The History Of Bulova

Since it was first founded in 1875, Bulova has strived to be a pioneer of its time, with innovation and progression at the brand’s forefront, in both the timepiece industry and beyond. Now owned by Citizen Watch Co, in this piece we take a look at some of Bulova’s most pivotal moments during the company’s impressive history.

The company was founded by Joseph Bulova, who hailed from the Czech Republic, in 1875 (it later became known as the Bulova Watch Company) and in 1912, he launched his first plant dedicated entirely to standardised mass production of watches, which was new to watchmaking. Seven years later, the brand offered its first complete range of Bulova watches for men. While the style was a focus and key to its popularity, precision and technology were focal points for Bulova and in 1927, on the rooftop of 580 5th Avenue, he set up an observatory to be able to precisely determine the universal time.

It's Bulova Watch Time

Setting up a store in downtown New York, the innovations kept on coming with their first ladies’ line of wristwatches, followed by their first line of diamond wristwatches. In 1926, they produced the first radio advertisement broadcast, with the message: “At the tone, it’s eight o’clock, Bulova Watch Time”.

They built further brand awareness on the world stage through their association with legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh. In 1927, he became the first man to fly nonstop across the Atlantic, which earned him the Bulova watch prize of $1,000 and he became the face of their Lone Eagle wristwatch, designed to commemorate the flight. Priced at $37.50, the Lone Eagle was their best-selling watch of that era.

In 1941, Bulova made their first foray into television advertising, producing the world’s first television advert. It was shown on July 1st, the first day commercial advertising was allowed on television, and broadcast before the baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.

They further made their presence known in the sporting world in the 1940s with their complex ‘sports time’ analog game clock, which was used in numerous sports including ice hockey and basketball. Used in a number of indoor sports arenas including the Detroit Olympia and Chicago Stadium, they were taken out of service in the 70s, and replaced by digital displays.

During the Second World War, Bulova were on the frontline, producing high precision military watches as well as many other mechanisms which were used to help the war effort. As the war came to an end, they open the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking, designed to help disabled veterans learn a trade and help them return to civilian life.

The introduction of the world's first fully electronic watch

In the 1960s, Bulova introduced their most influential contribution to watchmaking – the Bulova Accutron. Their first model was called Spaceview 214 and it was the world’s first fully electronic watch. Incorporating a revolutionary new technology, their 360-Herz tuning-fork guaranteed an accuracy to just one minute per month, making it the most accurate watch in the world at the time. In 2010, its 50th anniversary, Bulova released a limited-edition replica of the Spaceview, incorporating a modern movement.

Throughout the 60s, Bulova was integral to NASA’s space missions, with all the timekeeping mechanisms on the first spacecraft to reach the moon Bulova Accutrons. They were pipped to the post by Omega to be the official watch warn by an astronaut on the moon yet they still managed to make an impression – the mission commander of Apollo 15’s Omega watch broke, so he used his own Bulova Chronograph, which went on to sell for an incredible $1.6 million at auction in 2015.

Moving with the times

Throughout the 70s and 80s, they continued to innovate, creating the Accutron Quartz, before introducing a line of watches with digital LCD time displays. The company was acquired by Japan’s Citizen Watch Company in 2008 and under this new management, it released the Bulova Precisionist, which was billed as the ‘world’s most accurate quartz watch with a continuously sweeping second hand’.

In true Bulova watches form, the company has continued to pioneer world firsts, launching the Bulova CURV at Baselworld 2016, calling it the world’s first curved chronograph watch. Taking its ultra-high-frequency quartz chronograph movements, it bent it and then fitted the movement into an cleverly designed, rounded, slimline case. Over 140 years after the company was first founded, it shows no signs of slowing down, with innovation and craftsmanship still at its core.