After the questionable value proposition which was the Timex M79, Bulova has struck at a similar market for affordable vintage-inspired watches. Bulova has released two watches inspired by the mid-20th century military watches which once formed the backbone of this brand. Are they any good or do they fall short of the mark?
Bulova is a misleading brand. Their multitude of high-tech quartz watches and Citizen ownership would suggest that they aim for a crisp, modern market. However, time and time again they combine their rich and, in many ways ‘blue-collar’ history of watchmaking with their modern offerings. Perhaps this is unsurprising considering that they were the first brand to produce a TV advert.
Today, I announce the release of two (arguably three) new watches which encapsulate the military history of this brand. In recent times, the market for vintage military watches has extended its interest far beyond the Rolex ‘Milsub’. Today, we see a market for the more mundane and common military issue watches especially from the Second World War. This is where these Bulovas find their origins.
Military Bulova ‘Hack’ Watch
The first in this belligerent duo is the ‘Hack’ which derives its name from its headline feature: hacking seconds. Becoming prevalent during the Second World War when American soldiers needed to synchronise watches, hacking was an important addition to the rudimentary and basic watches which they were issued with. Whilst I do not intend to make this a history lesson, the watch recreated by Bulova is, curiously, not a variant seen during this conflict. In the 1940s, the iconic A11 was the most successful of these watches whilst the one offered by Bulova is far more similar to the A17 from the Vietnam War era.
In this watch, Bulova has enlarged the case for modern tastes but kept it well within the bounds of elegance. Its 38mm case is available either with a a dark coating or in bare steel. Whilst steel will likely be more durable, the dark coating is a clever way to replicate the base metal cases used as a cheaper material in the origins. Most conspicuously, the dials of these watches come in black or white with only the former being historically accurate. Somehow, I doubt that this my historical quibbles matter at this price…
Even so, serving their function as field watches, these watches adhere to their histories more closely than you would expect with unthreaded crowns yielding a merely splashproof case. Likewise, the crystals used are merely mineral glass which simply doesn’t keep up with competition from Hamilton or Laco, to name only two. However, for those in search of an affordable alternative to one of Longines’ military re-editions, it is an appealing choice if not the best value.
Bulova Military A15
Where the ‘Hack’ gives one a taste of Bulova military watches issued to simply tell the time, the A-15 is a much more curious and functional device. Where specifications are concerned, this design from improves the ‘Hack’ with a sapphire crystal and gives you a design built specifically for the needs of a pilot.
Devised in a time when the range of military aircraft was growing significantly, navigation in treacherous conditions could no longer be a dangerous game for the few bravest. Instead, it had to be a consistent science which necessitated navigation by radio and with the use of landmarks. With two rotating bezels operated by the crowns, the A-15 pilot’s watch was the tool for the job.
In modern form, the watch is a sensible 42mm in diameter to give space for the double bezels. The upper crown operates the outer bezel whilst the lower crown takes care of the inner. With these and the luminous but nonetheless classic onion hands, this watch could be a budget companion which gives plenty of complication. On a side note, this would also be a lovely fix for those who love Patek Philippe’s pilot’s Calatrava models but do not intend to devote such a budget to a watch.
Inside these watches beat variants of the hugely successful Miyota 8000 series movement. This comes as no surprise as the entry level movement from Bulova’s parent brand, Citizen. However, they both offer hacking: a feature long desired in this range of traditionally rudimentary movements. With priced starting at USD 395 for the ‘Hack’, the movement selected is the 82S0 which, like all movements in the 8000 series has a slower 3 Hz beat rate. Where the Miyota 82S6 in the A15 is concerned, we see similar specifications and the same ‘open heart’ construction despite neither an exhibition caseback nor a skeletonised dial being present.
Across the watch industry, the concept of an affordable, vintage-inspired military watch has been widely experimented with. Each brand has a very different market and appeal as, for instance, most Hamilton customers may be more interested in a dignified and versatile Jazzmaster before choosing the odd but delightful manually-wound Khaki Field.
By the same token, Bulova has not placed too much emphasis on the specifications of this watch which consequently do not stand up too well next to alternatives. This, though, is beside the point as these watches represent a brand resurrecting designs which would otherwise disappear amongst the pages of history. They also haven’t resorted to aged Super LumiNova — something far too often relied upon for a vintage touch. What do you think?
Availability: Bulova Hack Watch: USD 395 – 450 | Bulova A-15 Pilot Watch: USD 695
Bulova Hack Watch
- Dimensions: 38mm x 13.45mm
- Material: Stainless Steel or Stainless Steel with aged coating
- Crystal: Mineral
- Display: Black or cream dial / Arabic numerals for 12 & 24-hour graduations / Cathedral hands with luminous filling / Luminous pips on each hour marker / Red used for 24-hour graduations on the black variant
- Water Resistance: 30m / 100ft / 3 ATM
- Movement: Miyota 82S0: Time / Hacking seconds / Automatic & manual winding / 21 jewels / 3Hz, 21,600 vph, 6 ticks-per-second / 42 hours
Bulova A-15 Pilot Watch
- Dimensions: 42mm x 14mm
- Material: Stainless Steel
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Display: Black dial / Onion hands with luminous filling / Arabic numerals for 12 & 24-hour graduations / Yellow used for the 24-hour graduations / Double rotating bezels controlled via the outer crowns for the hours and minutes
- Water Resistance: 30m / 100ft / 3 ATM
- Movement: Miyota 82S6: Time / Hacking seconds / Automatic & manual winding / 21 jewels / 3Hz, 21,600 vph, 6 ticks-per-second / 42 hours