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Past and Present: The Retro-Cool Bulova Computron

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The Bulova Computron doesn’t look or feel like any other watch. It’s very much a product of its time, but with the way watches have that ability to tap into deep wells of nostalgia, it’s also, in a way, completely timeless.

“In the ’70s Bulova came out with the Computron watch,” says Carl Rosen, Bulova Historian and former COO. He tells us it was also known as the “Trapezoid” due to its unique shape, which didn’t require you to turn your wrist to tell the time if you were driving. “It’s cool now, because it was cool back then,” says Rosen, hinting at the fondness modern watch enthusiasts have for digging into the history of the products they collect and admire.

Bulova’s 1976 Annual Report cover and a Computron ad.

Early Computrons came in chrome and gold tone, and these futuristic looking watches, both then and now, require you to push a button to get a read out of the time, and pressing the button multiple times gives you the date or other information depending on the model.

A vintage Computron, packaging and all.
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The combination of the unique case shape and the glowing digital readout makes one think of all sorts of speculative science-fiction. This is what an industrial designer from the ’60s would have imagined a watch to look like in a future generation.

“It’s cool now, because it was cool back then.” — Carl Rosen, Bulova Historian

The modern lineup.

The modern incarnation of the Computron pays tribute to the classics from the ’70s and ’80s while adding just enough new watchmaking tech to appeal to a new generation. The case is still the unusual trapezoid, and the screen is still tilted at a slight angle to aid in legibility, but the once state-of-the-art LCD technology has been superseded by a brighter and more reliable LED display. Charmingly, you still have to push a button on the case flank to read the time. Once pressed, the time is displayed for a few seconds, and then the screen goes dark, turning your Computron into a wrist accessory unlike any other — an unusual and statement-making piece that is sure to leave an impression.

The new Computron is available in three wildly different colorways, each with its own distinct personality.

The gold tone version is the most vintage inspired of the bunch. There’s something comforting and old school about the way the yellow gold case plays with the red numerals in the new LED display. A matching linked bracelet finishes the look. This one is pure fun, and would be right at home on your wrist behind the wheel of a convertible, heading to the beach.

The stainless steel version is more contemporary by comparison, and uses a distinct blue LED display. The steel version of the Computron will prove to be a versatile choice for many — it could easily be an everyday watch for someone who wants something outside of the mainstream.

Finally, the black version is straight out of a science fiction movie. On a comfortable rubber strap, this variant has none of the bling of the metallic Computrons, but has a ton of style. There’s something about the red LED display against the backdrop of the black case that conjures up only the fondest memories of the 1980s, whether you lived through them or just viewed them through the prism of a prior generation’s media.

In its own way, the Bulova Computron is an iconic watch, and the new iteration gives a new group of consumers a chance to experience one of the most interesting chapters in the history of an important American watchmaker.

Check out and shop the full collection here.

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