Bulova 1919 - Complete line of mens wristwatches

I'd like to discuss this statement by Bulova, that is currently listed on their website as part of their Legacy section.

1919 - 'Bulova debuted its first - ever complete line of men's jewelled wristwatches, advertising across the nation with an iconic visual style to match its product. Five years later Bulova passed another milestone, offering the industry’s first complete line of ladies’ wristwatches.'

mybulova_admin
Posted May 30, 2015 - 5:27am

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My initial thoughts around this statement are:

  1. I've not found one single pre 1922 advert that shows a mens Bulova wristwatch, and boy have I looked through alot of old newspapers over the years.
  2. I've found, as have others, many pre 1921/22 adverts for the Bulova 'Lady Maxim' line of ladies watches, 3 to 4 years prior to Bulova's above statement about the first compete line of ladies wristwatches.
  3. Fives years after 1919, equates to 1924, by this stage Bulova had been actively advertising ladies wristwatches since at least 1920 with its Rubaiyat and Lady Maxim line of wristwatches, and even 1921/22 onwards for its Bulova stamped ladies wristwatches.

Has anyone found a single advert showing a pre 1922 mens Bulova wristwatch? The statement says 'advertising across the nation...' this would indicate that a number of adverts must exist, yet despite years of searching I have not found a single advert that pre-dates 1922 for a mens Bulova wristwatch.

Thoughts and comments welcome to help determine if this statemet is true or not and to help Bulova know and understand their amazing history more accurately.

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William Smith
Posted May 31, 2015 - 4:55am

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I just checked out the legacy section of Bulova website, and I see the 1919 blurb about first complete line of mens jeweled watche w/ iconic advertising, but I'm not seeing anything about the next milestone five year later w/ womens watches.  Maybe the legacy timeline has changed as of today?

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William Smith
Posted May 31, 2015 - 7:16am

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I did find this.....http://www.swisstime.ch/mailing/Bulova/bulova_legacy_book.pdf

 

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Reverend Rob
Posted May 30, 2015 - 11:06am

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If anything, I think it would be the other way around, the ladies' wristwatches would have come first, IMO. That said, there obviously were men's wristwatches prior to 1924. This may be another example of a company's history being distorted over time. Many companies do or have done this, usually to try and establish a continuous uninterrupted line of manufacture which very few can actually truthfully boast. 

mybulova_admin
Posted June 2, 2015 - 6:40am

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My thoughts exacty, which is why I still belive that Bulova's orginal statement made back many years ago did indicate that it was the womans line of watches first released in 1919, which makes far more sense and actually matches the evidence we have.

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bobbee
Posted June 2, 2015 - 9:10am

mybulova_admin wrote:

My thoughts exacty, which is why I still belive that Bulova's orginal statement made back many years ago did indicate that it was the womans line of watches first released in 1919, which makes far more sense and actually matches the evidence we have.

 

Stephen, as I have said before the original Bulova "timeline" is still displayed on myBulova, it has been here since the start of the site.

The timeline linked below states: "In 1919 Bulova introduces the first full line of men's jewelled wristwatches."

It further states: "1924-Bulova unveils the first full line of ladies watches, including diamond-accented pieces."

http://www.mybulova.com/bulova-history

This timeline has never been any different prior to 2012/13, as can be seen on countless websites that quote it.

This means that Bulova still stand by the two excerpts of the dates 1919 and 1924 above to this day and always have, even with all evidence to the contrary.

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bobbee
Posted May 30, 2015 - 6:51pm

There is the 1918 trench watch advert Lisa found at the LOC, so that pre-dates the Bulova claim.

Bulova had a complete line of ladies wrist watches in 1922, and possibly before. We have 1919 for the Rubaiyat, 1921 for the LM. This pre-dates Bulovas claim.

We have seen an example or two of trench watches, there was at least one Rubaiyat model, and another possible on the "retracing bulova history" thread until all the photos disappeared in that thread.

The Bulova Timeline does not hold much water pre-1940 when you look for the evidence, so I take any corporate spiel with a big ol' pinch of salt. All manufacturers do it as I have found.

Bulova won't thank anyone for pointing out how wrong they are. Nobody likes it, I have found.

I have used dozens and dozens of search engines over the last 30+ months, constantly searching world-wide for evidence not  just of men's wrist watches, but pocket watches, ladies watches and any scrap of history regarding Joseph Bulova and his origins. Not much out there, the only pre-1920 advert for a man's watch I found was for a Rubaiyat pocket watch from 1919.

 

To be honest, looking for more will bear very little fruit I think.

JP
Posted May 31, 2015 - 2:12am

Panel Member

Check with Rich Callamaras, he has been working very closely with Bulova and may be of some help. He has been setting up a big arrangement of Bulova's for a special show they have requested him to do.

JP

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bobbee
Posted May 31, 2015 - 7:30am

JP wrote:

Check with Rich Callamaras, he has been working very closely with Bulova and may be of some help. He has been setting up a big arrangement of Bulova's for a special show they have requested him to do.

JP

 

John, I'm not positive about this, but I don't think Bulova have any information that can't be found either on this site, or on Watchophilia. Their (genuine) early history would be written into their site 'Timeline' if they had any definite knowledge, don't you think?

I look forward to the Bulova display at the NAWCC museum with great interest.

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William Smith
Posted May 31, 2015 - 3:43am

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Yea I agree with the "pinch of salt".  

I also think it was the ladies first for "a complete line", followed by mens.  And I like the favorable-to-Bulova misleading language of "...offering the industry’s first complete line of ladies’ wristwatches."  The "industry" must be referring to Bulova, not the US watch making industry.  

The information in the timeline does not play out in the ads we have to date.   

Slightly self-edited on June 1st. My self-edits don't change the just of my statements above.

 

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William Smith
Posted May 31, 2015 - 4:06am

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I just looked through 40+ full page old ladies watch advertisements from US manufacturers (and some importers) from 1912 through 1922.  Although no Bulova ads, most of these ads were from Jewelers Circular- directed at supplying jobbers.  Almost all of them were companies with address at 6, 9, 11, 13 and 15 Maiden Lane....a couple further up the street....and the funny thing....there's a bunch of cases which look almost the same from each of these companies.... and several which look like the American Standard cases  we see used by Bulova for early ladies watches.  No American Standard advertisements, but these watches all start to look the same - very slight variation between these early ladies watches from this part of Maiden Lane...

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William Smith
Posted June 1, 2015 - 1:27pm

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William Smith
Posted June 1, 2015 - 4:17pm

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A section of the above linked "Bulova Legacy Book" gives us some insight to possible source of the question Admin originally askes in this thread.  
 

"Bulova’s first complete line of men’s jeweled wristwatches debuted in 1919. Not satisfied in pleasing only half of his existing clientele, Bulova achieved another milestone by offering the industry’s first complete line of ladies’ wristwatches five years later, in 1924.(11)   Within that time, his technological enthusiasm motivated him to develop a complete system of interchangeable watch parts—another first in the world of watch manufacturing. This technology gave Bulova the ability to provide parts that were standardized to a ten-thousandth of an inch, an engineering feat that greatly benefited the customer, since any potential future repairs could be done without the expense of a custom-made replacement part." (page 27).
      The reference section on page 94, shows the source of the first sentence above (11).
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bobbee
Posted June 1, 2015 - 5:42pm

Fancy referencing your own BS, in essence a "BS update".

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William Smith
Posted June 1, 2015 - 5:47pm

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I was hoping to find the rare internal publication (11), and then check for further info or references to other sources. In my day job, we usually cite the earliest published source, however that may not be the case in other fields...

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William Smith
Posted June 2, 2015 - 1:14pm

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I should be getting a copy of #19 and #55 from reference section via interlibrary loan.  I'm trying to find some of the other pubs, but the "rare internal publications" are proving to be more elusive.

Richard Callamaras
Posted July 3, 2015 - 2:58am

Hello gentleman,
As you know a rarely add comment. But in this case I would like to point out our add from 1922 that states"the makers of the Hudson maxim and rubaiyat watches." This claims that Bulova was making men's pocket watches before 1922. I believe it was around 1912(without double checking) that joseph Bulova opened his factory in bienne(biel) Switzerland. We have an add for the early trench watch which suggests in it that"or boss wrote these watches over there" during WWI. an entire factory does not get funded through marginal sales. I have 5 different versions of men's rubaiyat pocket watches. And we have at least two verified versions of the Hudson maxim. I like to theorize a much as the next guy but unless I have a signed dial, movement and case I find it difficult to assume anything. All of the previously mentioned watches are with signed dials and movements and cases. I also have 4 different marked movement cases and dials that have identical movements to the Hudson maxim. This leaves is with 5 different men's rubaiyat 2 Hudson maxim and 4 uniquely designed Bulova all pre 1922. There is no doubt in my mind concerning the validity of the statement of a full line. Also, they more than had the ability to produce them from there factory in Switzerland. Admin has some photos of these watches to reference if you wish. The only thing is, they did not use the Bulova name except on the movements for the Hudson maxim. The rubaiyat movement is similar to the Hudson maxim Bulova marked movement but not an exact match. Hope this information helps.

mybulova_admin
Posted July 17, 2015 - 8:00am

Club 5000Panel Member

Richard, just to clarify. Bulova's statement specifically refers to wristwatches and not pocket watches, thus my initial question. There's no question Bulova were producing pocket watches pre 1922, but did they really have a complete line on mens 'wristwatches' then too?

Richard Callamaras
Posted July 17, 2015 - 9:35am

I guess the question is do we consider all of the lady maxim and rubaiyat conversions, wristwatches? We also have the Rockland line and the Bulova precision line. We would need to consider. As long as the conversions happened by Bulova, and not at the watchmaker we have a few full lines. I will ask Bulova this Tuesday. Im more excited to have access to the archives than anything else. :-)

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William Smith
Posted July 17, 2015 - 3:59pm

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Richard, perhaps in their archives, there are old company reports, both from before they went public, and afterwards?  These would be a treasure-trove of useful info, even if they don't give many specific model ID's.  They could indicate trends for marketing w/i the company and a bunch of other useful stuff.
Have fun next Tuesday.

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Reverend Rob
Posted July 17, 2015 - 10:35am

Panel Member
 

It seems reasonable to assume that Bulova would have seen the trend in converted or 'Trench Watches'  in use by the soldiers in WWI, and may have decided to jump on this. 1919 would be the perfect year to launch this, war was over, and the surviving soldiers were home again. 

It is important to note that trench watches and conversions pre-date the First World War, and were in use by Spanish soldiers in the 1880's. 

 
mybulova_admin
Posted September 26, 2016 - 12:00am

Club 5000Panel Member

Part of Bulova's Legacy book has a section that writes:

'It would take the intervention of his seventeen-year-old office assistant, John Ballard, however, to fully persuade Bulova himself of the marketability of wristwatches. Hired at the age of thirteen, Ballard—who would later become the acting president of the company and a forceful proponent of continual innovation for almost fifty years—was given a large amount of watches by a client in order to resolve a debt.

Only seventeen, Ballard convinced Bulova to allow him to sell the watches, which sold quickly and profitably. This revelation, combined with his decades of experience crafting quality clocks and pocket watches, led Bulova to reorganize his business.'

Mr Ballard passed away in 1979 at the age of 86. This then dates this event to around 1910 when he was 17 and gives us a potential starting point for when Bulova started to focus their business on wristwatches. 

This further ties in with the statement 'By 1912, Joseph Bulova established his first dedicated watch manufacturing and assembly plant in Bienne, Switzerland.' and the incorporation of the company (then known as J. Bulova Company') in 1911.