When iconic American watchmaking brands are brought up, it’s impossible not to mention Bulova. Born out of the mind of Joseph Bulova in 1875, the brand has been making quality timepieces for nearly one and a half centuries, with the brand’s 150th anniversary coming up soon. When a brand gets their start so early in the grand scheme of American history, you can trace the watches back to specific periods of innovation and design language.
Today, we’re exploring the breadth of Bulova by highlighting some of their most iconic models that are still made today. Whether you want to learn about WWII watches from the 1940s, space-worn watches of the 1960s, brightly-colored dive watches of the 1970s, or technology from the dawn of quartz watches, Bulova has something to pique your interest. Let’s take a closer look at some modern interpretations of some of Bulova’s most recognizable timepieces.
Bulova’s Devil Diver is named as such thanks to the impressive 666 feet of water resistance. What was once a battle of specs in the 70s has turned the vintage versions of these watches into collectors pieces. The recent reissue is slightly updated for the modern era, featuring an automatic movement and a 41mm stainless steel case. The bright orange dial features an old school Bulova logo at 12 and a crosshair printed on the dial. To track time, you can use the bi-color unidirectional rotating bezel. You’ll find a date display at 3 o’clock right next to the screw down crown. 200 meters of water resistance is more than enough for recreational swimming and diving, making this Devil Diver your ideal companion on an upcoming trip.
Inspired by an old World War II-era prototype, the A-15 Pilot features vintage aviation styling and some really neat timing functionality. At first glance, you might think it’s a chronograph, but the A-15 actually has three crowns to control different elements of the watch. The crown at two operates the internal timing ring, while the crown at 4 turns the 12-hour ring on the dial to track a separate time zone. At 3, the crown adjusts the hands as it would on a traditional wrist watch. The A-15’s 42mm stainless steel case allows for a large, legible dial that’s crucial when it comes to pilot style watches. While the A-15 never saw service, it’s still plenty interesting by today’s standards, despite being designed nearly 80 years ago.
Taking things in a different direction is Bulova’s Computron. Featuring a bright red LED display, this watch was cutting-edge when introduced back in the 1970s. Now, it’s part of Bulova’s Archive Series, which they’ve used to reissue many iconic watches from the past. This one won’t go under the radar, thanks to the chunky, angular gold-tone case and bracelet. The case is only 31mm wide, but the geometry means that it wears larger. The Computron is capable of displaying the day/date, a second time zone, and 12/24 hour time. There are few watches out there today that have the same slick vintage appearance as the Computron.
In the early 60’s General Omar Bradley, Chairman of Bulova Watch Company, spearheaded the collaboration of 46 NASA space missions that utilized 2,000 Bulova-developed Accutron precision instruments and timing devices. Continuing to build the Archive Series franchise with two new Lunar Pilot chronograph timepieces, Bulova set out to create a smaller case – replicating the exact size of the original watch that traveled to the moon. Available in a 43.5mm stainless steel case with matching multi-link bracelet, two models are available, one with a striking two-tone blue and white chronograph dial and the other, classic black representing the original legendary chronograph timepiece. Priced at $895, the watches come as a strap set, the black chronograph offered with a black fine leather NATO strap and the two-tone chronograph offered with a blue fine leather NATO strap, both with special latched spring bars for interchangeability.
Bulova’s Hack Watch celebrates both the brand’s rich military history through a series of iconic field watches. There are several editions, including the “VWMI” that supports the Veteran’s Watchmaker Initiative, a nonprofit organization that teaches vets the highly skilled art of watchmaking. Ten percent of proceeds from the sales of this special edition Hack go directly towards this organization, making the Hack a watch that both preserves the past and supports the future of watchmaking. The Hack Watch features a stainless steel case with a Miyota 8S20-43A three-hand 21-jewel automatic movement with a 42 hour power reserve. It features both 12- and 24-hour scales, vintage-styled hands, and a large crown that can be used to “hack” the seconds for precision time setting. There are several different dial versions offered, each with their own unique look.
In 1973 Bulova released a truly unique chronograph that earned both a fun nickname and a cult status among collectors. The Bulova “Parking Meter” Chronograph features an interesting layout, known as a bullhead design. This meant the pushers were at the top of the watch (like the horns of a bull) instead of on the side of the case like most other chronos. A blue metal bezel runs around the outside of the watch, connecting each of the pushers with a funky visual design. This is where the watch’s distinctive nickname was born. The blue frame on the dial that creates the sub-dials is reminiscent of the once ubiquitous mechanical parking meter. That was 50 years ago, but today the design remains equally as provocative. In honor of the anniversary, Bulova has brought the Parking Meter Chronograph back, but with some modern twists like a reliable quartz movement, sapphire crystal, and precision construction.
Furthering Bulova’s deep roots in military prototypes is the MIL-SHIPS—a recently released watch that is a faithful recreation of a military prototype developed for the US Navy. Originally developed in 1957, this watch predates most dive watches, serving as inspiration for the many that followed. A number of the features on these watches including the black dial, locking bezel, and luminescent markers and hands were implemented for functional diving needs of the US navy and have become staples of modern day dive watches.The watch features old-school skindiver looks, complete with a moisture indicator on the dial of the watch that would change color when exposed to water. This modern recreation of the prototype features 200 meters of water resistance, a 41mm stainless steel case, and luminous hands and markers rendered in a rich yellow to look like an actual vintage watch. There are two versions available—one featuring a Swiss Sellita SW200 movement inside, and the other with a Japanese 8S20 movement. Both feature automatic winding and a convenient hacking seconds hand for precision time setting.
Bulova isn’t all about military reissues and space-worn watches. This thin, dress-oriented watch is perfect for those days where you may find yourself in an office or at an event. The watch head is barely thicker than the bracelet, resulting in a sleek appearance that’s sure to slip under any shirt cuff. On the dial, slim Roman numerals leave the sparsely-populated dial wide open. Two slim hands indicate the time, adjustable via the uniquely positioned crown residing at 2 o’clock.
It’s hard to think about the middle of the 20th century without Frank Sinatra coming to mind. The “Fly Me To The Moon” is in no way like the Lunar Pilot we talked about above. Instead, it’s a mid-century styled dress watch that calls back to the era of the height of Sinatra’s popularity. And even more to the point, Old Blue Eyes has a well-documented history of gift watches to dear friends, specifically Bulovas. The 39mm stainless steel case features a unique lug design, where they surround most of the sides of the watch. What really stands out is the beautifully textured cream-colored dial and bright silver indices. Sinatra’s signature adorns the dial in a tasteful manner, giving a nod to the legendary performer without being too over the top.
Sized down from 45mm wide to a true-to-the-original 43.5mm, this new addition to the Lunar Pilot lineup is even more faithful to the original. The Lunar Pilot features a stainless steel case thats a bit sleeker than its predecessor. It has all the same great features as the previous 45mm version, like a sapphire crystal, chronograph sub dials, and precise quartz movement inside. It’s also available in a new white base dial with blue accents—a handsome look.