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    

Vintage Rare Bulova Snorkel Jumbo 666 Diver 200 Automatic No ReserveVintage Mens Bulova Military WristwatchMens Bulova Precisionist Divers Stainless Case Running Wrist WatchBulova Super Seville Vintage Automatic Men's Swiss Stainless S Watch C1980 C124Bulova 96a116 Titanium Men's Wrist WatchBulova Accutron Diver Heritage Clean Vintage 1953 Men's Bulova Finned Lug Swiss Mechanical Watch Runs Vintage Bulova Swiss Oceanographer Snorkel 666ft Automatic Date Mens Wristwatch Bulova Accutron AstronautVintage Men's 1964 Bulova 666ft Self Winding Divers WatchVery Nice Scarce 1973 Vint Stainless Steel Over Under Day Date Bulova Accutron Vintage Mens Wrist Watch Lot Paul Breguette Oversize, Waltham, Gruen Bulova ArmyBulova Divers Mens Watch Automatic Date SsVintage Bulova Military Watch Graying Dial Manual Movement Runs & Looks Great!Vintage Bulova 666ft Automatic Setomatic Mens Diver Watch N7Bulova Accutron Spaceview Time PieceVintage N0 1970 Bulova Sea King Automatic Wrist Watch Ladies 1950's 14k Rose Gold 17j Bulova .50 Ct Tw Ruby Lapel Brooch Watch Dwc Nr1940's Bulova Cal. 10ax 17j Center Seconds 10k Rgp Men's Watch RunningBulova Mens Precisionist Chronograph Vintage Wristwatch Bulova Automatic Swiss 17 J 11 Alac Self Winding Black DialNew Bulova 98b229 Precisionist Chronograph Gunmetal Stainless Steel Men's WatchSweet 1948, 10k Rgp Vintage Bulova " Corrigan " Dress WatchBulova Mens 98b202 Marine Star Stainless Silicone Date Analog Chronograph WatchVintage Bulova 17 Jewel's Self Winding Wristwatch Vintage Omega Electronic F300 Hz Seamaster Cal 1260 Bulova Pat. 83y2 WatchBulova Watch Co Usa Men's Wristwatch 21 Jewel 10k Gf Gold Filled Works 2nd DialBulova Super Seville Mens Watch Automatic Day & Date Black Stone IndicesBulova Accutron 214 10k Gf Spaceview Watch, Working Well, Crack In CrystalVintage Bulova Ambassador Watch - Automatic - DateMinty 1971 Bulova Accutron 218 Blue Dial All Ss No Reserve! Vintage 1970 Bulova Accutron Deep Sea Diver 666 Feet Turning Fork Wristwatch Bulova Women's 98r149 Anabar Rose Gold Stainless Steel Watch1966 Bulova Accutron Spaceview Tuning Fork Watch M6 Stainless Leather Band RunsBulova Men's Bva Series-120 Collection 21j Skeleton Back Automatic Watch 96a119Bulova Super Seville Mens Watch Automatic Day & Date Group Lot Of Vintage Antique Watch Crowns Omega Bulova Wittnauer Eterna TissotMens Midsize Bulova Marine Star Diver Type Blue Face Ss Quartz Watch Sweet 1951, 10k White Gf Vintage Bulova "academy Award Q " Dress WatchBulova 96p135 Mother Of Pearl Stainless Steel Diamond Quartz Ladies WatchBulova Accuswiss Gemini Leather Automatic Chronograph Mens Watch 63c112Vintage Bulova Automatic 30 Jewels S/s Mens Watch Circa 1965 Works Great Cond.Bulova Mens 97b146 Gold Tone Stainless Steel Link Date Analog 3 Hand WatchHandsome 1968 Vintage Backset Bulova 214 Accutron Railroad W/bold Boxcar DialVintage Bulova 10kgf Men's Wristwatch Selfwinding 11alac Movement Black Dial BoxBulova 1964 Vintage Self Winding Divers Watch 11 Alacd 17jVintage Art Deco Bulova Mens Wrist Watch – Hinged Case – Mint DialVery Nice 1967 Vintage 14k Ygf Bulova Accutron Railroad W/bold 24 Hour Dial Bulova Women's Diamond Accented Stainless Steel WatchVintage Automatic 1970's Bulova Watch, 23 Jewels, 11 Aoacb CaliberBulova 98b264 Mens Two Tone Rose Bracelet Stunning Black Face Watch Rrp £189Luxurious Bulova Swiss Made Diamond Dial Tungsten Gold Plated Ladies Watch C176Bulova Mens 21 Jewels Automatic Wristwatch 2-toned Stainless Gold Band 98a101Brand New Bulova 12 Diamond Rose Gold Sapphire Crystal Ladies Watch. Rrp £229214h Accutron Bulova M4 Swiss Brevet Watch Movement For Parts Or RepairNice '67 Vint Steel Bulova Accutron Railroad W/bold 24hr Boxcar Dial N Qs DateLot Of 350+ Vintage Wrist Watch Parts Crowns Lecoultre Jules Jurgensen BulovaBulova Precisionist 96b131 Champlain Black Carbon Fiber Dial 300m Men's WatchBulova Men's Marine Star Chrono Bule Dial Ss Vintage 1949 Bulova "his Excellency" 10k Gold Filled Watch 21 Jewels Cal. 7ak