Retracing Bulova History

Submitted by FifthAvenueRes… on September 12, 2012 - 7:33am

Retracing Bulova History.

The Bulova Corporation was founded in 1875 by Czech immigrant Joseph Bulova in a small premises on Maiden Lane, New York City.

By 1911, Joseph Bulova had set up manufacturing to build high quality boudoir clocks, table clocks and pocket watches and by the following year (1912) Joseph Bulova was able to establish his first dedicated Watch manufacturing and assembly plant in Bienne, Switzerland, building only quality fully jeweled movements.

'At about the time of the First World War, there were many European watch manufacturers that said that the wearing of a watch on the wrist would never be a popular alternative to the pocket watch. Joseph Bulova, creating a pioneering spirit that was to become the 'culture' of Bulova, started to experiment with compact spring and balance wheel timepieces that could withstand the impacts and shocks of being worn on the wrist. Out of only a handful of manufacturers of the day, Bulova introduced its first line of fully jeweled men's wristwatches in 1919'

So, where are these 'Bulova Watches' Dating from 1911 to 1921  You may ask?

The clues are right before Us.

The first clue was recently discoverd in an ad which appeared in a 1922 Cosmopolitan Magazine.

* Note: the ad reads:

 J. Bulova Co. Fifth Avenue at 36th Street. New York
Makers of the famous HUDSON MAXIM and RUBAIYAT Watches.

The image appears to be Copyrighted 1920 or 1921 and there is no mention of Bulova Watch Co in fact to the contary, the ad reads J. Bulova Co.

Clue 2. 
In 1917 a Patent was issued to the J. Bulova Co.

*Note: there is no notation of when this Patent was applied for or when the Name 'Rubaiyat' was first used by the J. Bulova Co

Clue 3.
Enter into the picture this piece:

The Watch shown above is a First World War era (WWI 1914 - 1918) Gent's wrist Watch, correctly Jeweled (7) for Military issue at the time, manufactured in Switzerland, signed on both Case and Movement Rubaiyat W. Co. in the very same fashion, identically even, to early movements signed Bulova W. Co., which appear around 1921. Also please note the Rubaiyat signature on the Movement rolls the same way depicted in the Patent issued to J. Bulova Co.

What does this mean?

It is My contention that this Rubaiyat W Co. signed piece is the early work of Joseph Bulova manufactured while operating as the J. Bulova Co. pre Bulova Watch Company and the reason We do not see any 'Bulova Watches' pre Dating the early 1920's is that they do not exist. They do, only during the Decade of 1911-1921 Mr Joseph Bulova of the J. Bulova Co was manufacturing His famous Watches from the facility in Bienne, Switzerland under the Names of 'Rubaiyat' and 'Maxim' as indicated by the early 1920's ad.

This contention would also help explain early 1920's Watches which are American Standard Cased Bulova signed Movements with Maxim, Rubaiyat or nothing at all printed on their Dials, as J. Bulova Co grew and morphed into Bulova Watch Company, casing and timing Watches downstairs from the newly constructed Bulova observatory on Fifth Avenue, New York.

Many thanks to Mr Stephen Oilman, owner/admin of for allowing the presentation of this information on site and to fellow MyBulova members who take time to read, evaluate, enjoy or critique.

Fifth Avenue Restorations.

William Smith
Posted October 8, 2012 - 1:47pm

In reply to by FifthAvenueRes…

...and now a watch size example.  What year do you think this example is? 

Posted October 8, 2012 - 3:15pm


Considering the published information that 'Bulova introduced its first line of fully Jeweled Gent's wristwatches in 1919' and the "Makers of the famous Hudson Maxim Watches" statement in the fine print of the J. Bulova Co ad Dated 1922.

Manufactured between 1919-1922.  

William Smith
Posted October 8, 2012 - 4:18pm

Good reasoning.  Thanks

Posted October 8, 2012 - 5:34pm

preliminary indications are the font used on the Hudson Maxim Dial signature is the same as found on an early Maxim brand  pocket Watch (signed Case, Movement and Dial) shown below on the left.

This font also matches the font used on Dials signed Rubaiyat and those later signed Bulova.

Posted October 8, 2012 - 7:32pm

Here is a Rubaiyat the went through the bay a couple weeks ago, Rubaiyat on the dial, American Standard case, Bulova BII 15J movement just like one that I have in the movement database...

Note the triangle on the left side of the movement...just like the one that I have in the movement database.

William Smith
Posted October 8, 2012 - 7:44pm

...and does the triangle in both examples appear to have a number or something esle inside?  The Bulova W Co. helps suggest pre-1924 for sure.  We are getting a good number of these with which to compare notes :)

Reverend Rob
Posted October 9, 2012 - 9:43am

Watches I have seen branded Maxim are very different than the Bulova examples. I recently saw one that was a Roskopf. There were several companies that used the Maxim name as a brand, but they are easily distinguishable from the Bulova made Maxim models, at least in the ones I have seen so far. 

William Smith
Posted October 9, 2012 - 1:31pm

In reply to by Reverend Rob

So Lady Maxim, Hudson Maxim, etc.  It's still a little unclear to me if the "product" Lady Maxim is a model name/series of Bulova, or part of a different subsidiary (owned by Bulova).

Posted October 14, 2012 - 10:18am

2 new images of the Hudson Maxim

* a point of interest on this example is the Porcelain Dial.

Stem is at the 3 O'Clock position.

Noting 'MAXIM' is the prominant Name on the Dial Will, I'd have to say MAXIM is a brand, the 'Lady' MAXIM and 'Hudson' MAXIM are models associated with the brand.

This reasoning would also suggest the early pieces signed 'RUBAIYAT' on the Dial as Greg shows were also a brand and not a Bulova model at this period in time.

What We are seeing are 2 companies - 'MAXIM' and 'RUBAIYAT' morphing, merging and forming Bulova Watch Company Inc.

Reverend Rob
Posted October 14, 2012 - 11:40am

I'm leaning towards the model "Maxim", Lady and Hudson, without there being a Maxim brand per se, owned by Bulova. There were already several Maxim brands in Europe, which Joseph would have been well aware of. He may not have been convinced, at this point in his life, that putting his own name on the watch was a good move, recognition wise. However, we clearly see he came quickly to this idea, and Bulova was born as a brand. I tend to view both the Rubaiyats and the Maxim models as Bulovas, kind of like viewing a Wilsdorf and Davis pocket watch as a Rolex, despite predating the name. 

William Smith
Posted October 14, 2012 - 4:24pm

I like the trapizoid-shaped stamp w/ number inside. ...and the font- the shape of the W in "Bulova W Co."  ...and the stylized "J" in Jewels.  Nice early Bulova

Posted October 15, 2012 - 8:08am

Did we miss that awesome serial number!!

Posted October 15, 2012 - 8:31am

sure did


William Smith
Posted October 15, 2012 - 1:59pm

What do we think the number in the small trapezoid represents?

Posted October 26, 2012 - 10:52am

How's about this for definitive proof of the Bulova Lady Maxim name?

Ad from the Winona Republican Herald, November 17th, 1922.

Posted October 26, 2012 - 11:11am

Another ad from the same publication dated November 30th. 1923.

Posted October 26, 2012 - 12:23pm

So what is meant by the phrase "In the rectangular and other fancy shapes"?

Could it be that all ladies' wristwatches at this time were sold under the "Lady Maxim" name, or just several models? Very complicated and confusing statement.

Posted October 26, 2012 - 3:19pm

Another from the same paper. May 1923.

Reverend Rob
Posted October 26, 2012 - 5:14pm

Five Hundred Bucks for a Lady Maxim?! That's $6700.00 in today's money, must be solid Gold model, but even so, that's a lot of Jack. 

Posted October 27, 2012 - 4:23am

In reply to by Reverend Rob

It IS a lot of money! But also, you have to remember that the wristwatch was a brand-new item, a mechanical marvel in miniaturisation. If you compare the pocket calculator when it came out (I remember when it came out, our senior science and maths buffs at school had just finished building a computer from scratch, it only did what a pocket calculator did, but it fit in a double wardrobe!) in 1972, they cost about a couple of weeks wages. 

We have an ad for the solid Platinum Phantom pocket model, at $1,000 too!

Posted October 26, 2012 - 5:54pm

Hey Mark, here is a shot of the triangle symbol on the Rubaiyat Bulova W Co BII movement you referenced back on Oct 8th.

William Smith
Posted October 26, 2012 - 5:58pm

In reply to by DarHin

Thanks DarHin. I'd asked about that symbol too.  I think it was being confused for a possible date symbol.  Not sure what it is, but we can at least "see it" now.

William Smith
Posted October 26, 2012 - 5:56pm

So during this brief time period, did the J Bulova Co make a series of Models named Lady Maxim under the J Bulova name, or was J Bulova Co the parent company of "Maxim Watch Co" ? How were the movements stamped?  It appears from the ads directly above, the Model series was "Lady Maxim" made by J Bulova Co.    I'm not seeing the little "whited out" area with BULOVA on the actual watch graphics, as is seen in other watch graphics of this period which we "know" were marketed as Bulova (whether the name was on the dial or not).

Posted October 26, 2012 - 6:16pm

Here's another movement found inside an M.H. Bell tagged watch in the same style/size American Standard case as the Rubaiyat. Both pics are of the only things stamped on the movement.

How about this swanky Bulova W Co?

Cattin Aubry, Swiss, 15 Jewels, 3 ADJ

William Smith
Posted October 26, 2012 - 6:33pm

In reply to by DarHin

What a great stylized Bulova W Co stamp!  THis is fantastic.  I'm hoping the little red X for the second image goes away, and it starts working.  I can ad the pic for ya if you are having problems...just email it to me.

Posted October 26, 2012 - 8:43pm

Yes, only 2 images.

Posted October 26, 2012 - 9:08pm


Is the a shot of the entire Watch?

Posted October 26, 2012 - 10:04pm


Yes, it would be interesting to see the whole enchilada - Case, Movementt and Dial, if possible?

Posted October 26, 2012 - 10:49pm

Surething. I'll post tomorrow.

Posted October 27, 2012 - 5:07am

Will, the watch is advertised as the famous "Bulova Lady Maxim" wrist watch, so I would think it is a Bulova brand. 

None of the early ads in the DB have the little "Bulova" sign in them, yet we do not question their validity.

What about this then? Early Bulova watches had numbers instead of names, right? So what if all these numbered watches, mens and womens, came under the Lady Maxim or Hudson Maxim model name? We do see some watches with the names on the dial, but not many, and only the Lady and Hudson Maxim and the Rubaiyat name.

We know there was a "Maxim Watch Co., a Hudson Watch Co. and they are probably, if not definitely subs of Bulova, but when the wristwatch market blossomed, what is easier than using established and well known and easily recognisable names on/for their new product? 

The obvious next step is when the market expands so much, and the wristwatch is in big demand and new models are needed to cater for the customer, numbers were dropped and names used instead, much easier to remember and not so impersonal as a number. In the early days of wrist watches people could say, "I have a Bulova Lady Maxim or Hudson Maxim", but as more models were made, who wants to say, " I have a 2266 or 3579"? Let's not forget it was all about marketing, and Joseph certainly knew his market!

Worth thinking about hmm?

Posted October 27, 2012 - 7:10am

its good to see members starting to see things the same way I have seen then for years. I always had theories and its nice to see 'some' possibly turn out to be correct.

Great work gents!


Posted October 27, 2012 - 7:32am

Stephen, I am sorry if I seem a little ignorant but I have come in at a late stage and have not seen much of your theories apart from the LE parts, and if it seems like I am re-hashing old threads, I apologise, but I have come to the above theory on my own and have not read about it anywhere here or elsewhere. I am really happy to have been of some help (if I indeed have), and look forward to helping more in the future.

Posted October 29, 2012 - 10:02pm

In reply to by bobbee

Nothing to be sorry about Bob, I was just making an observation that it is good to see other member making their own theories and comments that resemble those of my own and now that we have more and more evidence to give weight to our theories we are seeing a general exceptance where as before they may have been put down as daft ideas. The work everyone here is doing, both little and large is helping to put many of the vintage Bulova pieces finally together. It's far from complete but that's part of the fun knowing that there is still more of the puzzle to be solved. Our theories and thoughts no matter how daft they may sound at the time may very well help us all solve the next piece of the puzzle. All I can say is a big thank you to everyone for all the hard work!

Reverend Rob
Posted October 27, 2012 - 2:15pm

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

There were distinct, separate companies called "Hudson Watch Co.", (ca 1884) and they have absolutely nothing to do with Bulova. The model name "Maxim" was used by a variety of companies in Europe, not the least of which was Droz & Cie and Junghans, and WestClox and Waltham this side of the ocean. 

 Hudson Maxim, and Lady Maxim were  registered and used by Bulova as model names. I do not believe Bulova was the parent company of any such other watch co as named above.

The Maxims I have seen that are non-Bulova in Origin are easily discernible from Bulova products. Bulova also used the shortened name, "Maxim".  

Rubaiyat was also used as a model name by Bulova, and I do not beolieve this represents a separate company, either. Obviously we are seeing Bulova movts and watch dials without the Bulova name, and I believe Joseph did not always mark his products this way early on. Perhaps he was unsure of how far he would eventually go. 

Posted October 27, 2012 - 2:29pm

Rob, I came across a very interesting bit of information recently whilst searching for info on Maiden Lane, and it makes very interesting reading. I have here a link to the document in question and if you read from the last paragraph on page three on to the first paragraph on page four, it concerns the Jewelry and Watch businesses of the 19th-20th C.


William Smith
Posted October 27, 2012 - 3:17pm

Here's some previously posted trademark info below - the "Everett Watch Company"

If we could find something like info above, linking J Bulova to " Rubaiyat W.  Co, Swiss"

Perhpas before incorporation- before "Bulova Watch Company, INC" there was simply "J. Bulova & Cie".  A date for inception of Bulova Watch Company, INC. would be great.  And perhpas, like Everette Watch Co, the pre-incorprated Bulova had a subsidary named "Rubaiyat W Co".

Or am I just repeating things we already suspect....

 EDIT:  The full watch from which I got the Rubaiytat graphic above is in the root record, along with its particulars.


Posted October 27, 2012 - 3:47pm

The inception of 'Bulova Watch Company Inc.' ( abbrevition for Incorporated)' occurred in 1924.

Websters defines Incorporate this way:

a : to unite or work into something already existent so as to form an indistinguishable whole.

b : to blend or combine thoroughly.

In 1924 Joseph Bulova, then doing buisness as J. Bulova Co. united,  blended or combined thoroughly several aspects of buisness to form Bulova Watch Company Incorporated.

William Smith
Posted October 27, 2012 - 3:54pm

I was thinking it could have been late 1923 and it just took a while (1924) for them to get various "changes" put in place.  The date of the Everett Watch Co trademark/pattent info from is inferred by the Bulova Watch Co INC being included in the middle field. I betcha this date could have been 1923.....  The reason's I'm wondering....possibel pre incorporation use of Rubaiyat as a Bulova subsidary could have been rolled into the incorporated company and we just don't have that info...yet....

Reverend Rob
Posted October 27, 2012 - 4:26pm

Joseph Bulova was incorporated at the start, in 1875. That is the registration of the corporation. The Company itself may have changed names slightly, from J. Bulova Co., to Bulova Watch Company (1923), but at all times these are corporations. It is not a requirement by law to include 'Inc" in the advertised name, which is the same today. Despite the Rubaiyat Watch Co, and other markings on casebacks, I am unconvinced that these are full fledged companies in their own right, and merely an experiment on the part of Bulova at the time. 

Is it possible that Bulova took over a little known watch brand that had failed or was faltering? Yes. This is a fuzzy area in Bulova history. 

Watchco states that Bulova began branding pocket watches in 1911, but I can't say I've ever seen such a one. 

Posted November 14, 2012 - 12:19pm

In reply to by Reverend Rob

Here is the date of the incorporation of the Bulova Watch Company Inc.

Bottom centre of Jose Serra's 1968 Stock Share, inside the roundel it states: "Incorporated New York, 1911.

Posted October 28, 2012 - 5:19pm

Here are *8* pics of the M.H. BELL watch I referenced above. The outside case dia is 25.8mm and has a hinged back and snap front bezel. The movt is 23.0mm (exluding the lip that holds it in the case).

*EDIT* 10-28-12 Added full shot of the movt below

Posted October 27, 2012 - 9:54pm

Thanks Darren, more food for thought.

Did J. Bulova Co manufacture Watches for other Companies? Certainly the MH Bell hallmark on the Dial isn't a Model Name, is it? The Case belongs to Bulova and the Movement is at leat part Bulova.

Could the Lady Maxim and Hudson Maxim have been manufactured by J. Bulova Co for Maxim? The Dial signatures are identical.

thinking out loud...

...and, where does Everett Watch Co. of New York fit?

Posted October 30, 2012 - 12:20pm

Below is a Rubaiyat hallmarked Dial and Movement in a American Standard Case.

* note how the Rubaiyat hallmark on the movement rolls in the same way as the trademark issued to J. Bulova Co in 1917.


Posted October 30, 2012 - 12:35pm

Looks like it does on the dial too.

Very nice case, and very early. I think it ties in.

Posted October 30, 2012 - 1:17pm

Hey Mark, I notice that there's neither a globe nor a shield on your Rubaiyat American Standard case but it does have W. C. Co. (Watch Case Company). What's the serial # on your case?

Reverend Rob
Posted October 30, 2012 - 2:49pm

Cattin appears to be a relatively obscure movt manufacturer, showing only two calibres, one 10.5 and the other 11.5'''. I have several Aubry watches, but Aubry didn't make their own movements, as far as I can tell. They look like the above Cattin calibre, which closely resembles other ebauches of the time, (AS, FHF) so this may be a triple ID: An ebauche supplied to Cattin/Aubry, re-signed by Bulova.