Why do we wear watches? To tell the time, of course! But there’s more to it than that – watches are one of the primary tools of social peacocking, and – because they were once expensive items, in the days before mass production – they’ve traditionally been used to mark special occasions, like milestone birthdays or life events. So it was that I found myself – wanting to symbolically mark a kind of personal achievement – in the market for a new watch.

Off I trundled to the local mall in search of a timeless timepiece. What was I looking for – quality, elegance, simplicity and accuracy. And there, amid the plethora of overpriced, flashy, fashion watches fighting for my attention, it sat back – its perfect understatement setting it out from the rest. But what was this wallflower that has so caught my attention? Far from being a shrinking violet, turns out this baby’s been to the moon and back!

Upper LHS: Bulova on an Apollo 15 Mission; Upper RHS: Bulova meeting my copy deadlines; 
Lower LHS: Lindbergh's Bulova Lone Eagle;Lower RHS: Elvis' Blue Bulova

Beautiful Bulova

Never having heard of the Bulova brand – eek! – I was dubious, but the minute I held it in my hand, and put it on my wrist, I was sold. In a word – lightweight! In fact, super-lightweight, and super-slim and delightfully ergonomic; my wrist could not have found a better, more comfortable watch. Seems, though, I’m not alone in loving this relatively unknown (in South Africa) watch brand. In fact, this American-made brand, started by Bohemian immigrant Joseph Bulova back in 1875, has notable wearers:

  • Charles Lindbergh, the first pilot to fly non-stop across the Atlantic in 1927, was the brand ambassador of the Bulova Lone Eagle wristwatch, a design made especially for him
  • Elvis Presley owned a skeleton-design Bulova Accutron – the rock ‘n roll idol, who was notoriously generous, gave the watch – engraved with ‘Elvis P’ – away to a fan with whom he struck up a conversation outside a Memphis nightclub circa 1965
  • Mission Commander of Apollo 15, David R. Scott, wore a Bulova watch on a lunar walk – it had a specially modified strap so that it could fit over his lunar suit
  • Not quite a fighter pilot or an astronaut, but nevertheless a firm favourite of mine, Channing Tatum wore a contemporary version of the military issue Bulova Hack Watch in the 2003 movie, White House Down.

Here are some other interesting facts that have given me a greater appreciation for my new watch:

  • The Bulova Watch Company took the world’s first ever radio commercial spot, back in 1923: “At the tone, it’s eight o’ clock – Bulova Watch Time”. Bulova Watch Time became the company’s slogan.
  • The Bulova Watch Company went on to produce the world’s very first television commercial on July 1st, 1941
  • During the Second World War, the Bulova Watch Company produced the official watches issued to all American troops – the Bulova Hack Watch, virtually unbreakable, they also featured a special lock-down apparatus which allowed for precise synchronisation between troops taking part in wartime missions
  • At this time, the company also produced altimeters and time fuses for explosives
  • After the War, Belova was heavily involved with the Space Race – all instrument panels clocks and time-keeping mechanisms in the spacecraft on the Moon Missions were Bulova Accutrons. Bulova timekeeping mechanisms have been part of countless NASA satellite missions.
  • The Bulova Accutron was the world’s first fully electronic watch
  • The Bulova Precisionist range is today considered the world’s most accurate watches, and the Bulova Curved Chronograph boasts the world’s first curved watchface, designed to better fit the human wrist.