm18k Solid Yellow Gold President Bracelet# 8385 Full Size 24linksVery Beautiful 1966 Vintage All Gold Filled Backset Black Dial Bulova Accutron 1966 Bulova Accutron 214 Tuning Fork M6 Stainless Steel Mens Vintage WatchVintage 1958 Bulova 23j Selfwinding Sunburst Dial 10k Rgp Bezel Mens WristwatchBulova Stainless Steel Gold Plated Diamond WatchBulova Vintage Diver 330 Feet AutomaticVintage 1928 ? Bulova 15 Jewel 4 Adj Wind Men's Wrist Watch Senator 10 An Runs*new* Circa 1952 Bulova Automatic 10bpc 14k Solid Gold 33.5mm Watch W/ BoxBulova Men's C977745 Precisionist Chronograph WatchVintage Bulova Accutron 214 Spaceview Electronic Wristwatch - Parts / Repair Bulova Accutron T3 Tachymeter Chronograph Swiss Gold Men Link Bracelet WatchAstronaut Iv C.1974 Vintage Bulova Accutron Men's WristwatchMen's Bulova Precisionist Watch 300 Meters Black Stainless Steel Vintage Bulova Wrist Watch Stainless, All Original, Mechanical Movement Vintage Men's Bulova Computron Digital Led N6 Gold Plated Watch ( Original )Bulova Wristwatch 8ae 17 Jewels 10k Rolled White Gold Plate Art Deco Lugs RunsExtremely Rare 1961 Bulova Automatic Single-crown Compressor 666 Diver WatchVery Nice 1969 Vint Backset Bulova 214 Accutron Railroad W/bold Boxcar Dial