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Back to Watch Information Bulova Information  
 
Joseph Bulova

The realization of a great American dream began in 1875 when Joseph Bulova, a 23-year-old immigrant from Bohemia, opened a small jewelry store on Maiden Lane in New York City. In 1911, Bulova began manufacturing boudoir and desk clocks, along with fine pocket watches, which he made and sold in unprecedented numbers. During World War I, wristwatches were issued in the military for their greater convenience. Returning veterans brought home the new fashion--and a new market emerged. Bulova already had sufficient production facilities and a mastery of jewelry design, so his company introduced the first full line of men's jeweled wristwatches in 1919. It was followed by the industry's first full line of ladies' wristwatches and the first line of diamond wristwatches. America ran on Bulova time, beginning with radio's first commercials, broadcast nationally in 1926: "At the tone, it's 8 P.M., B-U-L-O-V-A Bulova watch time." Two years later, Bulova introduced the world's first clock radio.

In 1931, Bulova conducted the watch industry's first million-dollar advertising campaign. And through the Depression years, Bulova supported retailers by offering Bulova watches to buyers on time-payment plans. As the next decade began, Bulova aired the first TV commercial. A simple picture of a clock and a map of the United States, it preceded a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game on July 1, 1941, and proclaimed, "America runs on Bulova time." By then, Ardé Bulova, Joseph Bulova's son, was also producing timepieces for the military. With the U.S. entry into World War II, the Bulova factories immediately put their perfected mass-production techniques and skilled craftsmen to work on precision military equipment. Bulova provided the U.S. government with military watches, specialized timepieces, aircraft instruments, critical torpedo mechanisms and fuses. At the war's end, the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking opened its doors to help disabled veterans become self-sufficient. At the opening of the school, Ardé Bulova made the following statement:

"For the purpose of aiding war veterans who are physically handicapped, the Bulova School of Watchmaking has been founded to teach the art and trade of watch, clock and instrument making and repairing, including the use of tools, machinery and equipment necessary in carrying on such a trade. Graduates of the school are expected to be placed in positions in jewelry stores throughout the country and thus be assisted in finding a place in life in a useful and happy occupation. This is but a small measure of the gratitude that can be shown to these men for their service to our country in this greatest of all wars."

The school was supported entirely by the Bulova Foundation. No financial aid of any kind was received from any government agency or the students. Equipment at the school included magic-eye doors, wide two-way elevator entrances and exits, special workbenches, non-slip cork floors and other features so that disabled men could move about at no physical disadvantage. Complete medical facilities and a well-equipped recreation room provided treatment and relaxation. Graduates of the school were assured employment since over 1,500 positions were pledged by American Jewelers.

A new era in timekeeping dawned in the 1950s. Through persistent and dedicated research, Bulova developed Accutron, the first electronic watch. Keeping time to within two seconds a day, it was the first breakthrough in timekeeping technology in over 300 years. 
On June 19, 1953 Max Hetzel, an engineer for Bulova, applied for the first patent in the field of tuning fork watches.
 

During the 1960s, NASA asked the company to channel its Accutron efforts into making computers for the Space Program. As a result, Bulova's Accutron timing mechanism became an integral and vital part of space technology from the 1958 launch of Vanguard I to the first moon walk on July 21, 1969. A Bulova timer was placed on the moon's Sea of Tranquility to control the transmissions of vital data through the years. When Accutron precision became available to customers, Bulova was the first watch brand to offer a written guarantee of accuracy-in-use to within a minute a month.
 

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Back to Top Bulova Date Codes  
 

The year of manufacture of Bulova watches may be determined by a date code system.  The code may be found on the back of the case as well as on the movement itself. 

The date code consists of one letter and one number, such as "M4" where "M" denotes a watch made in the 1960s and "4" is the fourth year of the decade.  So, "M4" = 1964. 

L=1950s, M=1960s, N=1970s
examples: L2=1952, M5=1965, N7=1977, etc.
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

Symbols may also be found on some Bulova movements.  These symbols were used from 1924 to 1948 and are found near the stem set screw.

 
   
   
   
   
   
 
 
 
 
  Bulova movement with
  symbol indicating 1941
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
         
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Blancpain Breitling Breguet Bulova Cartier
Chopard Doxa Ebel Elgin Eterna
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  Vacheron Constantin Waltham Wittnauer Zenith Zodiac  
 
         
         
 
 

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