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In the middle of the 20th century, the Bulova name was absolutely everywhere. After Joseph Bulova founded the company in 1875 and they began producing their own timepieces a few decades later, they grew into a pioneering watch brand that made great strides in design, production and even marketing. The first-ever television advertisement, for any company, as noted by Guinness World Records, was a 1941 spot that declared, “America runs on Bulova time.”
These days, you may be more familiar with the company’s specific watches than the brand itself, as they have a number of pieces that have become icons themselves: the astronaut-favorite Lunar Pilot, the nickname-usurping Devil Diver and the electronic Accutron among them. But while their historic releases still hold sway on wrists and watch blogs the world over, the company continues to unveil reworked classics and brand new designs worth considering for your collection.
These days, Bulova price points start at an accessible $200 and climb up to around $4,500 for their limited-edition watches. If you’re chiefly concerned with movements, the brand offers both automatics and high-performance quartz models. For styles, it’s dealer’s choice: from rugged field watches to dress pieces to divers. Bulova’s goal in the 21st century, it would seem, is to be a one-stop shop: you tell them the occasion, they’ve got a timepiece to match.
To parse through the hundreds of watches available, we’ve selected our favorite Bulova pieces that stand out among the many different styles.
Chronograph Watches: Bulova Lunar Pilot
The Lunar Pilot is the most famous timepiece Bulova has ever produced, thanks to one owner: astronaut David Scott. The story goes like this: NASA officially issued Omega watches for the Apollo 15 mission, but the crystal popped off Scott’s piece during a stroll on the Moon, so he strapped on his backup — a Bulova chronograph that went on to be called the Lunar Pilot. The modern iteration is a faithful recreation, but with an ultra-high frequency quartz movement (262 kHz) instead of a mechanical hand-wound movement. Don’t let that update dissuade you: the watch, which was updated this year to include a more wearable 43.5mm model, has made it on our list of favorite chronographs and quartz watches.
Field Watches: Bulova Hack Watch
The modern field watch should be tough, legible and utilitarian, but handsome enough to wear just about everywhere. Among Bulova’s line of military-inspired pieces, you’ll find the trusty Hack Watch, which checks all those boxes. We specifically like the lighter cream dial for easy reading during the day, plus luminescent hands and hour markers for the same at night.
Dive Watches: Bulova Devil Diver
Like the Lunar Pilot, the Devil Diver was not officially released under that moniker, but adopted it thanks to its 666 feet of water resistance. (The eye-catching orange and black color scheme, which extends onto the rotating bezel, certainly helps that case; though it’s also available in green and black.) While there’s plenty of utility here to bolster its rep (screw-down crown, ISO certification, Miyota automatic movement), the best case for the Devil Diver is its timeless design (chunky hands, cushion-style case, Halloween aesthetics).
GMT Watches: Bulova Oceanographer GMT
Bulova offers a few different GMT watches with a second time zone hand, including in their dressy Wilton style, but this model is particularly interesting for pairing that functionality with the Devil Diver styling. The Oceanographer GMT, one of our favorite new releases of the fall, features a Miyota 9075 movement in all three editions, which include a classic red-and-blue Pepsi design and black-and-brown Rootbeer both with 24-hour bezels, as well as a heftier diving-inclined edition with an ion-plated case, timing bezel and lume on the dial, hands and even the bezel. Yeah, you’ll want to consider that one.
Archival Watches: Bulova Jet Star Complecto Special Edition
Bulova has done an admirable job of carrying the legacy of their monumental watches into the future with regular archival reissues, and that trend continues with a recent surprise: the Complecto Jet Star. A watch enthusiast community focused on diversity, inclusion and accessibility, Complecto partnered up with Bulova to reimagine a funky piece from 1973, which was released as a limited-edition, individually-numbered model in October. The new Jet Star is immediately defined by its angular turtle case and dégradé dial, but holds its own in the movement department with Bulova’s precise 262 kHz quartz. One of the best horological values of the year? You’ve found it.
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