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Bulova 1937 Lady Bulova "E"

2/10 votes
Model ID rating explained.



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Well, I'm hooked!

Picked up this Lady Bulova "E" (based on the advert on this site - 1936 ad - 1937 movement - arrow) online. Came with the box. 

Removed the movement and placed the casing, back and band in an ultra-sonic bath while I attempted to remove 76 years of grime from the face.  Dried everything off and polished lightly with a gold polishing cloth.

So far she is running a tad slow, so I may have to move the S/F hand towards the F to have her keep accurate time.

The watch stem does NOT say Bulova like my Darcy does. Does this mean that it was replaced at some point with a cheap part, or did they simply not stamp the word Bulova on watches at that time? I strongly suspect it is the former. I also suspect the "crystal" is plastic - not happy about that.

A question about cleaning the face: I found the forum that discusses Tarnex and 1920 watches and wonder if I would be able to use this product on a watch from the 30's without ruining the face.  I was able to get quite a bit of crud off with rubbing alcohol and a paint brush, but as you can see from the pictures, the face is still rather grungy.

Love the adjustable section of strap on the band. The diamonds still sparkle. With the exception of the dirty face, and the plastic crystal (which can be readily replaced) it's another gem in my collection.

Not For Sale
1937 Lady Bulova "E" 09051937
Bulova watch
Bulova watch
Bulova Watch
Bulova Watch
Posted September 5, 2013 - 7:08pm

Very nice watch. Be very careful in cleaning the dial as the minute trak and be easily removed with the wrong cleaner.

My vote is Lady Bulova E

Geoff Baker
Club 5000Panel Member
Posted September 6, 2013 - 5:02am

Alright, Pamela's hooked! Look out ebay snipers, you have a new opponent. Bet she can't stop at five. Love 'em in the original clam shell display cases. Don't be concerned about the plain crown, I'm not sure Bulova was putting their name on crowns yet during this era. Two schools on the dial, some are 'all original lovers, grunge and all - I'm a refinish guy, make 'em look nice and new. I don't believe there is a value gain / loss either way unless it is a very special watch.

So, I see this watch in the 1937 ads as a Lady Bulova and agree that's what it is but I don't see the "E" ad. 

FifthAvenueRestorations's picture
Posted September 6, 2013 - 7:59am

The Case seriel number beginning in 7 indicates a Watch manufactured in 1937.

ad Dated 1937


Posted September 6, 2013 - 8:08am

Geoff -

I have 3 Bulova watches so far. Two vintage and a Precisionist Chronograph. The Precisionist was clearanced at a local department store. Combined with two store coupons, the price came down to  30 dollars.  Took me two seconds to decide if I should buy it or not.

The Lady Bulova retailed for 49.50 in 1937. Adjusted for inflation (according to the website that I used), that's the same as 800 today. The average salary in 1937 was approximately 1900. It's the tail end of the Great Depression. A Bulova watch was decidedly a luxury at that time, out of reach for millions of people. Someone had the resources to either plunk down nearly two weeks salary, or the job security to be able to make the monthly payments for a woman he loved (a woman with this kind of purchasing power in 37 is an anomaly). The unknown 76 year journey of this watch from a wrist to Ebay is facinating and part of the lure of vintage watches for me. If I found my Grandmother's Bulova in a drawer (as the 1970 Unknown was found - beautiful watch!) I would never let it go, so I find it hard to fathom how so many of these beauties end up discarded and treated like mere trinkets.

The "crystal" is decidedly plastic and I will be having that replaced. Who sticks a piece of plastic on a Bulova with four diamonds on it?! The clasp still ratchets beautifully and the adjustability of it is truly inventive.  I would love to have the face cleaner, but I am worried that I will lose more of the minute markings if I fuss further. I say lose more, because it looks like I may have inadvertently removed them a little bit, despite what I had hoped was a gentle cleaning. As soon as I read JP's reply, my heart sunk because I had hoped that the markings were merely faint to begin with, but no, it was my own blundering. Replacing the crystal  will help brighten up the face a bit since it has become very yellowed and scratched (sure sign it's plastic).

Over 5 Bulova's is a definite possibility. This will probably be the only one I buy online (who am I kidding) since I love to scrounge around antique shops and flea markets for a find. My husband exclaimed "Another watch?!" when this came in the mail. "But honey, LOOK AT IT!" I replied. Perhaps he'll change his tune if I find him a vintage of his own.

Reverend Rob's picture
Reverend Rob
Panel Member
Posted September 6, 2013 - 8:32am

Welcome to the club, Pam. Dials in general cannot and should not be cleaned, it almost always results in damage. I offer two watchmaker's secrets: Saliva and Pledge. The enzymes in saliva can be an amazing and gentle cleaner, but it is hit and miss as to the type of dials it works on. We use a substance called Rodico, (a pliable surface tacky cleaner, similar to that putty used to stick posters to walls without damage) to clean small areas and carry a tiny amount of saliva to an area. A very soft brush (think baby's hair brush) sprayed lightly with Lemon Pledge and then used to rapidly brush the dial across in all directions also has some success. The oils and wax in the pledge remove the surface dirt without immediately dissolving any laquer or affecting silver. If over used, it will strip the dial. A lot of dials are silvered, and attempts to clean them will ruin them. What you are seeing is not dirt, but oxidization and sulfides from reacting with air pollutants. 

The crystals were offered in acrylic because mineral glass also scratches badly and cannot be buffed. Also, the plastic type crystals are 'unbreakable', a major selling point. Even Rolex used acrylic crystals until fairly recently. 

FifthAvenueRestorations's picture
Posted September 7, 2013 - 4:42am

The Reverends observation is exactly the reason Tarnex will work as a temporary fix on an older Dial (older Dials are made from Silver) as it will reduce the visible oxidization, for a while.

Once oxidization breaks the surface finish the only real solution is to refinish.

good stuff Rob!

Reverend Rob's picture
Reverend Rob
Panel Member
Posted September 7, 2013 - 10:14am

Thanks, Mark. The silvering seen on dials is a very thin layer applied chemically, not necessarily electroplated. One of the reasons you see so many antique clocks with brass dials is that they were once Silvered, and someone cleaned them with a Silver polish. Not being silver plate or solid silver, this instantly ruins them, and from there it is downhill to stripping the dial altogether. 

The appliques used on dials is invariably the type of film transfer we used on our model airplanes when we were kids. It is easily removed with water or other liquids. The raised indices are often glued in place, and are also easily dislodged. Pad printed dials are ink or a type of paint, and depending on the composition, are easily damaged also. I experimented rather extensively with this while I was still in school, and to very little good effect. I have two dials I want to send to International, I see excellent results from them. 

Club 5000Panel Member
Posted September 8, 2013 - 5:57am

I'm with JP, the 4 diamond Lady Bulova with matching dial is the Lady Bulova "E". We have a number of adverts showing.