Review: Bulova 96A102 Commemorative Hack Watch

Featured | Review | 08.08.2011

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Having worn this watch for several weeks now, I can straight up just say that it is a great and pleasurable watch to wear. As I said in my initial impressions, part of what drew me to this watch was simply the overall value of it. Good brand, great look and a seconds-sub dial (which one does not see often in this price range) for under $100. How can you go wrong? Well, of course the build quality could be mediocre. That’s not the case here; the Bulova is a very nicely built and sturdy watch. Maybe the strap is a piece of garbage? Nope. I love the strap that it came with. It is perfectly styled for the watch, very nicely constructed and extremely comfortable. Umm…maybe it keeps bad time? Once again, no: it is powered by a Japanese quartz (Miyota) and is as reliable as I could ever need.  Basically, it all comes down to looks, and I love the way it looks.

Case: Sandblasted  A9 Stainless Steel
Movement: Miyota Quartz (details unknown)
Dial: Black with White Index
Lens: Domed Acrylic
Case Back: screwdown
Strap: Black Green Canvas with Metal Rivets and Leather backing
Water Res.: 30m
Dimensions: 40mm, 50mm lug-to-lug
Crown: 7mm x 3mm Push/pull
Thickness: 11mm
Lug Width: 20mm
Warranty: NA

In a market saturated with military watches, this one stands out since it harkens to an older age of the military watch, that is to say the 40’s rather than the 60’s. As such you can see hints of the art deco movement in the hands and face, rather than the super sterile styling of later generations. This little bit of decoration makes the watch more wearable as a casual watch, since the untrained eye will just think it is nice looking, and will probably miss the military side of it. Of course, that could be a downside too, if military is what you are going for. I love the way this watch looks with a pair of jeans and a short sleeve or rolled sleeve shirt. It just feels relaxed and casual, without being careless or lacking in style. As such, you can easily wear it when drinking beers with friends, or at the office.

 

The body of this watch is sandblasted steel and it sits nicely on the wrist at 40mm. However, as I said in my previous post, lug-to-lug is longer than you would expect at 50mm. I have relatively thin wrists and still find it very comfortable, but if your wrists are particularly small, or you simply prefer smaller watches, you might want to try this on before you buy it. Nevertheless, the elongated lugs, which are lacking in any extraneous detailing, add a certain boldness to the watch. Perhaps it is their stark geometry, or perhaps it is just the additional metal, either way it works in the watch’s favor. The crown is 7mm wide by 3.5 mm deep and has a simple grooved surface. It sits against a slight flat in the side body, which keeps it from protruding into your hand, yet the size of it makes it very easy to grip if needed.

The lens is made from domed acrylic, which adds to the 40’s feel. For the most part, it has great clarity, though at an angle some distortion occurs around the edge. Personally, since this doesn’t affect the use of the watch, I like the distortion, but it might not be for everyone. The acrylic is also highly reflective, which you will notice if you are in bright light…it also makes it harder to photograph (but that probably doesn’t concern you). Ultimately, acrylic might have been a price decision, in which case I’ll take it, but the risk of putting a deep scratch into it is always on my mind. I know some people prefer acrylic, since it is easier to buff, but it makes me a little weary.

On to the face…Not that the face is the only thing that matters on a watch, but it will certainly make or break it for you. In this case, I think the face sings, and would also on a watch 5x or 10x the price. First things you notice: the background is matte black and the numbers are big… err, huge. The numbers are about as big as they can be without crowding each other, and they are painted in that light pistachio lume green that works so well on a black face. You will never wonder what time it is when you look at this face since the numbers are practically jumping out at you. Next, you probably notice the white seconds sub-dial at the 6 position. The index of the sub-dial is fairly detailed, considering its size, with inner and outer rings, tick marks for every second and digits every 10. Yet the fine printing makes it easy to read, and though it is dense, it does not out weigh the rest of the face.

The outer ring of the face is a 24-hour index, starting at 13, that also has marks for each minute. This allows for easy telling of 24hr time and also the minute while providing a visual buffer between the large hour numerals and the case. Just below 12 is the standard Bulova logo with the Accutron tuning fork symbol, which must have not been on the original, since the Accutron was introduced in the 60’s.

The minute and hour hands on this watch are also of special note, as they really feel like they are from another time. Basically, the minute hand tapers outwards from the center of the watch and then quickly comes to an elongated point. The hour hand is thin and straight and then suddenly bulges into a large oval, and then comes back to a thin point. Both hands are made of polished steel with lume filling. These types of hands are a style from the art deco period. For example, check out this Illinois watch from the 1920’s…same idea. Though they stand out slightly from the rest of the styling, since they are more detailed and geometric, they still work and are really the aesthetic centerpiece of the face.

All that said and done, one of the real reasons I keep gravitating towards this watch in the morning is simply that it is very comfortable. Despite its size and material composition, the watch is a spritely 41 grams, which will definitely not anchor down your arm during the day. On top of that is the great strap that it comes with, which I discussed in my initial impressions. Maybe it is just because it is summer right now, but I find that strap does not stick to me as much as other leather or rubber straps do. That being said, no watch should be destined to only one strap, so I decided to seek out a brown leather NATO to alternate in. I found a great and inexpensive one at Holben’s, which, I have to say, really really looks great. The leather emphasizes the elegance of the face and the black brown mix makes it go with just about everything, like tortoise shell glasses. This will probably be the strap I use more once the weather is colder again.

So, what else can I really say? The Bulova Hack Commemorative is the kind of watch that you should pick up just to have around. It is a great and inexpensive day-to-day watch. I wouldn’t call it a beater, necessarily, since you probably could mess it up doing something rugged, but a certain amount of patina does a military watch good. The fact that this is under $100, has the features discussed, has relevance in watch and world history, and is fashionable really makes it a no brainer. The watch is also available in a black PVD edition for over $100…Personally, I think the one I have is more elegant and versatile.

  • http://www.pretenseofknowledge.com/ Speedmaster

    Really not bad at all! Can I get your permission to repost some of your text and a pic or two on my blog? I would of course link it all back to here and give you full credit.

    Thanks!

  • Ed Brandwein

    Great review. Classic good looks on that one :)

  • John Weiss

    Excellent review! You make it sound like a “must own” watch. Of all the military styled watches I’ve seen, and I’ve seen too many, this is the nicest. The face is absolutely perfect: beautiful numbers and hands. And the small seconds dial adds the perfect touch. A convex sapphire crystal would be wonderful, but would probably kick it into another price category. I hope the blokes at Bulova read this!

  • http://zdsmith.com Z. D. Smith

    I do want to hear about the hacking function, though.

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com Zach

      Well, as I mentioned in my initial post, since this is a quartz, it can’t really be a “hack” watch. A “hackable” mechanical movement is a movement where the seconds stop entirely when the crown is pulled. This is used for precise synchronization, namely for military purposes. This watch commemorates the form and look of that watch, but unfortunately not the function. Calling it a commemorative hack watch is misleading, but it is the language the brand uses. That being said, quartz movements do fully stop, much like a hack…

  • jay

    I grew up in an era where acrylic was the norm, especially for active watches, glass was used on some dress watches, and sapphire, as far as I know did not exist as a crystal material.

    I must confess I hated acrylic. It didn’t break easy (which was good), but it would scratch if you even looked at it the wrong way. When the hard glass crystals become popular I was thrilled. True, you can polish acrylic, but you ALWAYS need to polish acrylic

    Bulova’s decision might have a degree of historic influence though. A watch of that type somehow looks more ‘right’ with an aura of fine wear on the crystal.

  • Ed

    Great review. I have the Bulova WWII Hack Watch Limited Edition # 5133, with Swiss movement but without the sub dial. I love the both of these watches. http://forums.watchuseek.com/f71/does-anybody-else-have-bulova-hack-watch-191743.html

  • Skylar

    Thanks for the solid review. Browsing modern-made, vintage field/military style watches brought me to Amazon of all places, and I found the 96A102 lightly used for $49.50- shipped. Quite a deal, I’m excited to receive it. I figured for $50 I’d gotten a good value, but after reading the review, I definitely know I did. I’m excited to wear it as the strap discolors, the case abrades, and the crystal scratches.

  • http://URL Eddie

    thanks for great review, as allways

    can you please link the holben’s brown leather, cant find it

    Thanks

  • http://URL marvin

    Should I buy this or a Techné Merlin?

  • http://URL ricky

    that leather strap does not exist on holben’s site

  • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com w&w

    Hey,

    looks like this is the closest thing they have now: http://www.holbensfinewatchbands.com/nato-brown-leather-g10-military-watch-band-1341.html

    also check out crown & buckles leather natos: http://www.crownandbuckle.com/straps-by-type/leather-nato.html

  • http://URL ricky

    how about this? http://www.panatime.com/ne20casolena.html
    its on sale.

  • http://URL John Jeromson

    My mum and dad bought me this for my fortieth birthday and I loved it, your right about it’s looks it’s very world war2 era and a great watch

  • http://URL phillip chouzenoux

    Fabulous watch irregardless of Quartz-my type of design-minimalist with clarity and the numeral font is super. Great review!

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  • http://URL Karl

    I just purchased this watch, in large part based on this review (thanks!), and I love it. It looks great on my wrist. It has beautiful vintage styling and definitely has a unique look.

    Thanks for all the in-depth reviews and the beautiful, informative pictures.

  • http://URL Nives

    Did you know if you get Bulova watches at macys.com you can receive a free $10 gift card. I believe you can still get the gift card here: http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=6u8GgEN4Bi7ZGZE6ZMgc4A%3D%3D

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