Serial numbers

Do Bulova serial numbers mean anything? And what I mean by that is, do they represent date codes that tell you the exact date of manufacture or the production number?

William Smith's picture
William Smith
Posted May 28, 2015 - 10:35pm

Club 5000Panel Member

They mean something, but we don't really know much.  Could be they only are unique ID's used by Bulova manufacturing, but there certainly aren't random.  We don't see duplicate movement serial numbers.  Could be they were used only used internally for production control, but I think they hold more information than that.  At minimum, I'm betting they were used in a similar fasion as other watch makers whose production records are better documented.

For exact dates of production, or ever narrow date ragnes, without some kind of production look-up table (which may no longer exist), I'm not sure we can say much about movement serial numbers.  

There's some patterns we have noticed in certain period Bulova case serial numbers.  I'll look for a few links which discuss these patterns.

 

Wangbow
Posted May 29, 2015 - 2:11pm

Thanks for the info, it definitely helps.

William Smith's picture
William Smith
Posted May 29, 2015 - 3:01pm

Club 5000Panel Member

We are discussing case serial numbers here:  http://www.mybulova.com/watches/1918-unknown-5104

and both case and movement SN's are addressed here:  http://www.mybulova.com/forums/1927-bulova-lone-eagle  although this is a long thread.

and here: http://www.mybulova.com/watches/1926-153-5151

here: http://www.mybulova.com/watches/1924-Unknown-325?page=1

And admin had a good presentation in another thread...or maybe a forum discussion...which I'm looking for now.

 

William Smith's picture
William Smith
Posted May 29, 2015 - 3:08pm

Club 5000Panel Member

and here: http://www.mybulova.com/forums/early-1920s-bulova-watch-dating

I still can't find the more recent threads where Stephen and others discussed case and movement serial numbers in light of possible "meaning".

 

mybulova_admin
Posted May 30, 2015 - 12:19am

Club 5000Panel Member

 

 

Yes, we've found that pre 1950 the first number can represent the year and pre 1926, the second number can represent the year. What the other numbers mean have yet to be established.

Wangbow
Posted June 1, 2015 - 1:43pm

So I have a question about my 1949 His excellency in regards to serial number. The case back is stamped A9, but the serial number is 1290816. The movement is stamped 47. I noticed that my 1947 His Excellency serial number does start with a 7. So I'm just wondering about my 1949, and why a 1949 case would have a 1947 movement unless it was swapped at some point.

http://www.mybulova.com/watches/1949-his-excellency-7567

William Smith's picture
William Smith
Posted June 1, 2015 - 2:55pm

Club 5000Panel Member

In about 1948 or 1949, the correlation between first digit of case serial number to year of case manufacture (within decade) breaks down or is non-existent.  We see the A9 (and sometimes J9) used in 1949, then in 1950, Bulova went with the new alpha-numeric date code stamp.

 While we see 47, 48, 49 (A9,J9) on movements during these years, I don't think we see 47 or 48 on case markings.  

A 1947 movement in a 1949 case is not uncommon, and we consider this time difference within what could have been a Point Of Sale or Manufacture range vs a movement swap.  Bulova could have placed older movements in newer cases at their "shop".  They may have had some laying around which they wanted to use up.  Could also be a movement swap too, so there's other factors we may consider.

Wangbow
Posted June 3, 2015 - 9:36pm

Thanks for the info. I'm finding every watch I own besides this one conforms to the first number of the serial number as the last number of the year. I always assumed it was just a left over movement placed into a 1949 case. It wouldn't make sense for it to have a movement older than the case unless it was NOS or was the only replacement movement someone could get at the time. 

William Smith's picture
William Smith
Posted June 4, 2015 - 1:35am

Club 5000Panel Member

It's easy for folks to get confused about what serial numbers may mean.  This get more confusing when there are old publications which may not be correct, but they get "out there" and folks base ideas on them.  

1971 Popular Science article  suggesting some  Bulova SN information.  It does say "most SN's are 5 or 6 numbers long..."   and we kinda know they are usually 7 digits in lenght...usually.