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    

Bulova Accutron Spaceview Tuning Fork Watch Swiss Made Vintage Bulova Super Seville Automatic Men WatchRare Vintage Gents Bulova Accutron Tv Spaceview Wrist Watch Boxed1967 Bulova Snorkel 666 Feet Selfwinding Waterproof Diver Wristwatch 11alacd1935 Bulova Ambassador Deco Engraved Tonneau Stepped Case Men's Vintage WatchVintage Rare Men's Bulova Led Computron Drivers Wrist Watch Working CondVintage Rare Shape Bulova Accutron Spaceview N1 2141/214 Men's WatchBulova Men's Marine Star 98c114 Black White Chronograph Ss Band Watch Date DayVintage Bulova Accutron 214 M6 - Nice Dial And Hands - RunningJoblot Of Old Watches Mechanical And Quartz Seiko Timex Lings Bulova VintageBulova Accutron Spaceview Men's WatchVintage 1966 Men's S/s Bulova Automatic Military Style Dial Watch RunsBulova Mens 96b186 Marine Star Stainless Silicone Date Analog Chronograph WatchVintage 1965 Bulova Accutron Railroad Approved 214 H Men's Watch Stainless Steel60s Bulova, Shield Shaped & Textured Dial, Fancy Basket Weave Case, Runs, VgcThe Royal Oak By Bulova Gentleman's Automatic Wrist WatchVintage 14kt Solid Gold Bulova Accutron Spaceview Asymmetric Watch 1960 Bulova Super Seville Day/date Steel Automatic Men's WatchArt Deco Bulova Lone Eagle Black Enameled Bezel Mens Wrist Watch Vintage Bulova Accutron Spaceview 214 Super RareBulova 98b228 Precisionist Tachymeter Chronograph Steel Mens WatchBulova Diver Mens Watch Automatic Full Size DateVintage-now 121 Pc Lot Of Nice Ladies Watch's Movado Ak Gucci Bulova Elgin .99Vintage Bulova Led Watch1940's Minty Bulova Aviator Art Deco Engraved Men's Beautiful Vintage WatchNice Vintage 1970 Men's Bulova Accutron Railroad Approved 214 Tuning Fork WatchBulova Accutron Calendar Electronic Tuning Fork WristwatchVintage Bulova Chronograph Watch 17 Jewels Panda Dial Valjoux 7733 14ebNice Classic 1969 Vint Backset Bulova 214 Accutron W/nice Dial/case/movementVintage Bulova 14k White Gold 34 Diamonds 25j Swiss Cocktail Watch WorkingVintage Bulova Accutron Spaceview 60s Bulova, Ultra Thin Square Case, Round Dial, Modernist Design, Runs, VgcBulova Accutron 214 For Parts Or Repair-no Reserve!!6/1 - New (unworn) Bulova Gents Watch In Box With All Papers Etc. - Very Nice Bulova Women's Two-tone Stainless Steel 11 Diamond Sparkling Heart Watch 98p152C. 1972 Accutron By Bulova 218 Tuning Fork 14k G.f. Men's Dress Watch Signed 6xLot Of 3 Vintage Bulova 17j Manual & Automatics & 1 Waltham 10k Rgp Mens WatchsBulova Accutron Assymetrical "d" Shape Original BraceletBulova Mens Precisionist Black Chrono, Gold Pl,20 Atm, Rubber Strap Watch £579 Bulova Accutron Men's 26c02 Gemini Automatic Chronograph Leather WatchVintage Marked 14k White Gold Ladies Diamond Set Bulova Watch 14k Strap Running50s Bulova, Fancy Horn Lugs, Black Dial, Ultra Thin Case, 10k Rgp, Runs, VgcVintage Men's 1950's Bulova Wrist Alarm Estate Fresh Running All OriginalBulova Men's C9601033 Marine Star Stainless Steel Watch. $.99c . N/r.Bulova Accutron Astronaut With Bullet Band W/ BoxBulova Accutron Railroad Watch (nos)Vintage Ultra-rare Bulova (1959 Beau Brummell) 10k Rgp Cross-hair Mens WatchBulova Mens 98b176 Marine Star Stainless Silicone Date Analog Chronograph WatchVintage Bulova Accutron 218 M7 14k Gold Filled Case - RunningNice Vintage Antique Gold Tone Bulova Wind Up Watch Wristwatch Works Look Nr Bulova Marine Star Black Ion 43mm Stainless Steel Chronograph Watch Mens 98b2312 Men's Diver's Watches Citizen 200m Dual Display & Bulova 330 Ft Quartz 4 RepaiVintage Gents Wristwatch Bulova Automatic Watch Spares Or Repair 11 Aoacd SwissLovely Bulova Clipper Gents Vintage Watch.super Shadow Dial/bull-horn Lugs.1950.Bulova Marine Star Mens Stainless Steel Classic Blue Face Watch 98b130 Sized 7.3Vintage Rare 1957 Bulova Military Trench Model Band (11-acc Caliber) Mens WatchLot Of 8 Vintage Automatic Watches: Seiko Miracle Wittnauer Bulova Delbana Etc.Bulova Accutron Solid 14k Gold Men's WatchBulova Super Seville Mens Watch Day & Date 2toneBulova Champlain Precisionist Titanium Mens Watch (96b133). (s03015058)