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 Chronograph. 666 Feet Diver, Valjoux 7734Ultra Rare 1970 Bulova Bullhead Micro-rotor Chronograph Automatic Cal.11 DiversVintage Men's Bulova Quartz Day & Date Blue Dial Analog Dress Watch St. SteelBulova Diver Compressor Vintage Swiss Made AutomaticBulova Men's 98b244 Sea King Chronograph 300m Watch Black Dial Stainless SStriking Vintage 1954 Men's Bulova 23j Elegant Lugs Original Black Sunburst DialVintage 1969 Bulova Accutron Astronaut Gents Wrist Watch Cal 214 Tuning Fork Spares Or Repairs Bulova Accutron N4 1974 2181f 7411 Head Only Running G/conSuper Clean Asymmetrical Bulova Accutron 214 Gents Stainless Steel Watch @1966Bulova Accutron Chronograph Running Mens Wrist Watch Stainless Original BandVintage Bulova Senator Gents Wristwatch Deco Rolled Gold Watch Case Fancy LugsSpares Or Repairs Bulova Accutron N2 1972 2181f 7411 Head Only Running G/conVintage 14k Gold Diamond Retro Deco Mens Unisex Bulova 23 Wrist WatchBulova Accutron 214 Spaceview M7 1967 Original Box Just ServicedJob Lot,omega Seamaster,caravelle Auto,divers,hamilton,bulova Nurses. Parts OnlyBulova Accutron Spaceview 21 26b06 With Box And Papers NrHandsome 1968 Vintage Stainless Steel Backset Classic Bulova 214 Accutron Vintage Bulova Accutron Spaceview Skeleton M5 Back-set Retro Ss Watch WorksBulova Men's Two Toned Watch 98b230Bulova Accutron 218 Tuning Fork Vintage 1968 M8 Gold Gp Watch All Original VgcRare Vintage Bulova One Button Chronograph Wrist Watch 10ahScarce 1950s Bulova Aerojet Automatic 17j M4 Cal. 11alacd Waterproof Mens Watch.Vintage 1968 Bulova Accutron 214 Wrist WatchUnique-rare 1950 Bulova (excellency) Grey Dial 10k White Gf Vintage Mens WatchS/s Bulova Accutron Astronaut Head Only Wrist Watch As Is No Reserve1960 Mens Bulova Watch Asymmetrical Case 23 Jewels For Restore Repair Parts1963 "a" Bulova Accutron Astronaut Ss Men's Watch For Parts Not Running KreislerLovely Bulova 23 Gents Vint Auto Watch.super Case/great Black Sunburst Dial.19551944 Af Us Army Watch Type A-ii Bulova Navigational Hack Usa Made - Manual WindWatch Wholesale Lot Bulova 63b38 98h25 96d110 96c26 96g45 (5watches Total)Bulova Acutron Astronaut Watch Large S/s/ Bezel M6Vintage Bulova Academy Award T 1950 21 Jewel Watch With Padded Cordovan BandVintage Bulova Accutron Astronaut 214, Not RunningNice Vintage 1969 Automatic Bulova Stainless Steel Mans Whale Watch Date 11blacdStuns! Bulova Accutron Gents Vintage Watch.super Case/fab Basket-weave Dial.1982Bulova Oceanographer 333ft Gents Vintage Watch Gwo 1978 N8 Dual-day AutomaticBulova Accutron Men's 63b170 Accu Swiss Kirkwood Chronograph WatchJob Lot,rolex Oyster 2940,wittnauer,,bulova, Accutron,junghans,rodania.for PartsBulova Calendar Date Mens Watch AutomaticBulova Accutron Astronaut 214 - Coil Hums And Case Is In Very Good To Excellant Beaut.bulova '23' Gents Vintage Auto Watch.super Case/great Sunburst Dial.1954.Huge Lot Of 66 Vintage Watches, All Mechanical - Benrus, Bulova, Hamilton, Etc. Vintage Bulova Accutron Mens Wristwatch, Up And Down Rare Date Blue Dial 2182Bulova Accutron Spaceview 21 28b64 Two Tone With Box Nr1950 Vintage Bulova 21 Jewel Mens Wristwatch W/unusual Dial - Exceptional CondWatch Wholesale Lot Bulova 98a51 98d115 98h35 96d18 96d16 (5watches Total)Vintage 1960's Bulova 214 Accutron 10k Gf M7 Men's WristwatchVintage 1954 Bulova Automatic Men's Wristwatch 23 Jewels Runs Accutron Bulova Stainless Steel Mens Watch ( In Working Order )Vintage 10k Gf Bulova Accutron Spaceview Skeleton M8 Back-set Retro Watch WorksCommemorative Edition Men's S/s Bulova Apollo 15 Astronaut Chronograph WatchStunning Bulova Accutron Watch Tv Dial Original Strap New Battery Gold Plated A1Bulova Marine Star Black Dial Stainless Steel Men's Watch (98b177)Vintage Bulova 10k Rolled Gold 17 Jewels Gentleman's Black Dial Watch ~ It RunsVintage 14k Gold Filled Bulova Mens Wrist Watch With Original Box!Bulova 100m Diver's Submariner Quartz Movement Textured Green Boxed Rare FindEstate Vintage Us Military Bulova 3818a Wristwatch All Original Runs GreatBulova Precisionist C977745 Chronograph Mens Watch 300m Black Carbon DialBulova Accutron Spaceview Watch 2141 Swiss For Parts Or RepairRare Case And Hands Bulova Ord Dept 10ak 15 Jewels Usa Army Military Watch