How to Identify Vintage Bulova Watches

A Premium Brand
Bulova is a premium manufacturer of watches. It’s been in business since 1875, when Joseph Bulova, the founder and an immigrant of Bohemia, opened up a small jewelry shop in New York. The company has always been innovative in its selling approach, thereby continually offering a line of fine and classic timepieces. In 1911, Bulova established a manufacturing facility in Bienne Switzerland, built specifically for the production of quality watches featuring jeweled movements.

Types of Bulovas
Vintage Bulova watches come in a number of series or brands, besides the signature Bulova watch. These brands or lines include:

  • The Caravelle
  • The Swiss Wittnauer
  • The Accutron

Making Distinctions
While the Caravelle is a more economical watch line, the Wittnauer Swiss model watches by Bulova are designed for formalwear. Accutron vintage watches are probably the most famous collectibles and are sporty in styling. The first Accutron or Model 214 watch was sold in October 1960. The Bulova Accutron 214 is considered the world’s first electronic watch and was certified for use by railroad employees in 1962. Previously, railroad engineers carried pocket watches. The watch was such a revolutionary timepiece that it was buried on the grounds of the New York World’s Fair in 1964, not to be retrieved for a period of 5,000 years. The watch was among 43 other items that were considered to be ingenious and cutting-edge at the time, all invented during the last quarter century.

Inspect the Watch Closely
Therefore, vintage Bulova watches, are invariably collectibles that carry a good deal of value. To I.D. these kinds of timepieces, you’ll need to secure a strong magnifying lens. Survey the watch with the magnifier on the front and back. Look for the brand “Bulova,” which is typically imprinted on the face of the timepiece or on the metal in the back of the watch. In addition, you’ll also want to locate the code for the watch, which can be found on the back or on the watch movement. For example, if you have a watch from the 1950s, it will be represented by the letter “L.” Therefore, a watch made in 1954 would have the code L4 affixed to it while a watch made in 1958 would reveal the code L8.

Bulova Codes for the 60s and 70s
Bulova timepieces made in the 60s are represented by the letter M. If you have a watch made in 1966, then the code on the watch would be M6. Or, if the watch was made, say, in 1961, the code stamped on the watch would be M1. The 70s are designated by the letter N. Thus, a watch made in 1976 would come with a code of N6 while a watch made in 1979 would reveal the code N9.

Identifying Early Bulovas – Codes in the Form of Symbols
Earlier watches are often notated with symbols, especially those watches made from the year 1924 upward until 1948. For example, watches made in 1924 will be distinguished with an asterisk or *. Watches made in 1925 show a circle for their code while watches made in 1926 will reveal a triangle. Watches made in 1927 and 1928 will show a square and half moon respectively. However, you may have to verify your findings with a qualified jeweler or appraiser as watches made in 1944, for example, denote the same symbol (a circle) as those watches made in 1925 and 1934. Likewise, watches made in 1945 show a triangle, or the same symbol as watches made in 1926 and 1935.

Vintage Watches 1946 to 1948
Watches made from 1946 to 1948 typically are inscribed with the number 46, 47 or 48, or the last two numbers for the year.

Confirm your Findings
Needless to say, when you find a vintage Bulova watch that has a symbol imprinted on it, you can be assured that you are indeed a possessor of a vintage watch. As previously mentioned, if you are unsure about the precise date, check your findings with a jewelry appraiser or vintage watch dealer.

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