- 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
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.
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.
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,