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The Complete Buying Guide to Bulova Watches

The historically American brand offers value and some genuine classics.

bulova watches
Bulova

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Over its long history, Bulova has earned a place as one of the great American watch companies and left its cultural mark. Having outfitted soldiers and astronauts, the brand today might be quieter than in its heyday but is still going strong — and it offers plenty of interest and value for watch collectors and newbies alike.

Bulova history and collector perception

Bulova is a brand with significant historical presence and a number of notable watches in its back catalog. Founded in 1875 in New York by Bohemian immigrant Joseph Bulova, it played a part in the United States status as a watchmaking powerhouse in decades past, alongside brands like Hamilton, Waltham, Elgin and others. The brand is also well known for innovation like its 1960 Accutron tuning fork-based (the origin of Bulova's logo) technology, and high-accuracy quartz movements have continued to be part of its persona.

Bulova today turns out watches in considerable volume, often aimed at a relatively budget market. Although the brand's many watches with quartz and basic mechanical movements from (Citizen sister brand) Miyota seem more mass-market- than collector-oriented, it also offers a number of models that tug at enthusiasts' heartstrings. Remakes of legacy models like the Lunar Pilot, Oceanographer and those made for the military are still fun for collectors, but its own quartz technology such as that found in the Precisionist and Curv collections is also interesting and impressive.

Where are Bulova watches made?

Bulova was founded in New York and maintains its headquarters there, but like most modern companies, the picture is a little more complicated than those facts would suggest. Despite its American origin, it doesn't produce watches in the United States (almost no one does). Owned by the Japanese conglomerate Citizen since 2007, you'll find some models produced in Japan or Hong Kong while higher-end models have the Swiss-made designation.

Which Bulova models are "best?"

You'll have to decide for yourself which is your favorite. Below, however, we've gathered some of the most notable and representative models, broken down by collection, so you'll have the context to do just that.

Archive Series

The Archive Series is exactly what it sounds like: it focuses on bringing back popular or notable watches from the brand's catalog. Like many reissue watches popular today, the majority hail from the 1960s and '70s, and there are some damn cool ones. Watches in this collection can range from relatively affordable at a few hundred bucks to some of Bulova's most expensive models.

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Bulova Lunar Pilot
bulova.com
$562.50

The Lunar Pilot is sometimes playfully referred to as the "other Moonwatch." Yes, it went to the Moon, but not in the same way Omega's Speedmaster did. It's got a hell of a story to tell, and offers a lot of value for the cool look and talking points it packs in with the brand's high-performance quartz movement. It's a classic in any of its several configurations.

Diameter: 45mm
Movement
: Bulova NP20 high-performance quartz
Water Resistance: 50m

Bulova Oceanographer
bulova.com
$600.00

First, you've just got to love the "Devil Diver" nickname of this 666ft (200m) water-resistant dive watch. The Oceanographer, as it's formally called, recreates a vintage watch from the 1970s, which in its modern form boasts an automatic Miyota movement and a couple different color variations, each as compelling as the next.

Diameter: 44mm
Movement
: Miyota 821D automatic
Water Resistance: 200m

Bulova Chronograph A
bulova.com
$2,950.00

Featuring a Swiss automatic chronograph movement, this is one of Bulova's priciest watches. It's based on a model from the 1970s nicknamed the "Surfboard," obviously due to the elongated motif at the dial's center — but with a 200m water resistance, you could actually take it surfing. Also check out the Chronograph C for another retro stopwatch but at a more affordable price point.

Diameter: 38.5mm
Movement
: Sellita SW510 automatic
Water Resistance: 200m

Bulova Computron
bulova.com
$316.00

Handsome vintage watches are all fine and good, but it's just wonderful that you can also find funky ones like this being remade. From the early days of LED watches, it just screams 1970s and comes in a gold version with red display or steel version with blue.

Diameter: 31mm
Movement
: Quartz
Water Resistance: 30m

Military

To be clear, these are reissued historical military watches rather than those produced for today's militaries. Bulova separates these out from the civilian-oriented models in its Archive collection, but the concept is similar.

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Bulova Hack
bulova.com
$360.00

In the 1950s and '60s Bulova made watches for the US military to the specification known as MIL-W-3818A. You can just call it the Hack watch — so named for its ability to stop the seconds hand when setting the time, as was critical for military purposes. With a Miyota movement inside that also offers this feature, you've got a pretty faithful reissue of that soldier's watch but in a slightly bigger package.

Diameter: 38mm
Movement
: Miyota 82S0 automatic
Water Resistance: 30m

Bulova A-15 Pilot
bulova.com
$556.00

Based on an obscure watch prototyped (tested but never mass produced) for the US air force in 1944, the Bulova A-15 offers a cool pilot look. It also offers some functionality in addition to three-hand time telling with two crowns that allow you to rotate discs on the dial and track elapsed time and a second time zone.

Diameter: 42mm
Movement
: Miyota 82S6 automatic
Water Resistance: 30m

Bulova Mil Ships
bulova.com
$716.00

Like the A-15 above, the Mil-Ships watch was a prototype that never saw production. It was developed for the US navy with some features that were later made famous by the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. It makes for an affordable alternative to that iconic watch, but with its own interesting story. (There's also a limited edition version with a Swiss movement $1,990.)

Diameter: 41mm
Movement
: Miyota 82S0
Water Resistance: 200m

Joseph Bulova

These are classical watches meant to honor the brand's founder and based on styles from the early age of wristwatches — i.e., the 1920s, '30s and '40s. All are limited editions and feature the Swiss Made label with automatic movements inside and premium materials like sapphire crystal. Below are a couple examples, but the full collection comprises around a dozen models.

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Bulova Joseph Bulova Banker
bulova.com
$995.00

Just about any watch from the early 20th century is going to have a formal look by modern standards, but a case shape not often seen today keeps this model interesting. Called the Banker and available in a few different dial variations, you've got to love those bold Arabic numerals.

Diameter: 33mm
Movement
: Sellita SW200 automatic
Water Resistance: 30m

Bulova Joseph Bulova Chronograph
bulova.com
$2,495.00

Topping out the Joseph Bulova range in terms of price are a pair of automatic chronograph watches with either light or dark dials and classical looks. The 1940s inspiration is evident, but the 42mm diameter is made for modern tastes.

Diameter: 42mm
Movement
: Sellita SW500 automatic
Water Resistance: 30m

Curve

Bulova did something unexpected when it created the first chronograph watch in which the movement itself is actually curved. It might be a little hard to imagine, but that means that many of the components inside need to be produced to follow an arc. The result is technically interesting and ergonomic as it can better wrap around your wrist.

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Bulova Curv Chronograph
bulova.com
$796.00

The Curv watches have modern, avant-garde look meant to emphasize their innovative tech inside. These curved movements feature the brand's high-performance quartz and show it off both with translucent dials and exhibition casebacks like those more commonly found on mechanical watches.

Diameter: 44mm
Movement
: Bulova NR20 quartz
Water Resistance: 30m

Marine Star

Just as you'd guess from its name, Marine Star is Bulova's aquatic-themed collection. These include dive and sailing-inspired watches with options ranging between simple dive watches, bold chronographs and even automatic watches featuring "open heart" (cutouts to display the movements balance wheel) dials.

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Bulova Marine Star
bulova.com
$280.00

This bold, 43mm quartz dive-style watch looks like an affordable alternative to the IWC Aquatimer. It's rated to 100m of water resistance, but that should sufficient for almost any activity you're likely to do with it.

Diameter: 43mm
Movement
: Quartz
Water Resistance: 100m

Precisionist

The fascinating tuning-fork movements Bulova introduced in 1960 as Accutron were eventually superseded by quartz technology, but the brand continued to innovate. Accutron's legacy morphed into developments and names like Accu-Swiss and Accu-Quartz, and today it's represented by the Precisionist (though the tech is used in other collections, too). These watches feature the brand's most advanced quartz movements that operate at eight times the frequency of typical quartz (262kHz vs 32,768Hz), with a chronograph that measures 1/1000 of a second, offering a promised accuracy within seconds per year and a smoothly sweeping (instead of jumping) seconds hand.

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Bulova Precisionist X
bulova.com
$971.25

You can get some high-end models with the likes of precious metals in the Precisionist collection, but this one looks cool with Damascus steel and a serious vibe. It might not have a tame presence, but this Precisionist X is actually one of the line's more toned-down models with a 44.5mm case and green lume on its hands/dial.

Diameter: 44.5mm
Movement
: Bulova NN50 quartz
Water Resistance: m

Regatta

The Regatta collection is the brand's offering for affordable, fashion-oriented dress watches with a classical style. What's notable about these watches is that they're nice and thin, as you'd want a dress watch to be. Most models are quartz and come in a few dial colors and bracelet/strap options, but there are also a couple of "open heart" automatics.

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Bulova Regatta Classic
bulova.com
$270.00

This model features a black dial and two-tone case and bracelet — a combination of steel and gold tones that people tend to love or hate. If two-tone's not your thing, there are plenty of other styles to choose from, and none are terribly expensive but offer scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.

Diameter: 38mm
Movement
: Bulova 9T22 quartz
Water Resistance: 30m

Caravelle

Caravelle is treated more like a sub-brand rather than a Bulova collection. Here you can find a wide range of very budget-friendly styles to fit just about any tastes or needs. They retail starting at around $100 and don't go over $300. Below are just a couple examples, but there's much more to browse.

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Caravelle Traditional
bulova.com
$100.00

A simple design with a cool bracelet style and a backlight feature, what's not to like for around $100? And it's "railroad approved" (says so on the dial)!

Diameter: 40mm
Movement
: Quartz
Water Resistance: 30m

Caravelle Retro
bulova.com
$75.00

The name kinda says it all with this '60s sport watch style. That 40mm tonneau case, red and black bezel with matching NATO strap and crosshair dial? Easy to like, and even easier at its price.

Diameter: 40mm
Movement
: Quartz
Water Resistance: 50m

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