In a previous capacity as a vintage watch Mod, I was often asked: "I'm in North America and I'd like to collect some older vintage watches. But I'm on a budget. What brand(s) do you recommend?"
At or near the top of my list was always Bulova. Here are my reasons why:
  • Swiss-American heritage. Bulova got started as a jewelry wholesaler in New York in the 1870s but by 1912 they had established a Swiss factory in Bienne. Although they always cased and timed watches in the USA and had their headquarters there, the majority of their ebauches and finished movements were Swiss. So American users got the benefit of both worlds.
  • Value for money. Bulova has always made a really good product at a fair price and they aren't really a luxury brand. The price of their older vintage stuff is quite reasonable. The 1949 rose gold filled model above cost me about $50 on eBay and maybe another $75 to restore. Not bad for a nice watch.
  • Parts availability. Bulova had long term military supply contracts and churned out millions of spare parts - all standardized and cataloged. A lot of this stuff ended up as war surplus and in the parts inventories of many a 20th century watchmaker. My watchmaker has more spare Bulova parts by a mile than any other brand. He has replaced hands, wheels, balance staffs etc right out of his stash of parts.
  • Great selection of 1950s self-wind watches. Bulova was a leader in this category and the variety of available lug styles, cases and self-wind movements from the 1950s and 1960s is quite amazing. Pricing is excellent as well.
  • Specialty watches. Bulova didn't make the only "Hummers" but Accutron is synonymous with Bulova. There are collectors who specialize in these watches. Parts are a bit harder to get, but many Accutrons from the 1960s an 1970s are still running.
  • Fewer Frankenwatches. Bulova has never been a costly brand nor is it hugely popular today so the older stuff is more likely to be genuine and original in nature.

So a great brand to collect and maintain - if you are North American. It isn't really a prestige brand, but for the money I think Bulova vintage competes well with anyone. And it does have that Swiss movement technology at the heart of the watch.