History of Vintage Bulova Watches

From Humble Beginnings . . .

Now located in the Woodside neighborhood of Queens, New York, Bulova has been making watches and clocks since it was established by Joseph Bulova in 1875. At that time, the Bohemian immigrant opened up a little jewelry store in New York City. (The founder died in 1935). No one would have believed at that point that Bulova would become the distinguished watch and clock maker it is today. Bulova has always been an expert maker of timepieces, evidenced by the fact that its sales have been unrivaled throughout the years.

A New Kind of Watch – The Wristwatch

In 1911, the company began producing and offering pocket watches and clocks, which sold so well that Bulova opened a plant in Bienne Switzerland that concentrated on the manufacture of fine watches with jeweled movements. Soon thereafter, in 1919, Bulova, being the innovator it has always been, introduced an unparalleled line of men’s wristwatches. These watches proved to be more practical to soldiers in World War I than the standard pocket watch at the time.

A Building with a “Watchtower”

In 1920, the Bulova Watch Company moved into offices on Fifth Avenue in New York City. An observatory was constructed on the top of the building for taking measurements in sidereal time. Also noteworthy is the fact that the observatory was the first “watchtower” (no pun intended) ever to be situated upon a skyscraper.

Standardization of Watch Parts

During this time in the company’s history, watches were manually made. As can be imagined, the process was not only intricate but took up a great deal of production time too. In addition, if a watch needed to be repaired and required a new part, the watchmaker had to painstakingly craft another part for the watch’s assembly. Much time and money was expended using this method. As a result, Bulova began standardizing watch parts in 1923, and was the first watchmaker to do so. Therefore, if watches needed repair, service could be more easily facilitated as all the parts were the same in each of the watches made.

A Watch Designed in Commemoration of the World Series

Standardization led to the introduction, in 1924, of the first ladies’ watches in the marketplace. Bulova also, in the same year, produced the watch that was awarded to winning baseball World Series manager Bucky Harris of the Washington Senators. The special watch was presented by President Calvin Coolidge. A new watch named the President was styled to commemorate the event.

Automatic Watches by Bulova

During the 50’s, the company started incorporating more automatic watches into its line. Automatic watches did not need to be manually wound as the main springs in the watches were activated by the arm motion of the watch wearer. In fact, in 1954, the Bulova 23 automatic watch was introduced, the “23” referring to the watch’s 23 jewel movement. In that year, famed Second World War general Omar Bradley joined the Bulova Company in the capacity of Chairman of the Board over the company’s research and development labs. He held that position until he retired in 1973.

The Accutron Line by Bulova

Bulova became a leading participant in the “Space Program” in the 60s too. The Accutron brand of timekeeping was instituted into NASA’s computers as well. In 1967, the Accutron clock was used on Air Force One.

Recent Developments

Bulova changed its name from the Bulova Watch Company to the Bulova Corporation in 1988. Most recently, in January 2008, Citizen bought Bulova. Together these two watch manufacturers have combined forces to become the world’s largest producer of watches.

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