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Is Bulova a good watch brand? Are they luxury watches?

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Bulova has been around since 1875, offering some exceptional timepieces at a price range that shouldn’t have you walking around in shame as some luxury watch brands do. A good watch brand, however, is more than just affordability, great design, and a good story.

A good watch brand needs to have exceptional quality combined with an affordable price (for what you’re getting). This means in order for us to decide whether Bulova belongs in the ‘good’ watch industry, we need to look at Bulova’s history, if they are high quality, if Bulova’s watches have great design, and, of course, what semi-famous watch YouTuber’s have to say about them. 

History of Bulova

Originally, Bulova was founded as ‘J. Bulova Company’ in 1875 by Bohemian immigrant Joseph Bulova, but the first plant focused solely on watch production only set up shop in 1912 in Biel, Switzerland. It soon became clear that Bulova was seen as a good brand in the United States, and so Joseph decided to move operations to Woodside, New York. This is where the story of Bulova really ‘kicks off’ and where most people know them from. 

Joseph Bulova - Are Bulova Watches good  article
Joseph Bulova – Source

Perhaps something Bulova is even more known for (other than watches) is advertisements. In 1926, they were the first company to use the radio to broadcast an advertisement, ‘At the tone, it’s eight o’clock, Bulova Watch Time’. In 1941, they were the first to offer a TV advertisement, a simple Bulova logo, and then the phrase ‘America runs on Bulova time’ was calmly exclaimed. 

Just a ten-second spot featuring a simple graphic and a voiceover that proclaimed: "America runs on Bulova time."
Just a ten-second spot featuring a simple graphic and a voiceover that proclaimed: “America runs on Bulova time.” – Source

Since these early days, Bulova has gone to become an incredibly important and influential watch brand. However, Bulova timepieces cannot really be seen as luxury timepieces. These watches were rarely made from precious materials, and the price point reflected this perfectly. Bulova has remained a great offering. However, there are some who believe the low price of entry means the quality is subpar. 

Is there any truth to that? 

Most Famous Bulova Models

Before we delve into how the current Bulova range is looking, I suggest considering some of the watches that brought Bulova here in the first place. What has been some of the most influential Bulova timepieces money can buy? 

1: Bulova Accutron

You can’t really have a conversation about Bulova without discussing (perhaps) their most famous model ever – the Accutron. ACCUTRON stands for “ACCUracy through ElecTRONic”, and Bulova claims it was the first electronic watch in history.

However, the verdict on this isn’t exactly 100% clear. It was, however, the first electronic watch with a tuning fork, increasing the precision massively compared to other watches.

The original Accutron was launched in 1960, and the Accutron was accurate to within 1 minute of a month – something unheard of, even among luxury watches. It was a very long time before mechanical watches could get anywhere close to that… 

1024px Bulova accutron

60 Years later, in 2020, and Accutron is back as its own American brand rather than a Bulova, and it certainly is good quality. Sure, you are buying history and something unique. Some would even say polarizing, which means some might not understand. This also means you decide whether or not it is good value. 

2: Bulova Marine Star

Having a good diver in your lineup is a no-brainer; every brand has one. Unless you’re talking about uber luxury timepieces, there is just something about a robust diver with one of your own automatic movements within that has the ability to go everywhere.

Sure, it has to be water resistant, and having an in-house movement is a plus, but those metrics can be bent somewhat. Bulova offers a pretty good option called the Marine Star – nice name. 

Bulova Marine Star
Bulova Marine Star – Source

The modern Marine Star has several different configurations, and taking a closer look at the offerings will reveal just how much ‘room’ there is for you to find your own personality. Various styles, different sizes, different complications, and the works.

This offers great value to most but might not be your first pick when looking at the Bulova brand – and I can understand that. It does seem to veer towards the ‘mall’ watch segment with certain models but still remains a mainstay in the catalogue. The same, however, cannot be said about the last of the three famous Bulova models I wish to cover… 

3: Bulova Lunar Pilot

The idea of an ‘astral watch’ is most famously coveted by, well, the Moonwatch, the Omega Speedmaster. And for good reason: it actually went to the moon, and it was incredibly influential as a watch and still is. We cannot argue with that at all. However, in case you didn’t want to spend your $10,000 on a new Moonwatch and the MoonSwatch isn’t up to your liking, perhaps something like the Lunar Pilot would be something for you to consider. 

Bulova Lunar Pilot
Bulova Lunar Pilot – Source

The Lunar Pilot is famous for one very good reason: it was also worn in space, and astronaut Dave Scott wore the original Lunar Pilot as he was aboard Apollo 15 in 1971 — just two years after the first and most famous lunar mission of 1969. When he came back, he held on to this Bulova and eventually put it up for auction, selling it for $1,625,000 in 2015.

Bulova Lunar Pilot board - Apollo 15 in 1971
Bulova Lunar Pilot board – Apollo 15 in 1971 – Source

After the massive success of this story, Bulova decided to rerelease this model to the masses, allowing you to have something from the space race on your wrist for, like, $700. Bulova isn’t the first watch company to do this or even something like this.

We’ve seen it time and time again. However, as far as quartz watches go, this one has a rather special history and is a lot less expensive than a Speedie. Plus, then you can buy an AquaTerra Worldtimer, which I think is the cooler Omega (don’t sue me!). 

Are Bulova Watches Good? 

The bellow of the best, the crown between the guards, the core question remains: are Bulova watches goodSure, you know their history by now, you know they are eager to develop a new type of quartz watch, and you’ve seen some of the best Bulova watches in our Top Ten List, but are they good watches? Firstly, define good for me, if you would.

For some, good means it makes them smile, and that’s about it. For others, finances are key. For some, they need to have a chronograph watch that offers exceptional value and isn’t too thick to be considered ‘good’. I want to make it clear that you are allowed to have your opinion, and this is just mine. That said… 

In my opinion, Bulova is a good watch brand. Let me explain… 

Factor Number One: Price

If you’re someone who pulls their nose up to a Casio, leave immediately. You are most likely a snob, and honestly, no number of words I can type will convince you that Bulova is good. 

That said, if you didn’t inherit daddy’s money and you actually know what it’s like to have a boss, then you’re going to think about price. The average Rolex is going to set you back anywhere from $8,000 upwards, and to some, that might be worth it.

For some, a $50,000 Royal Oak is the only way to go. For others (including myself), this is merely a dream, and you’re left to look elsewhere and this is perhaps where Bulova shines the most brilliantly. 

Bulova is by no means an expensive brand. In fact, many would assume them as one of the more affordable brands money can buy, but not quite as cheap as fashion brands (more on this later). You can get a stainless steel case with a relatively good finish and a good movement within for a couple of hundred dollars. What’s more, you typically get a good-looking watch as well.

There have been complaints that some of their watches are more ‘mall style’ and I have to agree, some are certainly more geared towards being sold to non-enthusiasts. Still, I understand that Bulova (like every other brand on the planet) is in business to make money. 

That said, if you do a bit of research and ask other enthusiasts about what’s good and what isn’t, you can get a great option for not a lot of money; case in point, the new Jet Star. For around $600, you can get an incredibly unique case with a gorgeous wine watch face and a stunning bracelet.

Bulova Jet Star Models
Bulova Jet Star Models – Source

A quartz movement accurate within 5 seconds of a month, and overall, a watch you’re not likely to spot again in public. I would certainly consider this option, and seeing as I’m in the States right now, I seriously might. Bulova doesn’t really have a retailer where I am from. 

It’s this or the PRX – which everyone and their Mum has. 

Factor Number Two: Quality 

Hand-in-hand with price goes quality. Sure, being cheap or affordable is one thing, but being of value, having high quality, and being able to last is another. This is somewhat harder for companies to do, especially at the price point that Bulova markets at, and I (hope) numerous meetings about how to improve value are held at their HQ weekly because, well, some complain that the quality isn’t up to par. Which is a shame, really. 

After the acquisition by the Citizen watch company, Bulova has gone on to make some serious heavy hitters, as we’ve already mentioned. They make some of the most beloved classics for under $750, a segment usually dominated by Seiko.

It’s nice to see another company with its own style and history showing the customers something new. I would be more than happy to take the $500 I had set aside for a Seiko to consider a Bulova, and I actually already have. 

My problem is, once again, the ‘mall’ watches. I understand that Bulova has to make money and that the number of watch enthusiasts is slim. From those, only a few like modern Bulova watches, and even those that do usually also like Seiko and Citizen, and that’s excluding the Swiss! Chances are they will not always get the sell. Solution? Get more clients. 

Bulova Display
Bulova Display – Source

Great, so you market to the masses, and they immediately react, “Well, why would I pay that much for a… auto-ma-tic watch? What even is that?”. The logical and business reaction would be to cheapen your production process, cheapen the final product, market them even more, and Bob’s your uncle, you make money. And so, that’s what Bulova did.

Take for instance, the Futuro. It’s not particularly interesting, it’s got fake diamonds on it, it’s gold painted, the date wheel is minute, and yet, it costs $500. What?? 

Bulova Futuro
Bulova Futuro – Source

This is a prime example of Bulova playing the corporate game. Buy this for someone who knows nothing about watches, and they’ll love it! Black and gold is a great combo. However, you and I both know that the value isn’t there. The quality of this watch certainly isn’t worth $500, and if you really wanted value you’d buy a quartz PRX for that price. Or a second-hand Seiko diver, something with a story, something of value, something with ‘meat’ as I like to say. 

I love Bulova, but some models are seriously lacking sustenance. 

Factor Number Three: Aesthetics and Movements 

I have a confession. I love the Bulova Royal Oak. It’s gorgeous. I might get crucified for it, but I’m on Facebook Marketplace daily, seeing if I can find one. 

Bulova Royal Oak
Bulova Royal Oak – Source

Taste is, for the most part, individual. Some might not like the idea of the Easter Royal Oak, and that’s perfectly fine. For others, the design is just unique enough to warrant it being interesting rather than tragic.

When looking through the Bulova catalogue, you’ll soon realize one thing – most of their offerings are love or hate ones. What I mean by this is that the watches tend to be polarizing. They tend to go off the beaten path, even if it means going down the wrong path. 

One of these wins includes the Wilton, one of the best-looking GMT watches that money can buy, as long as that money is limited to around $800. You can get yourself a gold-tone steel case matched with a lovely leather strap and a textured silver dial displaying the different continents of the world.

Bulova Milton GMT
Bulova Milton GMT – Source

You even get a slight guilloche texture as well, and when combined with the red on the GMT hand, you have one rather handsome GMT that’ll look at home with a T-shirt or a business shirt. Money well spent! 

Another win is the Mil-Ships, a no-nonsense diver that is inspired by the divers of yesteryear and offers a stark black dial with no date wheel, no day wheel, and no writing either. This bare-knuckles offering chose its path and stuck with it – and I respect that. It’s not all things to all men; it’s one particular thing to one particular style of man. Credit where credit is due. 

Bulova Mil-Ships
Bulova Mil-Ships – Source

However, if you’re on the website and you’re done with the Wilson, the Mil, and the Lunar Pilot, you begin to notice… It’s not so great anymore. Various of their other watches were designed to sell or to be cheap. The Series X looks like something Hublot would produce. Just Bulova does it without the precious metals. The Sutton looks like a copy of a JLC Reverso while also emulating a Tank.

Bulova Series X
Bulova Series X – Source

It all seems a bit… dull, really. I truly believe a company that’s capable of designing the Wilson should be able to design other pieces that are more attractive, and it’s rather disappointing that they didn’t.

We see this often in the motor industry. Lexus both created the legendary LFA and the rather dull IS200. How is that possible? Surely there must be a way to get some LFA in all of our lives? 

Lastly, I wanted to briefly touch on movements and inner workings. Movement is where various companies ‘cheap out’, seeing as they can just buy a movement from another brand. I disagree. I don’t mind a third-party movement as long as the price reflects it.

Case in point, you can find the same ETA movements in Hamilton as in some Hublots. The difference in price is sometimes ten-fold, meaning Hublot is banking on its looks justifying that price. To me, that’s robbery. I wouldn’t buy a Ferrari at Ferrari prices if it had the engine from a Suzuki. 

Hublot ETA movement
Hublot ETA movement – Source

So, what does Bulova offer? Well, they offer various quartz options, which are somewhat priced accordingly. However, their mechanical movements are supplied by Miyota, which the Citizen Watch company also owns.

So, their movements are ‘somewhat’ in-house; regardless, they’re still very reliable and worthy of the prices we see them at. The Wilson has the Miyota 9075 caliber within, a ‘true’ GMT, and the Wilson is about $800.

That’s a massive bargain if you ask me, and sure, you could go for the GMT Seiko 5, another great option, but the Wilson looks better IMO. Plus, you can use it on more occasions, and the Wilson looks more timeless. 


Biased aside, I do believe that Bulova offers a good timepiece. Their spirit is in the right place, and if you ignore the mall offerings, they really are a great company. However, and this is a large, well rounded however, the number of ‘enthusiasts’ Bulova’s are dropping.

I used to think there were more, to be honest. I used to think I could really look for hours at the ones I wanted, and I just can’t. There are merely a handful of new Bulovas that you can buy that are worth it. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad brand, but it does make me worried. 

They are releasing more and more watches meant to appeal to every Joe and Shmoe on the road, and I get that not everyone wants a $800 GMT that looks the business, but those people will probably buy a smartwatch anyway!

Why not double down on the population that loves Bulova for who and what they are? Reach into your heritage more and bring back some of the models we all love and cherish, the models that’ll set the watch world on fire and make people consider something else but a PRX. 

Citizen just did this brilliantly with the release of the Tsuyosa. Colourful options in a great case and bracelet design that look fun! They took the PRX game and pushed it even further, coming out with bright colours and even a cheeky Tiffany one as well. Why not do something like this? People respect and honour those who are bold, who do something unique, something that sets them apart.

Citizen Tsuyosa Range
Citizen Tsuyosa Range – Source

I’m sorry to say that Bulova is simply fading into the history books. They are being forgotten and in a bad way. Instead of being remembered as a great company, they are remembered as a company that made bad mall watches with poor quality and no imagination. 

Are they really still a good brand to consider? For the time being, yes, but also only with certain watches. And I’m not sure how long I can keep making these arguments before it’s too late…


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