These days, there are a plethora of reliable watch brands available on the market. And when it comes to those that combine quality with a long-standing tradition, there are not many that can compete with one of the pioneers of the watchmaking industry – Bulova. But, having all the options in the world to choose from these days, is Bulova a good watch brand to go for?
Bulova is an American watch brand of enormous tradition and history. The company’s foundation dates back to the second half of the 19th century. That makes it one of the longest-serving timepiece brands in the country and the world as of today. Since the very beginning, Bulova has focused on manufacturing series of accurate clocks and watches, some of which have shaped the whole industry.
What most products from this brand have in common is that they simply can’t disappoint in the aspects of style, durability, and accuracy. As far as prices are concerned, they perfectly cater to the needs of most wristwatch enthusiasts. People shopping on a budget can still get a premium-looking watch at a moderate cost. At the same time, there’s also plenty to choose from for those that are after something fully top-end.
At this moment in time, the Bulova watch collection includes their own signature line, “Bulova”, as well as three others – Caravelle, Wittnauer and Accu Swiss. In 2008, the company was taken over by a Japanese industry giant, Citizen Watch Co.
So far, so good. But are there any weak sides of this iconic brand? And what should you watch out for before the purchase? To answer these and more questions, we will have to dig in a bit deeper.
In order to understand the whole concept of Bulova, I have prepared an overview of their rich history. You can read it or go straight to the Bulova quality review. Take your pick below!
Bulova Watches History
The start of this eventful journey dates back to as early as 1875. The company was founded in New York by a Czech immigrant named Joseph, you guessed it, Bulova.
Since his teenage years, the Bohemian migrant had a huge talent for designing jewelry. Prior to coming to the States, he had already completed training as a watchmaker in Europe. Trying to pursue his passion for the jewel in America, he got his first job as a teenager at the then-emerging company – Tiffany & Co.
After a relatively short time there, he decided he was ready to launch a business of his own. In 1875, he opened his first jewelry store in one of the posh districts of Manhattan, New York. He named his company J Bulova & Co. During the subsequent years, Bulova earned an outstanding reputation in the jewelers’ circles due to his flawless work and innovative design solutions.
In 1911, he transformed the company from a jewelry-exclusive shop to an enterprise producing and selling clocks and pocket watches. The startup capital of the newly-created company was a mere $50,000 but it increased to 1 million in no time. At that moment, Bulova’s business was already designing incredibly beautiful products, decorated with the most premium gemstones on the market.
The company was doing great. Joseph and his son Arde, who was the then-Vice President of the enterprise, were one of the first in the industry who realized an important shift in the way people wanted to use watches. In the early years of WW1, the need for wristwatches became clear as a day. The use of clocks and pocket timepieces had been steadily decreasing and, eventually, everything “moved” to the wrist.
Thanks to Bulova’s alertness, the company was one of the pioneers of the fresh watch movement. That gave them a head start which resulted in large-scale production of in-demand wristwatches. Because that, J. Bulova & Co. became the leading name in the watchmaking business during that period.
In 1923, Joseph and Arde incorporated the company and renamed it to Bulova Watch Company. In 1979 it became a subsidiary of Loews Corporation. And finally, in 2008, Citizen Watches Co. took over the company in a deal worth over $280 million. Despite name and ownership changes over the number of years, Bulova’s unique style and quality have preserved.
History of Bulova’s Firsts
In its amazing history spanning throughout all these years, Bulova was many times the pioneer of new styles and solutions. The innovative approach sparked many new movements and trends across the whole of America and beyond. The full list of Bulova’s biggest landmark moments is as follows:
Desk & Boudoir Clocks – Bulova was the first name in the industry who came up with the idea of manufacturing desk and boudoir clocks. It all started in 1911.
First Manufactory – Bulova was the first company to have standardized the production of watches on a massive scale. In 1912, Joseph Bulova opened the first manufacturing plant dedicated to producing timepieces in Biel, Switzerland. Soon after, other brands followed.
First Men-exclusive Watch Line – the last year of WWI was another breakthrough for Bulova’s enterprise. In 1919, the company released the first men-exclusive line of watches. Due to its innovative style and catchy advertising, it quickly became a huge hit amongst American men.
First Radio Ad – if setting new trends in the watchmaking industry wasn’t enough, Bulova decided to shape up the ad world as well. In 1926, the company aired its and country’s first-ever radio advertisement. The catchy line of “At the tone, its 8 PM, B-U-L-O-V-A Bulova watch time” was ringing in the ears of millions of Americans. This prompted a noticeable increase in sales and the brand’s popularity across the nation.
First Clock Radio – in 1928, Bulova released the world’s first clock radio.
First Television Commercial – setting a new trend for radio advertisements didn’t appease Bulova’s hunger. In 1941, 15 years after the radio ad, Bulova became the first company in history to air a TV commercial. It wasn’t anywhere near the length of modern-day commercials (thank God), nor was it too sophisticated. It presented a clock with a map of the United States in the background, with the voice-over in the ad stating “America runs on Bulova time”.
First-Ever School for Disabled Veterans – during his tenure as the chairman, one of Arde Bulova’s most famous initiatives was the opening of the first School for Disabled Veterans. The faculty, named Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking, was set up in Woodside, New York, in 1945. Arde “wished to repay, in some small measure, the sacrifice and service of returning disabled veterans after the Second World War.” Because of Bulova’s initiative, many of the wounded were able to become self-sustaining again.
First Entirely Electronic Watch – on the 25th of October 1960, the company released the first fully electronic watch in the world. Bulova Accutron, because that was the name of it, had been developed under the watchful eye of engineer Max Hetzel. The idea behind the name was that the watch ought to have been accurate (Accu-) and electronic (-tron). Without a doubt, it was both.
What differentiated Accutron from other watches on the market was the timekeeping element. Instead of a then-classic balance wheel, Bulova’s Accutron used a 360Hz tuning fork. Thanks to that, the ticking sound of the watch characteristic to mechanical watches was gone. Instead, Accutron was producing a high-pitched hum. The electronic sound wasn’t, of course, the only reason why Accutron became an instant hit. More importantly, because of its accuracy of up to two seconds per day, it was the most precise watch on the market at that time.
First Privately-Owned Watch on the Moon – this story will be hard to beat, even by Bulova’s own standards. The group of twelve astronauts who walked on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 all wore the standardized Omega Speedmaster watches issued by NASA.
An interesting detail was revealed by the transcripts of the Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal, though. It turned out that the mission commander, David Scott, lost his Omega watch face during the second walk on the moon surface. This in result prompted him to wear his own backup Bulova timepiece during the next excursion. The now-famous Bulova moon watch turned out to be the Moon Pilot Chronograph.
Accutron in Aerospace
The accuracy of Bulova’s Accutron didn’t go unnoticed across the country, including at the higher levels of its hierarchy. In the year of Accutron’s release, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory contacted Bulova about integrating Accutron into NASA computers for the Project Vanguard space program.
Bulova said “yes” and then developed technology for different kinds of time-measuring equipment for NASA satellites. As a result, Bulova’s timing solutions became an important part of space exploration by the United States. As many as 46 space missions were based on Bulova’s time-measuring mechanisms. What’s more, Bulova’s solutions helped shape up the U.S. initial space station – Skylab.
Bulova Watch Quality Review (+ FAQs)
Now that you have learned everything possible about how Bulova watch company was created and what were its most landmark moments, it is time to take a closer look at the quality of their watches. In this section, I’m going to answer many FAQs that will hopefully settle the main one – is Bulova a good watch brand?
Is Bulova a good quality watch?
The simple and a kind of lazy answer would be, “yes, absolutely”. A more complex and probably one that reflects the reality will go like, “it depends”. Overall, though, it is fair to assume that Bulova watches are worth the money.
As already mentioned, the company is responsible for the production of different lineups of watches. The most obvious difference between those is the pricing. And, as we know, with price comes quality. That’s why sometimes, although rarely, Bulova watches can get mixed reviews.
So, is Bulova a high-end watch? It depends on the model. It is only natural that Bulova timepieces produced in Switzerland enjoy great review scores from professional evaluators and everyday enthusiasts. The Swiss-made timepieces of Bulova are considered top-end. They often use better quality equipment (ie. higher frequency crystal) that might result in a higher accuracy of the watch. They also tend to be more durable. The Precisionist is a good example of a top-end model that gets nothing but fantastic reviews across the web.
On the other hand, we can’t forget about the mid-end and low-end Bulova products. These arrive mostly from Japan and Hong Kong, respectively. Budget Bulova watches, like the Caravelle collection, will never meet the quality and precision of the top-end models. But that doesn’t mean that the prices of those watches don’t reflect their value. In fact, I will go as far as saying that the price-to-quality ratio is just the same as in the case of the more expensive Bulova timepieces.
Most of the mixed-to-negative reviews relate to watches like the mentioned Caravelle lineup or other products outside the top-end. I wouldn’t put it down to the fact that the quality of those watches is that bad. Instead, I think some consumers think that buying a product with a “Bulova” name on it guarantees the best features on the market. This, of course, is not true. Bulova, just like any other watch brand, produces timepieces in different price ranges for a reason.
All things considered, it’s a fair assumption that most Bulova watches are of good quality that reflects their price.
Is Bulova a luxury watch brand?
Again, it all comes down to the collection from which you want to buy the watch. If you are after products in, let’s say, the Caravelle collection, then I definitely wouldn’t classify them as “luxury”.
On the other hand, if you are shopping for one of the Accu-Swiss or Precisionist models, the word “luxury” doesn’t look as out of place anymore. Many products from these two lineups definitely share some values with other luxury watch brands on the market. Those not only include a higher price and a more flashy design, but also better accuracy and durability.
Where are Bulova watches manufactured?
Bulova is a brand originating from the United States and having its headquarters there. Hence, the common misperception is that the US is the place behind the watch production. This is simply not the case. Whereas New York is still largely known for product development, there are three other countries that manufacture the watches – Japan, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.
The Japan connection is clear since the company was bought by the Asian watch conglomerate – Citizen Watch Co. Japan manufactories are mainly responsible for producing mid-priced models like Bulova Marine Star or the Sutton collection. The top-end Accu-Swiss line, as well as Precisionist and Accutron movement watches, are coming predominantly from Fribourg, Switzerland. The lower-end lineups, including the Caravelle collection, largely arrive from Hong Kong.
What movement does Bulova use?
Depending on the watch model, Bulova timepieces use various watch movements. In a nutshell, Bulova watches come in two movement types:
Over the years, some of Bulova watches have become a huge hit in the watchmaking industry due to their outstanding movement accuracy. An example of a great quality Quartz movement watch by Bulova is the Precisionist. Being one of Bulova’s most accurate watches, it uses a proprietary 262 kHz high-frequency movement that is accompanied by a fluid sweep second hand. Before the release of the Bulova Precisionist watch, this kind of movement was only seen in automatic watch movements.
A famous Bulova automatic watch movement example is the ETA2892-A2. It is used in many Bulova Accutron models including Accutron II, Accutron Astronaut or Accutron Spaceview. Some of the respected watchmakers think that the quality of this movement is better than that present in Rolex watches.
Is Bulova a respected brand?
Bulova might not be the brand that is on everyone’s lips in the modern world, but it is definitely a much-respected one.
During its amazing history stretching back more than 140 years now, it has delivered some brilliant timepieces. Few of those have impacted the industry for good (like the Accutron or the Precisionist). Thanks to its innovative ideas in the last three centuries, the company has earned a reputation as one combining durability, style, and exceptional accuracy. Hence, the current Bulova brand ranking looks really good.
The Bulova watch price range is extremely flexible which is great. Thanks to different lines of their products like Caravelle or Accu-Swiss, people with contrasting budgets can easily find their pick.
During all those years, what has changed for Bulova in the watchmaking market are the competitors. What remains the same, is the brand’s reputation to deliver stylish, accurate and affordable timepieces. What remains and grows a treat, are Bulova’s counterfeits. People sell them in large numbers both online and in hundreds of cities around the globe. Keep reading below to learn how to spot a fake Bulova product.
How can I tell if my Bulova watch is real?
Since the risk of buying a fake Bulova does exist, it is important to know what to look out for in order to spot one. I have listed 5 essential clues that will help you avoid buying a counterfeit product.
- Watch face – the first thing you should pay attention to when shopping for Bulova watches. A vast majority of Bulova timepieces bear the name “Bulova” somewhere in the face, or at least on the exterior. Brand names of different lineups (ie. Caravelle, Wittenauer or Accu-Swiss) can also appear, in combination with “Bulova”, or alone. If you can’t see any of those in the watch face, the product is most definitely a knock-off. Don’t be kidded into believing engravings like “Bulova Movement”, “Bulova Accuracy” or “Bulova Technology” – these are fakes as well.
- Serial Number – any online listing of a Bulova product will have its serial number specified. If it doesn’t, ask the seller to provide it. Once you get the number, head over to Bulova’s official website and check its validity. If a product of such number pops up, there’s a high chance the watch is genuine.
- Back symbol – any Bulova watch has some specific symbol on the back of it. Symbols will differ depending on the year of production. For watches developed in the years 1924-1945, one of the possible symbols is an asterisk next to the screw. Watches produced in 1946 or later, are usually carrying an engraved code. For watches produced up until the 1940s (starting in 1946), the code is the last two digits of the year of production. In the case of 1946, it would be “46”. For the 1950s, the code is the letter “L” followed by the last digit of the year of production. In the case of 1951, it would be “L1”. Each of the next decades, up until the 2010s, progressed by one letter.
- Decorative touches – many Bulova watch models are full of the popular Art Nouveau style. The design is usually filled with different swirls characteristic of many Bulova timepieces. Art Deco is another style that frequently appears in Bulova watches.
- Weight – genuine Bulova watches tend to be noticeably heavier than the knock-offs. This is because they use genuine materials and equipment that simply weigh more.
If all of the above still doesn’t clear your doubts, you can call Bulova at 1-800-A-BULOVA. Their representative will confirm the authenticity of the watch depending on the serial number and other characteristics you provide. A visit to a local, respected jeweler is also an option to consider.
What is the best place to buy a Bulova watch?
There are just 2 websites I would recommend when it comes to browsing for genuine Bulova watches.
First of the safe options is the obvious one, so the official website of Bulova. The thing with Bulova’s site is that it doesn’t function as an online store anymore. Nowadays, it allows you to just browse for watches. Once any watch model catches your attention, you should click on the “Find Retailer” button. This will quickly check all the retail stores in your area at which the watch is currently available.
The second website I can safely recommend for Bulova watch shopping is Amazon. Due to its rigorous stance on fake products, it is very unlikely you will encounter a counterfeit Bulova watch there. As far as the availability of different models goes, Amazon pretty much has them all. When shopping for Bulova watches on Amazon, remember to check the watch reviews and ratings before the purchase. As a rule of thumb, consider only watches that score at least 4 out of 5 stars in the quality review.
How long is the Bulova warranty?
Most of the Bulova watches come with a 3-year Limited Global Warranty. It covers failures in the watch that are down to defects in materials or workmanship. If you’ve been using the watch normally and it breaks down, the company might give you your money back or offer the same or a comparable model as a replacement. Important: this warranty is limited to the original watch owner only. For full T&Cs, click here.
Is Bulova a Good Watch Brand? The Verdict
To summarize, Bulova is definitely one of the watch brands you can trust. The company has been around for nearly 150 years already, and during its time of existence, it hasn’t disappointed many customers. What’s more, it has produced some industry-changing watches of which impact can still be felt today. So, my answer to the question “is Bulova a good brand of a watch” can be nothing else but YES.
Sure, by buying the low-end Bulova models you won’t get all the fancy features and looks of the more expensive equivalents. But please, let’s not forget that every other brand has a varying quality of watches depending on their pricing. With Bulova, you really get what you pay for. And by saying that I mean; you get a quality that truly reflects the Bulova watch price.
If you are on a budget, go for the lower-end lineups like Caravelle. If money is the least of your worries, go full-on and get the standout in the Swiss watch brands ranking, the Accu-Swiss. Either way, you shouldn’t have many complaints.