Bulova isn’t a brand that needs much introduction. One of the original American watchmakers, their history and significance is well known having developed many innovations in its 100+ year life. Now owned by Citizen, the brand still continues to develop interesting and unique lines of watches. One such line that was first introduced in 2010, but seems to go a bit under the radar, is the Precisionist line.
Featuring a very unique movement, the Precisionists are unlike any other quartz watches you’ve ever seen. Incredibly accurate and with a smooth sweeping seconds, you’ll double take the first time you see them in action. While a smooth sweeping seconds quartz might be enough to set these apart already, Bulova went and created a chronograph version with precision up to a thousandth of a second. Needless to say, we had to get our hands on one to see what they were all about and Bulova was kind enough to lend us a Precisionist Champlain Chronograph for this review. Coming in at $799, it’s very expensive for a quartz watch, granted it has many special features.
Case: St Steel
Movement: Bulova Precisionist Quartz
Water Res.: 300M
Dimensions: 46.4 x 54.6mm
Thickness: 17.9 mm
Lug Width: 24 mm
Crown: 7 x 4 mm
Warranty: 3 year
Bulova left subtlety at the door when they went about designing the case of the Champlain Precisionist Chronograph. Measuring 46.5 x 54.6 x 17.9mm, this is one of the biggest watches we’ve come across. An aggressive and geometrical design further increases the sheer massiveness of the watch, which also weighs 260g, belying the quartz movement inside. There is also a lot going on from textures to finishes to raised areas, screws, facets, etc… This creates a case that is less a housing for a movement than a veritable fortress.
On top of central area is a tall, fixed bezel that appears to be held in place by four tall hex head bolts. Emulating a bit of the style of luxury sport watches such as Hublot or Audemars Piguet, the bolts add a nice industrial detail to the design that speaks the overall racing aesthetic of the watch. From directly overhead it is perhaps hard to see, but the bezel and mineral crystal actually curve. One of the more unique manufacturing details of the watch, the curved cyrstal creates some interesting distortion of the dial at oblique angles.
On the right side of the case are two low and wide chrono-pushers at 2 and 4. Between them is a screw down crown that is completely shrouded by large guards. The crown has spiraling grooves, giving it a dramatic look and an easily graspable texture. That said, considering the watch is accurate to within 10/sec a year, you are not likely to be adjusting the crown often. On the left side of the watch at 8 is another pusher, being used to convert the watch from time mode to chronograph mode.
All in all, the case is both unique and well made, albeit somewhat brutal in design. They were really going for an aggressive and masculine, oversized look, which they achieved hands-down. Having said that, the size and massiveness doesn’t serve any particular purpose and limits wearability.
The dial of the Precionist Chronograph continues the over-the-top design with a multitude of textures, materials and colors. The base surface consists of an inner area with a carbon fiber texture and an outer ring of silvery steel with a perlage pattern. Both textures reflect light in interesting and dynamic, but very different ways. On top of the bottom surface is a lattice of grained blue metal, which is detailed with two small screws as though they are holding it down.
On top of the blue lattice is the primary hour index, which consists of large applied steel markers of various lengths with lume fill. Elevated well above the rest of the dial is a tachymeter chapter ring, which frames the whole dial and adds some technical details. The sense of depth in the dial is tremendous, as though it sits several millimeters below the mineral crystal. The various surface treatments, especially the carbon fiber and perlage, emphasize this by having a faux, holographic effect.
Within the center of the dial are four sub-dials (well, five technically) that pertain to the chronograph function. At 9 and 3 you have 60-minute and 12-hour totalizers respectively. At 12 is a set of stacked sub-dials for 1/10 and 1/100 second accuracy, each with their own hand. Though stacked, they are easy to read. At 6, mirroring the sub-dial at 12, is 1/1000 second index, which is a small arc rather than a full circle. The design of the sub-dials and their respective indexes is well done. Despite adding a lot of information and visual elements to the dial, everything is clear and legible, with some interesting detailing. I quite like that they put an emphasis of maintaining symmetry, though the date window between 4 and 5 does disrupt this somewhat.
The hour and minute hands have a skeletonized sword/fence post design with lumed tips that suits the dial well. The sub-dials all have triangular hands of the same design in either white or yellow, with the stacked register having both for clarity. The primary seconds hand/chrono seconds is a long thin yellow stick with a Precisionist figure 8 logo on its end.
The star of this watch is the Precisionist Quartz movement inside. There are several things that make this movement interesting, starting with the most obvious, the smooth sweeping seconds hand. Typically, quartz watches, as you well know, tick once per second while mechanical watches, due to the oscillation frequency of the balance wheel, have a smooth sweep (some smoother than others, such as the Zodiac SST 36000 hi-beat). The Precisionist move utilizes a unique 3-pronged crystal, rather than the typical 2-pronged variety, to achieve a frequency 8 times greater than a standard quartz.
This allows the second hand to move incredibly smoothly and grants the Precisionist with an incredible accuracy of within 10/sec… a year! To put this in perspective, COSC Chronometer grade mechanical keeps time with -4/+6 seconds a day (which is 99.9% accurate). That’s a very big difference in accuracy.