The front of the case carries the bezel. It’s aluminium with SuperLuminova lume, which will be a great deal more robust than the original acrylic and a lot less likely to make you glow in the dark; the 1950s watch used radium. Unusually, rather than just giving the bezel a twist, you push this one in to unlock and then turn it, just like the original. Again, it’s a neat and different piece of engineering.
Then there’s the crystal. If it was any more domed you could probably set up home underneath it. It adds a huge amount of presence to the watch. Again, the domed crystal was a feature of the original MIL, but Bulova have ditched the original acrylic and gone for an updated sapphire.
You could probably publish some modern diving watch dials in paperback, there’s so much verbiage on them, but the MIL’s carries just three words; the maker’s name and the country of manufacture. The rest is pure clarity. The lume looks as though it’s just walked out of a 1950s bar, cigarette in hand, but it’s absolutely modern – SuperLuminova makes an ‘old radium’ shade that fits the MIL well. And, just like the original, the dial has a sensitive paper moisture tell-tale. This changes colour if the case is breached and moisture gets inside – so no need to wait for the whole thing to steam up, just check the tell-tale.
The limited edition watch arrives in a case styled to look similar to the caseback’s diving helmet whereas the ‘standard’ model comes in a neat box. The Sellita-powered watch has a black NATO, the Miyota a blue, slightly thinner strap.
If a watch like this floats your boat (sorry), getting your hands on an original prototype will require midnight negotiations at a crossroads with a bloke with horns and a tail – and even then we don’t fancy your chances. The ‘new’ MIL-SHIPS is a rather simpler way of doing it. The $895 and $1,990 are canny choices of price too. One for the serious milwatch/Bulova//vintage diver collectors and the other for enthusiasts who simply like the look of the watch and fancy something different. Bulova.