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Bulova Watch Company
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryWatch and clockmaking
FoundedQueens, New York City, United States, 1875, as the J. Bulova Company
FounderJoseph Bulova
United States
Area served
Key people
Jeffrey Cohen, president
John Wille, chief financial officer
ProductsWatches, clocks and accessories
BrandsAccu•Swiss, Accutron, Bulova, Caravelle, Wittnauer
RevenueUS$164 million (2022)[1]
ParentCitizen Watch

Bulova is an American timepiece manufacturing company that was founded in 1875 and has been owned by Japanese multinational conglomerate Citizen Watch Co. since 2008. The company makes watches, clocks and accessories, and it is based in New York City.[2]



Bulova was founded and incorporated as the J. Bulova Company in 1875 by Bohemian immigrant Joseph Bulova.[3] It was reincorporated under the name Bulova Watch Company in 1923, became part of the Loews Corporation in 1979,[4] and was sold to Citizen at the end of 2007.[5] Throughout its history, Bulova developed a reputation for technological innovation and for adapting to the changing needs of customers and the evolving trends of the market.[6]

Bulova started a small jewelry shop in New York City around 1875. It was located in New York's Maiden Lane and specialized in jewelry and the repair of clocks and the occasional pocket watch. Around 1911, Bulova began producing table clocks and pocket watches.[7]

In 1912, Joseph Bulova launched his first plant dedicated entirely to the production of watches.[8] Manufacturing watches at their factory in Biel, Switzerland, he began a standardized mass production new to watchmaking. In 1919, Bulova offered the first complete range of watches for women and men in 1924. The visual style of his first popular advertising made its watches popular with the American public. But beyond the original style, precision and technological research also became imperative for Bulova. In 1927, he set up an observatory on the roof of a skyscraper located at 580 Fifth Avenue to determine universal time precisely.[9]

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.[4] Its horological innovations included the Accutron watch that used a resonating tuning fork as a means of regulating the time-keeping function.

During the 1920's and '30's, Bulova was noted for its art deco watches that were typically either rectangular or square.[10] Models from this period included the Breton (square or rectangular cases),[11] the Banker (tonneau or barrel shaped),[12] and the Commodore (round cases).[13] All three of these models were modernized in 2020 as the Joseph Bulova Collection, utilizing swiss made Sellita mechanical movements.[14] From 1922 through 1930, Bulova marketed 350 different ladies’ Art Deco watches, with at least an equal number of models for men.[15]

The Westfield Watch Company, Inc. is listed as a Bulova subsidiary at least as early as 1931, but Bulova had trademarked the Westfield name in 1927. Westfields were considered the lower cost options in the Bulova line, since the movements typically had lower jewel counts than mainstream Bulovas, and cases and straps may also not have been of the same quality as other Bulova models. Like the regular Bulovas, the Westfield movements were Swiss made, but the two lines did not use the same movements. Westfield watches were produced at least through the 1950s, with the Caravelle line introduced in the early 1960s. The Bulova trademark of the Westfield name is reported as cancelled in 1989.[16]

Advertising milestones[edit]

December 1942 ad for Bulova watches from Canada
Women working in the pinion department of Bulova Watch c. 1937

Bulova became a renowned watch company in 1922, starting with an advertising campaign in the Saturday Evening Post.[17] Through the 1960's, Bulova led all American watchmakers in marketing expenditures, and it enhanced its distribution chains from jewelry stores and chains to general merchandising outlets, with over 20,000 U.S. distributors by 1968.[18]

Bulova produced the first advertisement broadcast on radio in 1926, announcing the first beep in history: ‘At the tone, it’s eight o’clock, Bulova Watch Time’, an announcement heard by millions of Americans.[19] In 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first solo pilot to cross the Atlantic nonstop. His crossing earned him a Bulova Watch and a check 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. In 1932, Bulova ran a "Name the Watch" contest for its new $24.75 timepiece, with a top prize of $1,000 and total prizes of $10,000.[20] By 1940, Bulova sponsored each of the top 20 radio shows in the US.[21]

Bulova produced the world's first television advertisement, on July 1, 1941 (the first day that commercial advertising was permitted on television), before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies over New York station WNBT (now WNBC).[22] The announcement, for which the company paid anywhere from $4.00 (equivalent to $83 in 2023) to $9.00 (equivalent to $186 in 2023), displayed a WNBT test card modified to look like a clock with the hands showing the time. The Bulova logo, with the phrase "Bulova Time", was shown in the lower right-hand quadrant of the test pattern while the second hand swept around the dial for one minute.[23][24]

In the 1940s, Bulova made a few examples of their complex four sided, five-dial per side "sports timer" analog game clock[25][original research?]

Bulova Watch Co., Exhibit, Waldorf Astoria. 1944

In 1945, Arde Bulova, chairman of the board, founded the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking 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 the United States. The school closed in 1993.[26]

In 1949/50, Bulova entered into a contract with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the right to use the words "Academy Award" and "Oscar", along with the copyrighted image commonly known as the "Oscar".[27] In 1952, Bulova and the Academy accepted a Federal Trade Commission stipulation that allowed Bulova to continue its use of the trademarked words as long as the company made it clear that such usage was based on a licensing agreement rather than “representative of meritorious award made on the basis of comparative tests with other watches.”[28][29][30] From 1950 through 1954, Bulova issued over 25 ladies models and 14 men's models identified with the Academy Awards, paying $154,000 in licensing fees.[31]

In the mid-1950's, Bulova sponsored the televised Frank Sinatra Show, presenting Sinatra with numerous wristwatches which he, in turn, had engraved with personal notes and gifted to his friends. Bulova was later to support the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. The relationship continued through 2023, with Bulova's release of the Rat Pack model, an entry-level dress watch (limited edition of 5,000 pieces), along with a series of models named after Sinatra hits (e.g. Fly Me to the Moon, My Way, and others).[32]

The ad campaign for Bulova's Accutron watch was profiled in the 7th season of the television series Mad Men, in which a spokesman utters the line: "It's more than a timepiece, it's a conversation piece".[33]

In 1967, Bulova bought the Universal Genève of Geneva, Switzerland, and sold it in December 1977. The factory in Biel was closed in 1983.

In 1973, Gulf and Western Industries acquired a stake in the company, which it sold to Stelux Manufacturing Company, a Hong Kong-based watch components manufacturer, in 1976.


Accutron Movement. The tuning fork prongs are around the two electromagnetic coils at the top of the watch that drive it.

Bulova's "Accutron" watches, first sold in October 1960,[34] use a 360 Hz tuning fork instead of a balance wheel as the timekeeping element.[35] The inventor, Max Hetzel, was born in Basel, Switzerland, and joined the Bulova Watch Company in 1950.[35] The tuning fork was powered by a one-transistor electronic oscillator circuit, so the Accutron qualifies as the second "electronic watch", following the Hamilton Electric released in 1957.[36] Instead of the ticking sound made by mechanical watches, the Accutron had a faint, high-pitched hum that came from the vibrating tuning fork. A forerunner of modern quartz watches that also keep time with a vibrating resonator, the Accutron was guaranteed to be accurate to one minute per month, or two seconds per day, considerably better than mechanical watches of the time.[35] The Accutron was widely advertised in the print media (including magazines like Life and Ebony) with the tagline "so revolutionary -- so accurate, it's the first timepiece in history that's guaranteed 99.9977 accurate on your wrist."[37] The Accutron was buried in a time capsule at New York's 1964-65 World's Fair.[38] By 1973, over four million Accutrons had been sold.[39]

The Apollo 15 watch[edit]

In the 1960s, the company was involved in a rivalry with Omega Watches to be selected as the 'first watch on the Moon'. In 1971, a Bulova chronograph was carried on board Apollo 15, the fourth mission to land men on the Moon, by mission commander David Scott. All twelve men who walked on the Moon wore standard Omega Speedmaster watches that had been officially issued by NASA. Those watches are deemed to be government property. Transcripts from the Apollo 15 Lunar Surface Journal attest to the fact that during Scott's second excursion on the Moon's surface, the crystal on his Omega watch had popped off.[40] So, during his third lunar walk, he used his backup Bulova watch. The Bulova Chronograph Model #88510/01 is the only privately owned watch to have been worn on the lunar surface. There are images of Scott wearing the watch, when he saluted the American flag on the Moon, with the Hadley Delta expanse in the background. The watch shows "significant wear from exposure while on the Moon, and from splashdown and recovery." In 2015, the watch sold for $1.625 million at RR Auction in Boston, which makes it one of the most expensive astronaut-owned artifacts ever sold at auction and one of the most expensive watches sold at auction.[41] The watch is also a unique timepiece as it seems to have been a prototype, only revealed by Scott to Bulova's fans in 2014.[42] Therefore, the company released an homage edition of the lunar watch in early 2016, using a modern high frequency quartz movement for the watch that took more than 40 years to make its way into production line.[43]

From 1958 to 1973 Omar Bradley was chairman of the board of Bulova and watch historians suggest it’s no coincidence that during his time at Bulova the Accutron was adopted by NASA resulting in approximately 2,000 Accutron timers and timing packages being used in 46 NASA missions.‌[44]


During the quartz crisis, Bulova followed the lead of other watchmakers creating electronic quartz watches by introducing the Computron watch in 1976. The Computron was Bulova's first watch with a LED display and first digital watch. It featured a distinctive trapezoidal steel case profile, with the display located on the side of the case rather than the main face. It was marketed as a beneficial design for drivers so that they could view the watch without needing to roll their wrists or release the steering wheel, but this was mitigated by the need to press a button on the side of the case to wake the display. In later versions, repeatedly pressing the button cycled the display to the seconds, date, day, and a second timezone. The success of the Computron was a significant factor in keeping Bulova financially viable through the next several years.[45][46]

21st century[edit]

On January 10, 2008, Citizen bought the Bulova Watch Company for $250 million.

Bulova designs, manufactures, and markets several different brands, including: the signature "Bulova", the stylish "Caravelle" (formerly "Caravelle New York"), the dressy/formal Swiss-made "Wittnauer Swiss", and the "Marine Star". In 2014 Bulova ceased the sale of watches under the "Accutron" and "Accutron by Bulova" brand, eliminating some 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 (262144 Hz, eight times the industry standard 32768 Hz) which is claimed to be accurate to ±10 seconds per year (0.32 ppm) and has a smooth sweeping seconds hand like automatic watches rather than the typical quartz watch seconds hand that jumps each second.[47]

From 2012 to 2015, Bulova produced a line of Swiss-Made watches known as Accu•Swiss, which took the place of the previously discontinued Accutron line.[48] Accu•Swiss itself was discontinued in 2015 at the direction of Citizen.

In 2019, Bulova reissued the Computron brand, preserving the size and appearance of the originals, but updating the internal electronics. The new Computrons were made available in chrome, gold, and black, the first two colors being what had been used for the originals.[45][46]

In 2020, the Citizen Group split Accutron off from Bulova and launched it as its own stand-alone brand,[49] highlighting its new electrostatic movement technology and re-introducing vintage inspired "Legacy" models.[50] This continued in 2023 with the re-introduction of the Accutron "Astronaut T".[51] Accutron has stated its intention to continue to develop a new version of the tuning-fork technology, even though industrial equipment used in the 1960s and 1970s to produce the technology no longer exists.[52]

Use by Jewish cantors[edit]

The Accutron, along with other tuning fork watches, have recently become popular with Orthodox Chazzanim (Jewish cantors).[53] Most rabbis rule against the use of a conventional tuning fork on Shabbat, due to its similarity to a musical instrument.[54] Tuning fork watches are therefore useful as they produce a constant note (360hz being a slightly flat F#) that can be easily heard without breaking the laws of Shabbat, particularly as producing the note is not the primary function of the watch (that being telling the time).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bulova Revenue: Annual, Quarterly, and Historic". Zippia. Retrieved 2023-08-14.
  2. ^ "Contact Us". Bulova Corporation. Archived from the original on 27 October 2014. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  3. ^ Birth record: Joseph Bulova. Retrieved September 5, 2019
  4. ^ a b Kenneth T. Jackson (1995). The Encyclopedia of New York City. The New York Historical Society. Yale University Press. p. 168.
  5. ^ Citizen to buy watchmaker Bulova from Loews, Reuters news agency, 4 October 2007, archived from the original on 24 September 2015, retrieved 14 December 2013.
  6. ^ Bernardo, Mark. "Accutron Watches: History and a Comprehensive Guide to the Collection". Teddy Baldassarre. Retrieved 27 October 2023.
  7. ^ Shanks, Josh. "Why The Joseph Bulova Collection Is The Art Deco Mechanical Masterpiece You Didn't Know You Needed Until Now". Watchonista. Retrieved 29 October 2023.
  8. ^ "The History of Bulova". H.S.Johnson. Retrieved 4 November 2023.
  9. ^ Martinez, Laurent. "Bulova's Fascinating History". International Wristwatch Magazine. Isochron Media. Retrieved 31 August 2023.
  10. ^ Judy, Dean (2002). 100 Years of Vintage Watches: Identification and Price Guide. Iola, WI: Krause Pubns. pp. 130–33. ISBN 978-0873498272.
  11. ^ "Bulova Models -- Breton". Bulova Watches. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  12. ^ "Bulova Models -- Banker". Bulova Watches. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  13. ^ "Bulova Models -- Commodore". Bulova Watches. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  14. ^ Adams, Ariel. "Bulova "Joseph Bulova" Breton Automatic Limited-Edition Watch Review". aBlogtoWatch. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  15. ^ Klophaus, Edmund Alexander (2022). Bulova Art Deco Ladies' watches 1922 - 1930. Klophaus.
  16. ^ "Westfield by Bulova". watchophilia.com. Retrieved 30 September 2023.
  17. ^ "eBook: Bulova Art Deco Ladies' watches 1922 - 1930". mybulova.com/. Retrieved 4 November 2023.
  18. ^ Glasmeier, Amy (2000). Manufacturing Time: Global Competition in the Watch Industry, 1795-2000. NY: Guilford Publications. pp. 186–88. ISBN 9781572305892. Retrieved 3 October 2023.
  19. ^ Scott. "Bulova, An Interactive History". First Class Watches. Retrieved 31 August 2023.
  20. ^ "The History of Bulova". Bulova Inc. Archived from the original on 2010-11-20. Retrieved 28 September 2023.
  21. ^ Mirza, Kaz. "Bulova Watches – Are They Any Good? Reviews, History, and More". Two Broke Watch Snobs. Retrieved 1 November 2023.
  22. ^ "First TV advert". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 31 August 2023.
  23. ^ Stewart, RW (July 6, 1941), "Imagery For Profit", The New York Times.
  24. ^ WNBT/Bulova test pattern (JPEG), Early television.
  25. ^ Arena clock (JPEG), Rireds.
  26. ^ "Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking". Veterans Watchmaker Initiative. Retrieved 16 November 2023.
  27. ^ Ehrenstein, David. "When the Oscars Gifted Winners With Watches". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
  28. ^ "Bulova Academy Award Series Watches". watchophilia.com. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  29. ^ "FTC nixes Bulova ad tie with Oscar". Lantern. Variety Publishing Company. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
  30. ^ "Product 'Oscars' out in commercials". Billboard. 15 November 1952. p. 10. Retrieved 13 November 2023.
  31. ^ "The Bulova Academy Award Watch". Bulova Watches. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  32. ^ Milton, Danny. "How Vintage Bulovas Engraved With Messages From Frank Sinatra Inspired This New Watch". Hodinkee. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  33. ^ "Bulova Accutron: More Than Just a Timepiece". TWC The Watch Co. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  34. ^ "Reinventing Time: The Original Accutron". Hodinkee. Retrieved 28 September 2023.
  35. ^ a b c Day, Lance; McNeil, Ian (2013). "Hetzel, Max". Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology. Routledge. p. 597. ISBN 978-1-13465020-0.
  36. ^ "On This Day In 1957, Hamilton Announces The First Electric Watch". Hodinkee. Hodinkee Inc. Retrieved 25 September 2023.
  37. ^ "Have you heard the new sound of accuracy? It's the hushed hum of Accutron". Life. 15 December 1961. p. 27. Retrieved 25 September 2023.
  38. ^ Freudenheim, Ellen (2013). Queens: What to Do, Where to Go (and How Not to Get Lost) in New York's Undiscovered Borough. NY: St. Martin's. p. 03. ISBN 9781466852389. Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  39. ^ Sirianni, Mark. "About Bulova Accutron Watches". watchdoctor. Retrieved 7 November 2023.
  40. ^ Roberta, Naas (2015-10-23). "Bulova Chronograph Worn by Astronaut Dave Scott on the Moon Sells for $1.6 Million". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  41. ^ "Astronaut's watch worn on the moon sells for record $1.6 million | collectSPACE". collectSPACE.com. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  42. ^ "Bulova Chronograph Flown to moon on Apollo 15". mybulova.com. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  43. ^ "HOW BULOVA USED A UNIVERSAL GENÈVE TO GET TO THE MOON, AND HOW YOU CAN GET ONE TODAY". wornandwound.com. 28 December 2016. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  44. ^ Forster, Jack. "The Accutron Astronaut and Bulova Lunar Pilot recall the birth of crewed space missions.‌". Accutron Wat ch. Retrieved 28 September 2023.
  45. ^ a b "Past and Present: The Retro-Cool Bulova Computron". wornandwound.com. 2019-08-10.
  46. ^ a b "Love It or Hate It: The Bulova Computron is a Collector's Dream". thewatchcompany.com. 2020-05-24.
  47. ^ "Bulova introduces the most accurate watch in the world, the Precisionist". Crunch gear. 2010-03-23. Archived from the original on 2011-03-10. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  48. ^ Patnode, Cynthia. "Bulova Offers Refined Style and Superior Design with New Swiss Made Line, Bulova Accu•Swiss". Business Wire. Retrieved 16 November 2023.
  49. ^ Vesilind, Emili. "Citizen Watch Group to Reconceive Accutron as a Stand-Alone Brand". JCK. RX USA. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  50. ^ Jack Forster (August 17, 2020). "Introducing The Accutron Spaceview 2020 And Accutron Spaceview DNA (Live Pics & Pricing)". Hodinkee.
  51. ^ Astronaut T
  52. ^ Boxall, Andy. "Inside the Accutron DNA: The world's first twin-turbine electrostatic watch". Digital Trends. Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  53. ^ BCohen (2022-03-05). "How one vintage watch has been making cantors' lives easier for more than 50 years". The Forward. Retrieved 2023-06-01.
  54. ^ Enkin, R. Ari. "Clapping, Dancing and Musical Instruments on Shabbat". The Torah Musings. Retrieved 13 October 2023.

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