Skip to main content

Bulova Case Signatures

We've touched on this topic off and on throughout various watch posts, so I thought it would be useful to have a general discussion of it here.

The issue regards what is, or is not, a valid Bulova signature on a watch case.

There are those who believe that any watch without a Bulova signature inside the case back is not valid, call it a "recase" or a Frankbully, or whatever you like.

However, many of us have watches in our collection that have different signature configurations.  I think it would be helpful to all of us to talk about those here and see if we can come to some agreement about their validity.

A good example to start with is the 1934/1935 Ambassador.  I have one, and so does Plains, and there may be others in the database as well, that do not have the Bulova signature inside the case.  Instead, they have the Bulova signature on the back, along with a symbol that looks somewhat like a shield.  There is no other signature on the case anywhere, which is important to note:  we are not talking here about cases that bear any other maker's signature.

I just ran across a third example of this same Ambassador model on eBay, and the seller confirmed that it has "Bulova" on the back edge of the case, above the gold content statement, but nothing inside the case back.  So, that's THREE EXAMPLES of just one model that have that signature configuration.  Seems a bit much for the recase theory, IMO.

I have also seen cases that have only "B -" or "Bulova" on the back, without the shield-like symbol beside it, and nothing at all on the inside.

I believe that many of us have examples of this type of signature in our collection.  It would be useful, I believe, to inventory our various collections and see if we can spot trends--such as a date range--that may help us find an answer to this question and put this issue to rest. 

It has been suggested that the alternate signature described above is only seen in models from the early-to-mid '30s.  It would be interesting to see if we can confirm or refute that proposition, as it would certainly narrow our search for an explanation.

It has also been suggested that the shield-like symbol could be Keystone's logo, suggesting that Keystone made the case--for reasons unknown.  However, note that American Standard also used a shield symbol, and we are all well aware of American Standard's connection to Bulova.

I'll take a look at my collection and report back.


FifthAvenueRestorations's picture
Posted January 31, 2012 - 1:17pm



Not to say they are Bulova or they are not but in comparing the condition of the Dial to the Case condition the Dial appears much older in this instance.

The Crown is also showing wear inconsistant with the wear showing to the Case.



Posted January 31, 2012 - 6:12pm

So many watches in my collection fit that same profile.  The case can be cleaned and shined, but the dial cannot.  And crowns are always worn out way beyond the rest of the case, because they are the part of the watch that gets the most regular, abrasive use. 

Panel Member
Posted January 31, 2012 - 3:09pm

Hi All,

Just checked my 34 Ambassador, clearly marked on the hinged caseback " B - 10k Rolled Gold Plate" , serial # on the other end and nothing inside the case back.

Im my opinion, Bulova did NOT always sign  inside the casebacks. There are just far too many examples of this for them to be re-cased.

William Smith's picture
William Smith
Club 5000Panel Member
Posted January 31, 2012 - 3:45pm

I have a solid gold 14k from about 1950-51 which says B-14K solid gold (I think the solid gold part- gotta dig it out) but my notes say there's nothing in the inside case back except perlage and jewelers marks.  It's an ID'ed model here-  Just gotta find it (not notes) and enter as per others or similar.

Posted January 31, 2012 - 5:29pm

I just went through approx. 50 models dated in the '30s.  I found TWELVE that don't have the Bulova signature on the inside.  Here's a more detailed analysis:

- Going by the movement date code, they all date from 1933 to 1937

- Going by the case serial number, they date from 1932 to 1939

- If you consider only the nine watches where the movement date matches the case serial date, or is dated no more than one year prior to the case serial, then the watches span 1933 - 1936

- With one exception, they all run a 10AN movement--15J, 17J, and 21J.  The one that is not a 10AN is also the one that is dated two years after the case serial, so I suspect it of being a movement swap

- 7 of the 12 have the shield symbol beside the word "Bulova" on the outside edge of the case

- 5 of the 12 have only the word Bulova--without the shield--on the outside edge of the case

- 7 of the 12 have a hinged case, 5 have a snap case

- One is an unidentified model, while the other eleven are well known models, including a Lone Eagle, Banker, Ambassador, Commodore, Hancock, Commander, Senator, and President.  Of the eleven known models, three of them are Commanders, and two are Senators

- 7 of the 12 have matching dates on the movement and serial number; 2 of the twelve have a movement that dates 1 year prior to the serial number date; one has a movement that dates 5 years prior to the case serial, and two have movements that post-date the case by 2 to 3 years

As an aside, I also found several watches during this same time period that have two case serial numbers--one inside the case and one outside the case.  All of those watches had the Bulova signature inside the case back.

Posted January 31, 2012 - 5:58pm

I have an 1934 Ambassador in White that is marked with a serial number on one end, 10KT Rolled Gold Plate on the other end and Bulova on the lip.  Nothing inside.  Case serial number and movement symbol match.

Posted January 31, 2012 - 6:06pm

So, we know of at least five Ambassadors that have the outside only signature.

Paleo, does yours have the shield-like symbol next to "Bulova" on the edge of the case?

Club 5000Panel Member
Posted January 31, 2012 - 11:04pm

Here's my watches I've in the database that are marked on the outside of the case with NO markings on the inside:

1934 Unknown - Marked on the case end "Bulova"


1934 Ambassador - Marked Bulova "shield" on the end of the case


1934-35 Lone Eagle - I believe this is a LE IV with earlier replacement movement.  The case is marked Bulova "shield"


1935 Unknown - Marked Bulova "shield" on the BACK of the case


1935 Unknown - Marked "Bulova" on the back but nothing on this inside of case


1938 Unknown - Marked Bulova "shield" on the end of the case


As you can see they are all from the 34-38.  I've said this before and I'll say it again... these are not recases, these are original Bulova cases.  Nothing anyone says will convince me otherwise.  There's to many of them out there in the hands of collectors and they are from very well established Bulova models.

Posted February 1, 2012 - 11:23am

I found another Commodore with the Bulova + shield symbol on the back of the case, nothing inside.  So, both my Commodores--the white plain bezel and the yellow engraved--have this signature.

The serial number and movement date code on this other Commodore match (1935), and it also runs a 10AN.

TimeRestorations' Commodore also shows this signature, and it's not clear from the photos, but it looks like the others listed in the DB might have the same configuration.

If so, that would mean that all the Commodores in this style that we've seen have the outside only signature, and they may also all have the shield symbol as well.

Posted February 1, 2012 - 11:15am


My Ambassador has a hinged case and no shield.