Bulova is a manufacturer of watches and clocks. Its headquarters is located in New York City. Bulova's Swiss-Made line is known as Bulova Accu•Swiss or formerly, Bulova Accutron. It is owned by Citizen Watch Co.
Bulova was founded and incorporated as the J. Bulova Company in 1875 by Joseph Bulova (1851 – November 18, 1936), an immigrant from Bohemia. It was reincorporated under the name Bulova Watch Company in 1923, and became part of the Loews Corporation in 1979 and sold to Citizen at the end of 2007.
In 1912, he launched his first plant dedicated entirely to the production of watches. Manufacturing watches at their factory in Biel (Switzerland), Bulova began a standardised mass production never seen in the world of watchmaking until then. In 1919, Joseph Bulova offered the first complete range of watches for men. The iconic visual style of his first popular advertising made its watches popular with the American public. But beyond the original style, precision and technological research additionally became an endless quest for Bulova. In 1927, he set up an observatory on the roof of a skyscraper located at 580 fifth Avenue to make measurements that would enable him to determine quite precisely universal time.
Bulova established its operations in Woodside, New York, and Flushing, New York, where it made innovations in watchmaking, and developed a number of watchmaking tools. Its horological innovations included the watch, which used a resonating tuning fork as a means of regulating the time-keeping function.
Bulova became a renowned watch company in 1923. Bulova produced the first advertisement broadcast on radio in 1926, announcing the first beep of history: ‘At the tone, it’s eight o’clock, Bulova Watch Time’, an announcement heard by millions of Americans. In 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh was the first pilot to cross the Atlantic nonstop. His crossing earned him a Bulova Watch and a cheque for $1000, and it became an emblem for the brand that created the model "Lone Eagle" in his likeness. Bulova claims to have been the first manufacturer to offer electric clocks beginning in 1931, but the Warren Telechron Company began selling electric clocks in 1912, 19 years prior to Bulova. In the 1930s and 1940s, the brand was a huge success with its rectangular plated watches whose case was strongly curved to better fit the curve of the wrist.
Bulova produced the world's first official television commercial, on July 1, 1941, before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies over New York station WNBT (now WNBC). The announcement, for which the company paid anywhere from $4.00 to $9.00 (reports vary), displayed a WNBT test pattern modified to look like a clock with the hands showing the time. The Bulova logo, with the phrase "Bulova Watch Time", was shown in the lower right-hand quadrant of the test pattern while the second hand swept around the dial for one minute.
At one time in the 1940s, Bulova made a few examples of their complex four sided, five-dial per side "sports timer" game clock for use in NHL pro ice hockey games and for the nascent NBA pro basketball league of that time, used for indoor sports arenas such as Boston Garden, Chicago Stadium and the Detroit Olympia through to the last example being taken out of service in Chicago in 1976, all replaced by digital-display game timepieces.
The Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking was founded in 1945 by Arde Bulova, Chairman of the Board, initially to provide training for disabled veterans after the Second World War. The school later became a full-fledged rehabilitation facility, an advocate for disabled people nationwide, and one of the founders of wheelchair sports in America. The school closed in 1993.
In 1967, Bulova bought the Manufacture des montres Universal Perret Frères SA at Geneva and sold it in December 1977. The factory in Biel was closed in 1983.
Bulova’s "Accutron" watches, first sold in October 1960, use a 360 hertz tuning fork instead of a balance wheel as the timekeeping element. The inventor, Max Hetzel, was born in Basel, Switzerland, and joined the Bulova Watch Company of Bienne, Switzerland, in 1948. The tuning fork was powered by a one-transistor electronic oscillator circuit, so the Accutron qualifies as the first "electronic watch". Instead of the ticking sound made by mechanical watches, the Accutron had a faint, high pitch hum which came from the vibrating tuning fork. A forerunner of modern quartz watches which additionally keep time with a vibrating resonator, the Accutron was guaranteed to be accurate to a minute per month, or 2 seconds per day, considerably better than mechanical watches of the time.
The tuning fork movement was a horological revolution. Previously, electronically regulated timepieces were limited to a few scientific instruments, being too large for a personal watch. The Accutron was additionally the first wristwatch precise enough to qualify for U.S. railroad certification. A wristwatch regularly moves in all possible directions, as opposed to a pocket watch which spends the vast majority of its life either mostly vertical or mostly horizontal. Prior to the Accutron, that movement affected the precision of all wristwatches to a degree which precluded railroad certification, even for the best made and most expensive chronometer certified wristwatches. The ability to legitimately claim the Accutron as the most precise wristwatch in existence was a tremendous boon for the company. Unfortunately for Bulova, in 1969 the Seiko Astron, the first mass-produced quartz movement watch, hit store shelves. Because the quartz movement wristwatch was easier and cheaper to manufacture, Seiko was able to sell watches more precise (15 seconds per month) than Accutron at a much lower cost.
Bulova began the 17 year manufacture of the tuning fork Accutron with its round 214 movement in 1960, which departed from typical wristwatch design in that there was no setting stem and crown on the side of the watch. Instead, the stem and crown were placed on the back of the case. While used mainly in men's wristwatches, they additionally manufactured a number of different desk clocks using the 214 movement. In 1965 they introduced the 218 movement, with a setting stem and crown at the 4 o'clock position, rather than the more traditional wristwatch placement at 3 o'clock. Later iterations of the 218 movement placed the stem and crown at 3 o'clock, as did the 219, 221, 224 and 230.
In 1972 came the 219, and in 1973 the "Accuquartz" 224. All of these are "full sized" movements, ranging from 28.7 to 29.7 mm in diameter, and were used in men's watches. The timekeeping in the 224 was actually regulated by a quartz crystal, but it still incorporated a tuning fork as the source of motive power for the gear train. For women’s watches, they introduced the smaller, round, 19.4 mm 230 movement (there was additionally a 23.5 mm version) in 1970, and the basically rectangular 19.4 by 17.4 mm 2210 in 1973. Both the 221 and the 230 were additionally used in a few men's watches. The photos to the left depict (top photo) the back of a 218 movement and (bottom photo) the front of a 214 movement, which is shown in a Spaceview Accutron, and was perhaps the first mass-produced visible movement wristwatch.
Ironically, the Spaceview was never intended to be sold by Bulova. It was a salesman's demonstration tool and a display model for jewelers. While Bulova used a solid gold Spaceview in an intensive advertising campaign for the new Accutron, they only expected to sell a few hundred, strictly to distributing jewellers for use as a merchandising display; however a large number of customers, seeing the watch in the window, wished to purchase it. Realizing that there was a consumer demand, Bulova started manufacturing kits which allowed jewellers to convert normal 214s, came up with the name "Spaceview" and started manufacturing them in stainless steel and gold filled for retail sale. They later additionally made gold electroplated versions. The popularity of the Spaceview today is second only to that of the 214 Astronaut.
Bulova made its last tuning fork movement wristwatches in 1977. That year they additionally started making quartz watches. Subsequently, all of Bulova's electronic watches used quartz movements, although they kept selling them under the Accutron label. This can lead to confusion on the part of persons seeking to obtain a "real" Accutron. In order to avoid paying a tuning fork price for an Accutron with a quartz movement, the date code must be checked, except for 214s, 218s with a 4 o'clock stem and crown, 218 Travelers, 218 Astronaut IIs, and 218 Deep Seas, all of which are easily recognizable. Located on the back of the case, it consists of a letter followed by a number. The letter is the decade (M=1960s, N=1970s) and the number is the specific year within that decade. Therefore, an Accutron with a date code that falls within M0 and N6, inclusive, will have been manufactured with a tuning fork movement. Most with a code of N7 will also, but it is necessary to open the back and view the movement to be absolutely certain. Note: An alternate method of determining if the movement is tuning fork or quartz requires that the movement is running and has a seconds hand (some ladies movements do not). The seconds hand of the tuning fork movement will smoothly sweep around the dial, whereas the quartz movement will tick the seconds.
An Accutron with a 224 movement, which should be labelled "Accuquartz" on its dial, is a hybrid movement, with its timekeeping actually regulated by a quartz crystal rather than by the tuning fork itself. Many consider these to be collectible because they were only made for 5 years, resulting in a low total production number and corresponding rarity today. When Bulova ceased tuning fork movement production in 1977, they additionally stopped making components; however recently manufactured Accutrons still came in for repair. It didn't take long for them to run out of parts, and they started replacing tuning fork movements with quartz movements. More than 4 million tuning fork Accutrons were sold by the time production stopped in 1977.
In the 1960s, the company was involved in a notable Space Age rivalry with Omega Watches to be selected as the 'first watch on the moon'. Ultimately, Bulova either didn't or couldn't certify the Accutron as dustproof. The Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph wristwatch (known as the "Moon watch") was designated by NASA for use by the astronauts in all manned space missions, fitting the first watch on the moon on the wrist of Buzz Aldrin.
All instrument panel clocks and time-keeping mechanisms in the spacecraft on those missions were Bulova Accutrons with tuning fork movements, because at the time, NASA didn't know how well a mechanical movement would work in low gravity conditions. An Accutron 214 movement was placed on the moon in a communications relay device by the first moon landing mission. The U.S. government had used the 214 in military satellites, and had even prevailed on Bulova to delay the commercial release of the Accutron to prevent the Soviet Union from obtaining the technology throughout the Cold War.
A little known fact, Bulova had been a contender for the NASA trials to find the right watch to be worn by the astronauts. While Omega’s Speedmaster won the right to be the Official NASA watch, Bulova’s Accutron timing devices were used on 46 NASA missions throughout the 1950s and ‘60’s. During the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 – the first moon landing – an Accutron timer was placed in a communications relay device and placed in the Sea of Tranquility to help control vital data transmissions.
In 1971, a Bulova chronograph was carried on board Apollo 15 – the fourth mission to land men on the moon — by mission commander David R. Scott. Of the dozen men that walked on the moon, all wore standard Omega Speedmaster watches that had been officially issued by NASA. Those watches are deemed to be government property. Notwithstanding transcripts from the Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal attest to the fact that throughout his second excursion to the moon’s surface, the crystal on his Official Omega watch had popped off. So, throughout his third lunar walk, he used his backup Bulova watch.
The Bulova Chronograph Model #88510/01 that Scott wore on the lunar surface was expected to fetch more than $1 million, as it is the only privately owned watch to have walked the lunar surface. There are images of him wearing this watch, when he saluted the American flag on the moon, with the Hadley Delta expanse in the background. That Apollo 15 third excursion lasted 4 hours, 49 minutes and 50 seconds. The watch shows “significant wear from exposure while on the moon, and from splashdown and recovery.”
The Bulova company briefly manufactured a limited edition "Astronaut" model under its Accutron line of watches. The back of the watch case is autographed by Buzz Aldrin. The tuning fork movement has been discontinued by Bulova, and the current Astronaut model features automatic ETA SA movement.
On January 10, 2008, Citizen bought the Bulova Watch Company for $250 million. Together they're the world's largest watchmaker. In 2013 Gregory B. Thumm was named the president of Bulova, after having previously held the senior vice president post at Fossil Group heading product development after 2004.
Currently Bulova designs, manufactures, and markets several different brands, including: the signature "Bulova", the stylish "Caravelle New York", the dressy/formal Swiss-made "Wittnauer Swiss", and the quite popular "Marine Star". In 2014 Bulova ceased the sale of watches under the "Accutron" and "Accutron by Bulova" brand, eliminating a few Accutron models and subsuming others under the "Bulova" brand.
In 2010, Bulova introduced the Precisionist, a new type of quartz watch with a higher frequency crystal (144 Hz, eight times the industry standard 262768 Hz) which is claimed to be accurate to ±10 seconds per year ( 32ppm) and has a smooth sweeping second hand rather than one that jumps each second. 0.32
The Precisionist's second hand is even smoother than high beat automatic watches such as Rolex Submariner or Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000, because it runs at 16 beats per second (57,600 bph), compared to the Rolex movement's 8 beats per second (28,800 bph) and the Seiko at 10 beats per second (36,000 bph).
The Bulova Precisionist movement is thin enough to be used inside ladies watches, and can run on a CR2016 type battery for at least 3 years.
In 2013, Bulova rebranded "Caravelle by Bulova", its entry range of watches, as "Caravelle New York" to reflect the line's switch to a more stylish range of watches exclusively designed in New York City by the Bulova Corporation.
In 2014, Bulova rebranded the "Accutron" line as "Bulova AccuSwiss" to further differentiate the Swiss Bulova line. They then introduced a new line of watches under the "Bulova Accutron II" brand that features vintage Accutron watch designs fitted with a modified Precisionist movement, which better reflects the heritage of the Accutron brand.
In April 2015, Bulova moved its Global Headquarters to the iconic Empire State Building in NYC.