Affordable Vintage: 70’s Bulova Deep Sea Chronograph

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Over the years, Bulova has produced a boat load of differently styled divers and chronographs. During the 1970’s, they made several different diver chronographs with a variety of case and dial styles. Perhaps the most quintessential of the 1970’s was the Deep Sea Chronograph with “surfboard dial”. Produced for only two years, 1970 and 1971, this chunky diver has all the 1970’s hallmarks.

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My example was made in 1971, and is in all original condition. The dial is the main attraction here, silvery white with a fantastic blue oval “surfboard” encircling the two chronograph register sub dials. It has thick, applied steel markers with lume filled lines, and unique broad white hands with day-glow orange tips. I once heard someone refer to them as “cigarette” hands as they do resemble a cigarette with an ember at the tip! How 70’s is that?

The dial has a tachymeter along the outer edge for timing one’s speed. It is signed “Bulova 666 Feet” under the twelve marker. It’s interesting to note that Bulova is (as far as I know) the only company to put their depth rating at 666 feet. Most companies making similar divers at that time used a rating of 600 or 660 feet. I guess Bulova wanted to show that theirs were just a little bit better, and weren’t afraid to alienate anyone with the 666! Personally, I love this little touch that Bulova added.

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The beautiful and unique dial is housed in a big block of cushion shaped stainless steel with a screw in case back. It measures in at just under 38mm wide and 45mm long, with 20mm lugs. The case finish is a straight brushed finish on the top and sides, with a nice sharp edge delineating the two. The case back has a polygon edge for the back removal tool as opposed to the more common six slot design. The inside of  the case back is stamped with the case reference number 825-1. This number is used to reference replacement case parts (including the crystal) rather than to identify this specific model.

It comes furnished with a two tone blue and red anodized aluminum bezel with countdown numbers instead of elapsed time. A lumed bezel pip at twelve rounds out the look. The crystal is a typical highly domed, thick acrylic that really gives it that killer vintage look. One nice thing about Bulova was that most of their watches featured a signed crown, and this model is no exception. It has a nicely sized 6mm crown signed “Bulova” between the two chronograph pushers.

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I’ve seen similar Bulova chrono divers with the same case on a ‘chiclet’ style bracelet, but this example does not exhibit any evidence of having been on a bracelet. No tell tale wear marks on the back of the lugs. My guess is that these were available with a bracelet or a rubber strap. Sadly, there isn’t a lot of information out there on this model.

The motor behind this one is a 17 jewel manual wind Bulova caliber 14EB, which is a Bulova branded Valjoux 7733. The movement looks very nice with a mixture of steel and gilt parts. It is, like many of the Valjoux movements, a reliable workhorse.

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Bulova Chronograph Divers can be found fairly frequently on eBay or various retail sites, but this specific model is somewhat scarce. I’ve seen them go anywhere from $350 to upwards of $1000+ depending on condition and the seller.  So, if you’re feeling that 70’s funky vibe and need a great looking diver chronograph to go with your bellbottoms and sideburns, this chunky blast from the past is for you!

by Christoph McNeill a.k.a. @vintagediver

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Christoph (Instagram’s @vintagediver) is a long time collector and lover of all things vintage, starting with comic books when he was a kid (he still collects them). His passion for watches began in 1997 when he was gifted a family heirloom vintage Omega Genève by his step-father. That started him on the watch collecting path—buying and selling vintage watches of all sorts, with a special appreciation for vintage dive watches and Seiko.
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Review / Vintage

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