An Equation for Watch Buying Satisfaction with the Bulova Hack

In the early days of Facebook, “Facebook official” was a big deal. A status update from “in a relationship” to “single” sent shockwaves through social circles, and an update to “it’s complicated” was always sure to add some confusion and perhaps a few laughs. If such a social media page existed for watches (this is a terrible idea, please don’t do it), my status with the Bulova Hack would be: It’s complicated.

I purchased my first Hack back in 2020 based on a subjective infatuation with its aesthetics. Afterall, the decision to purchase a watch is often triggered by an emotional response, and boy did the Hack have me smitten with its clean and legible classic military design. While I’m far from an expert on military watches, in the same way I can geek out over a racing chronograph without being a car guy, I appreciated that the modern Hack stayed relatively true to the Bulova A-11, credited as the watch that won the war.

But technology has changed in the decades since the original Bulova Hack was issued to the US Military in World War II. As sapphire crystals and 100 meters of water resistance have become ubiquitous staples of field watches, the Hack remains stuck in the past with a mineral crystal and a mere 30 meters of water resistance. And though the modern Hack features a hackable movement just like the original ones that allowed for synchronizing time with the simple pull of a crown, the chunky Miyota 82S0 that allows for this feature, with an underwhelming accuracy of -20/+40 second per day, is far from the most impressive movement capable of this now standard feat.

If it sounds like I’m making a case to update my watch status to “single” on my horological social media profile, you’re right. Though the aesthetics and historical significance of the Bulova Hack led to me initially purchasing one in 2020, its flaws led to selling the watch just a month later and looking for other fish in the sea.

Perhaps a bit irrationally, I felt some disdain for the Hack long after I sold it. In fact, my grudge against this inanimate object set the bar for “unacceptable” traits in a watch in years that followed. When the Tudor Black Bay Pro was released at a whopping 14.6mm thick, more than a millimeter bigger than the Hack, I struggled to imagine the appeal of a watch even beefier than the modern Hack. When I purchased my Glycine Combat 6 and grappled with its modest water resistance of only 50 meters, I thought Hey, at least it’s better than that Bulova I sold. And when I’m feeling movement-snobby and wishing my NH35 powered microbrands were powered by something a bit more luxurious such a Sellita, I’m comforted by the fact that my wife has never commented on the noise of a spinning rotor on an NH35 from across the room- bragging rights the Miyota 82S0 lacks.


But lately this quirky Bulova has been showing up on my phone screen again as I mindlessly browse watches. Which begs the question, did I get it wrong the first time? If the Hack was such an indisputably bad watch, why does it keep drawing me in? Deciding to purchase a watch should be a straightforward experience, right? Well, sometimes, it’s complicated. 

To answer these questions and to determine if I should give the Hack another shot, I gathered a list of traits shared by watches that had staying power in my collection. While there are no hard rules to watch buying, a pursuit largely driven by an emotional response to a watch, perhaps the resulting watch buying equation will help you avoid buyer’s remorse as I attempt to sort out my feelings on the Bulova Hack.

Does it impress you?

In other words, do you feel an emotional response to the watch in question? This is the biggest factor. It’s the one that can make you look past questionable specs, consider purchases at dollar amounts you once thought absurd, and feel an undeniable pride with every glance at your wrist.

Many factors determine if we find a watch impressive: provenance, materials, opinions of other collectors, and general cool factor. For me, I love Bulova. The Oceanographer is my all time favorite watch, and a vintage heirloom Accutron is my most coveted timepiece. Would I even consider purchasing a watch from a microbrand with the Hack’s specs? Absolutely not. But Bulova impresses me, and I can’t help but feel joy with this brand on my wrist.

The Bulova Oceanographer, another favorite of the author’s favorites

Does it feel financially responsible?

One major draw of the Hack is its modest price. When comparing attainably priced field watches, it sits comfortably between the Hamilton Khaki and a Seiko SNK. With an MSRP of $425 but readily available for less in the pre-owned market, this field watch is inexpensive by most horological standards. As an enthusiast on a budget, I can enjoy a purchase like this without feeling guilty about spending too much on an arguably frivolous item.

My dream watch is a Formex Essence. Sure, I could round up $1500 and make the purchase today. But my lack of comfort spending that kind of cash would undoubtedly hinder the joy of ownership.

The Formex Essence

Is it flippable?

Flipping is a bit of a dirty word in the watch world- conjuring images of folks standing in line to grab up all the Moonswatches to sell at double retail. But after dozens of watches have come and gone from my collection, I’ve come to embrace the term. No, I’m not advocating for scooping up limited editions just to turn a profit, but as someone who can’t seem to manage to keep a watch for very long, I check prices on the secondary market before picking up anything new. 

If you’re a collector with the elusive super power of actually keeping your watches, this one might not apply. But for me, knowing I can recover most of my funds is part of making a financially responsible purchase.

Would you actually wear it?

We’ve all fallen victim to the temptation of a cool watch that simply isn’t practical for daily wear. For me, this is usually size dependent. I love tool watches and have purchased my fair share of 43mm (and up) cases, but I need to stop buying them. While I love the idea of a big watch, I’ll opt for a comfortable sub 40mm case most days, a box the 38mm Hack checks.


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A post shared by Nathan Schultz (@spinning_bezel)

Similarly, I’ve seen other collectors grapple with the romantantic idea of loving mechanical movements, though they favor the ease of accuracy of quartz. While it’s fun to scratch those romantic itches, I’m slowly learning to save my cash for watches that will actually get wrist time.

Final thoughts

On paper, the Bulova Hack isn’t a great watch. Heck, even on the wrist it’s only mediocre. But when I look at the Hack objectively through the lens of a watch buying equation, it’s easy to understand the draw of this affordable and comfortable field watch with a winning design and unrivaled provenance. 

You can probably tell where this is going. I purchased the Hack (again) as a final acquisition of 2023, and it hasnt left my wrist since. Is there any point to developing a watch buying equation in a hobby driven by feel? If my Hack can stay out of the W&W+ Slack Marketplace for more than six months, maybe I’m onto something here. What would you add to a list of your own for future acquisitions? Bulova

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Nathan Schultz is a New Hampshire based writer, equally obsessed with watches and outdoor gear. He specializes in dad jokes, breaking NH35s while modifying watches, and testing the limits of recreational equipment. Micro brands hold a special place in his heart, and he aspires to stop buying and selling so many darn watches.