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 2182 Day Wristwatch Silver Colour Case Silver Dial Nice Watch14k Solid Gold Rare Bulova Accutron 214 Asymmetrical Wristwatch1968 Bulova 218 Accutron 18k Solid Gold Case Tuning Fork Date Men's WatchSpaceview M8 Bulova Accutron 10k Gold Filled Restored Watch With Wood Box Bulova Accutron Astronaut Model 214 Stainless With Original ServiceAuthentic Bulova Super Seville Day&date Automatic Men's Analog Dress Watch Swiss Vintage Bulova Deep Sea Automatic Snorkel Diver's Watch 666 Feet 1969 Serviced Watch Wholesale Lot Bulova Men's Two Tone Stainless Steel (10 Watches Total)Vintage 18k Gp Bulova Accutron Spaceview T Clearview Dial Wristwatch,runsBulova Super Seville Vintage Automatic Men Swiss 1980 Stainless Steel Watch Au58Vintage Bulova Accutron 14k Gold Case Waterproof Men's Watch WristwatchBulova Men's Stainless Steel Precisionist Chronograph Watch 96b175Bulova Super Seville Vintage Automatic Men Swiss 1980 Stainless Steel Watch Au79Men's Bulova Accu Swiss X Manchester United Designer Watch - 65b165. Rrp 1,999Bulova 98b213 Wrist Watch For MenVintage Bulova Accutron Original Spaceview Watch 1974 New Bulova Mens Precisionist Carbon Fiber Blue Dial Watch 96b175 Msrp $825 Men's Vintage M7 Accutron Bulova 14kt Gold Case Working Condition NiceVintage Bulova 14k Yellow Gold Art Deco Curved WatchBulova Accutron Original Spaceview Stainless With Tribal Western Inlaid Band Bulova Men' 98b256 Precisionist Analog Quartz Two Tone Stainless Steel Watch UseVtg Bulova 666ft Mens Automatic-scuba-date Wristwatch-1969Nos Black Dial Red Hands1969 Bulova Accutron Astronaut Mark Ii Ss Watch Gmt DateSwiss Watch Bulova Accutron 852 Cal.2182 Gold Plated Working Condition,40mmBulova Deep Sea Snorkel Diverse Watch 666feetBulova Spaceview AccutronBulova 98b228 Wrist Watch For MenVintage Bulova Mil-w-6433a Type A17a Military Watch1974 N4 Bulova Accutron Spaceveiw Stainless Steel Cushion Case Runs Great1970 Bulova Accutron Spaceview Fully ServicedBulova Accutron Diver Chronograph Compressor Uhf Snorkel 96b253Bulova Accutron Chapter Ring Spaceview,stainless Steel M6Nos 1969 Bulova Accutron Astronaut Mark Ii Ss Watch Gmt DateBulova New Mens Marine Star Two Tone Chronograph Watch Rrp 369. 2 Yr WarrantyBulova 96a120 Men's Watch Bulova New Mens Marine Star Two Tone Chronograph Watch Rrp 369. 2 Yr WarrantyVintage 1968 Bulova 666ft. Divers Stainless Steel Automatic WatchMen's Bulova Chronograph C Designer Watch - 96k101. Rrp 549Bulova Mens Chronograph Precisionist - Black Out - Blue Accent - Date WindowNew Bulova Mens Precisionist Chrono Carbon Fiber Dial Gunmetal Grey Band 98b229 Vintage 1970 Bulova Red Whale Dive Watch Black & Red Dial 17j Cal.11blcMen's Bulova Curv Sport Designer Watch - 98a155. Rrp 479Rare Gent's Gold Plated Bulova Ambassador 30 Jewels Automatic Watch - RunningRare N Neat 10k Gf 1967 Vint Gold Crosshair Dial Bulova Backset 214 Accutron High Rare Amazing Condition Military Bulova Wwii Vintage Wristwatch From 1943's!Watch Wholesale Lot Bulova Men's Stainless Steel (10 Watches Total)New Mens Bulova Accutron 64b111 Stratford Chronograph Black Leather Strap WatchBulova Sea King Ufh Cronograph Black Rubber Strap WatchWatch Wholesale Lot Bulova Men's Stainless Steel (10 Watches Total)Bulova Accutron 2180 Gents Vintage Watch 70's Stainless Steel Rare Bulova $675 Mens Dazzling 34 Diamond Black Dial Super Bling Dress Watch 96e04Vintage 14k Gold 21 Jewel Bulova Men's Wrist Watch Bulova Accutron 26e05 Swiss Made Chronograph 47 Diamonds Men's WatchVintage 1950s Bulova 23 Ladies Watch W/8 Diamonds, 14k White Gold CaseVintage Bulova 14kt Gold Ladies Wind WristwatchBulova Accutron 214 Railroad Approved Wrist Watch- Super Good Runner- No ReserveBulova Accutron M6 Vintage Men's Watch, 14 Kt. Gold Case, As IsVtg Bulova Accutron Buzz Aldrin Apollo 11 Astronaut Chronograph Wristwatch WatchBulova Military Men's Ion-plated Black Strap WatchVintage Ladies White Gold With Diamonds Bulova Watch