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 Bulova Dive Watch Stainless Bezel & Case Eta 2824 Automatic Diver Runs Bulova Bullhead Automatic Chronograph Caliber 11 Circa 1973 Original Efad 14Mens 1958 Bulova Wrist Alarm 17 Jewel Swiss Stainless Steel 11aerc Caliber WatchSwiss Made Vintage Bulova Super Seville Calendar Auto Men WatchVintage S/s Bulova Accuquartz Mans Watch Unusual Dial No Reserve1951 Bulova His Excellency Tank Style Deco Case Men's 21 Jewel Vintage WatchLadies 1930 Bulova 14k Solid Gold Art Deco 8 Sapphires Engraved 17j Swiss WatchBulova Accutron Electronic Tuning Fork WatchLovely Bulova American Clipper Gents Vint Watch.fab Case/great '37Huge Lot 43 Vintage Estate Watches Hamilton Seiko Elgin Bulova Zodiac More...Lovely Bulova Gents Vintage Watch.super Case/fab Stone-set Bezel & Dial.1940.Vintage 14ct Solid Gold Gents Bulova 21 Jewels Usa Made Wristwatch. WorkingVintage Bulova A-11 Military Watch WwiiVintage Mens Watch Lot Bulova Hamilton Elgin Wittnauer Holland No Reserve1938 Very Art Deco Engraved Bulova Rite Angle Men's 17 Jewel Vintage WatchBulova Accutron Quartz 666 Ft Divers Watch N9 With Original BoxVintage Bulova Automatic Mans Gold Watch No ReserveBulova 98a118 Dual Aperture Dial Leather Chronograph Automatic Skeleton Watch1960ca Bulova Snorkel 666 Feet Nutella Dial Orange Bezel Stainless Steel CaseStuns! Bulova Caravelle Gents Vintage Watch.fab Case/dial.orig Box/papers Nos'701960's Vintage 18ct Gold Pl Bulova Dress Watch - 21 Jewel Movement; ServicedBulova Accutron M0 1960 14k White Gold Asymmetric Tv Case 214 Men Watch Vintage 1970 Bulova Accutron 214 Spaceview Watch Red Second Hand Serviced $9.99Vintage Bulova Mens Watch Diamond Dial 21 Jewels Cal.10bm Usa 10k Gold FilledLot Of 10 Led Watches Untested Timex Bulova Seiko CasioBulova Mens Dress Black Silver Watch. Brand New,full Warranty.retail £149Bulova Diamond & Platinum Watch With 14k Gold & Diamond Band 14.8 GramsBulova Super Seville Mens Watch Gp Day & Date1965 Bulova Accutron Spaceview 214 G Filled Bezel Orig Box Coin Key Owners Guide Bulova Accutron Watch Solid Gold Inlay 214 Spaceview $9.99 StartBulova Accutron Mens Spaceview WatchVintage Men's Bulova Wwii Military Type A11 Watch Army A.f. / 4 RepairBulova Precisionist 98b172 Wrist Watch For Men. Mint Condition Barely WornBulova 98b104 Men's Marine Star Rose Gold Tone Case Roman Numarels Watch $450Rare 1970 Bulova Ref 2930 Sea King 17j Automatic W/ Date Minty Whale Dial Ufix!!Vintage Bulova Accutron 214 Tuning Fork Men's Wrist Watch Stainless Steel 2446Bulova 96a160 Mens Sport Chrono Black Leather Strap Watch Rrp £179. Brand New1970 Bulova Accutron Watch Movement 214 With Spaceview Hands $9.99 StartLovely Bulova Squadron Gents Vintage Watch.great Case/crescent Hidden Lugs.1946.C. 1949 Bulova 10bm Hand Wind Gold Filled Art Deco Enamel Midsize Dress Watch1929-vintage-bulova-'president' Model-quality Case-17jewel-running & StunningBeaut.bulova 'sea King Whale' Gents Vintage Auto Watch.super Case/fab Dial.1972.Bulova Super Seville Mens Watch Split Calendar AutomaticVintage Watch 1972 Bulova "jet Star" Automatic 17 Jewel Cal.11bsacb Ss CaseLot Of 5 Vintage Mens Art Deco Bulova Wristwatches Watch Parts RepairVintage 1966 Bulova Accutron Steel Mens Watch 218d Original Jb Champion BraceletBulova Accutron Spaceview Wrist Watch Mens Waterproof 1966 Running Condition!*Men's Bulova 98b172 Precisionist Chronograph WatchBulova Super Seville Automatic Men's WatchVery Big/unusual 1976 Vintage Bulova Accutron AccuquartzHuge Lot Of Vintage Men Watches Bulova Benrus 25 Jewels Automatic Great LotVintage Bulova Military Type A-ii & 15j 10ak,oceanographer 666ft Snorkel 11blacdLovely Bulova Beau Brummel Gents Vint Watch.great Case/fab Diamond Date Dial.'69Vintage Mens Bulova Sea King. All Stainless, Serviced, Excellent Condition!Vintage Mens Bulova 23 Jewel Wristwatch Watch Parts Repair1953 Bulova Men's Wristwatch Runs Vintage Rebuilt Bulova 214 Accutron “spaceview” WatchVintage Bulova Accutron Spaceview 10k Gold Filled - As IsBulova Marine Star 100m Calendar Chronograph Two Tone Black Mens Wrist WatchMens Bulova 98b104 Rose Gold Marine Star Chronograph Polyurethane Watch