Bulova 1974 Sea King

Submitted by jshopper1 on February 13, 2017 - 6:06pm
Manufacture Year
Movement Model
Movement Jewels
Movement Serial No.
Case Serial No.
Case shape
Case Manufacturer
Crystal Details
Additional Information

Found this last week at a thrift store, hence know nothing about its history.

Movement:  10COAC, 30 jewel - Movement Date Code:  M9 - 1969 - Case Date Code:  N4 - 1974

Unfortunately my camera is not sophisticated enough to capture these date codes, sorry. On 26 February 2015 ChefBenjamin posted a watch cosmetically identical to mine: http://www.mybulova.com/watches/1973-unknown-7246 - I would be willing to wager that his watch is mechanically identical too.  But it went unresolved as to whether his watch was an authentic Commander because he could not post a photo of the movement. My watch does has a 30 jewel 10 COAC movement as did all of the Commanders.  My watch also has a Commander AQ gold plated case.  The only difference between my watch and the 1960s Commanders is the dial and hands, updated to a more current 1970s style.  And my dial does not say 30 Jewels. Is my watch authentic Commander?

1969/1974 Commander
1974 Bulova watch
1974 Bulova watch
Geoff Baker
Posted February 15, 2017 - 6:45am

hello jshopper1, welcome to myBulova. Like ChefBenjamin's watch, which seems to be the same, yours is difficult to correctly identify. My concern with a commander ID is based on the dial, which is not the same as the advert and the 5 year difference between the movement date code and the case date code. When we find something more that a year difference we suspect a replacement movement. Typically 30 jewel watches by Bulova were noted as such on the dial and yours isn't. These factors make me think your watch is a combination of at least two models. Generally we note these as Non-Conforming, which means they don't represent a single Bulova model. It is still a fine looking watch and should be proudly worn! Thanks for sharing it.

1974 Non-Conforming


Posted February 15, 2017 - 7:04am

Agree with Geoff, Non-Conforming

Posted February 15, 2017 - 3:20pm


Thank you for your kind input.  I learned much from it.

In your review above you said:  "These factors make me think your watch is a combination of at least two models."  Can you specify which two models?  Anybody?  One could be the Commander.  Which other models do you have in mind?  By the way, I am not arguing or contradicting what you said.  I just have a curious mind and want to learn.  I searched long and hard looking for other 1970s Bulova models with similar dials because I thought the same thing also.  Came up empty, other than ChefBenjamin's.

Maybe they are out there and I just didn't find them.  Anyway I suppose that Non-Conforming is a step above Unknown.

Anyway thanks again for your assistance.



Geoff Baker
Posted February 16, 2017 - 5:44am

In reply to by jshopper1

I'm suggesting that the movement doesn't belong to the case and dial. I'm not sure the dial doesn't belong with the case, it is quite likely that is does. Bulova generally put 30 Jewel on the dial but if someone added a 30 J movement to a non 30 dialed watch it could be Non-conforming. If someone put a 1969 movement into a 1974 case we would consider it Non-Conforming. 

Posted February 16, 2017 - 10:24am


Thank you again for your kind response.  I understand your comments and agree with Non-Conforming.

When Bulova fabricated this watch in 1974 using a Commander AQ case they had to use a 10.5 ligne movment because the Commanders used a 10 series movement sized at 10.5 ligne (unless they used a smaller movement and a spacer ring, but why would they).  As I understand it, the 10COAC movement was the end of the 10 series line and the most recent.  Therefore most likely the available movement parts in inventory were 10COAC parts (with 1960s date stamps).  Hence I think that the 10COAC movement was most likely correct for this watch.  What else did Bulova have at the time to put in it?

The above is just my opinion and cannot be proven until some factory advertising verifies it or lots of examples turn up.  I also believe that since two of these examples exist, there could be more out there waiting to be found.

Again, just my opinions and certainly not proof.  I do appreciate your knowledge and thank you again for your time.


Posted February 16, 2017 - 12:28pm

jshopper1 - is there a number stamped on the inside of the caseback, typically four digits sometimes with or w/o a letter? This number can be referenced with a parts book to determine the movement associated with this case (assuming the case and caseback are original to one another). Thanks, Ken

Reverend Rob
Posted February 17, 2017 - 9:55am

The lack of '30 jewels' on the dial is not unprecedented, Lisa has a couple from the early 70's, but not Commanders. These were unsteady times, and companies were starting to struggle. The quartz crisis was just getting started, and prices were beginning to drop as the cheaper movements were being used. 

I'm not sure what to make of the 5 year spread on the movement and case, usually this indicates a swap, and we do think that the 10COAC ended in 1969. If Bulova were to update the Commander, they could easily have them made the cases (or spacers) for the newer 11 ligne movts, so why use an old movement? There is actually only a small difference bewteen the 10 1/2 and the 11 ligne movts, and it would be simple to use either with the plastic spacer rings at the time. A french ligne is  2.2558291 mm and the difference between the two sizes is less than this. 

What would be nice of course would be some early seventies ads showing the Commander, but that still wouldn't give us any info on the movt, especially if they dropped the '30 jewels' from the dial. I don't know why they would do this, but they did do it on another model, it is listed as unknown on Lisa's site. 

Posted February 17, 2017 - 9:41am

Ken and Rev Rob,

Thank you for your comments.

Ken, the watch is with my watchmaker getting a COA and new crystal, so I do not have it in hand.  I don't recall any marks on the inside case back, but I also have trouble recalling what I had for lunch yesterday.  I will try to get the info requested from him, if not it may be a couple of weeks until he sends it back.  I will post back when I get the info.  Thanks for comments.

Reverend Rob, interesting insight.  I doubt that my watch was part of a large production run.  Hence I doubt that we will ever see an advertisement.  They may have been a clean up run of old inventory or they may have been a special run dedicated to an single private buyer, possibly to be used as a sales incentive (i.e., buy a time share condo and get a free watch).  Or maybe some other yet to be discovered reason.

As time goes by I hope more will come out of the woodwork so we can figure out what is correct.  Don't you love a good mystery?

Thanks again everybody.


Posted March 7, 2017 - 7:38am

Bringing this thread out of retirement.  I promised Ken that I would report on the number stamped inside the case back when my watch returned from the beauty salon.  Well, its back.

First I need to give a shout out to Ken Setser at About Time Watch Restorations in Jacksonville, Florida (AboutTimeWatches.com).  Ken did a first class COA, crystal replacement and gasket installation for me.  He returned my watch promptly and charged a very reasonable price.  Further, he warrants his work for one year.  Thanks, Ken.

Now, on to some new information.  The number stamped inside of my case back is 3314.  What does that mean?

I looked again at my movement, this time with my loupe rather than just a visor.  I actually discovered TWO date stamps on the movement, not just one!  Here is a better shot of my  movement and you can see two date stamps above the winding wheel, though they are hard to read.

I will zoom in on the date stamps:


Note both M9 to the right of the screw and N4 to the left!  When I looked at this a couple of weeks ago I didn't pay attention to the N4 because I wasn't looking for it.  Also the N4 stamp is not quite as sharp, probably stamped deeper than the M9.  This plate was double stamped, first in 1969 when the plate was originally cast and then again in 1974 when the movement was assembled and placed in the case (my case stamp N4 also).  I now think it is fair to say that the movement in my watch is probably not a replacement movement; it is most likely original.  This also says that Bulova issued a group of watches in the 1970s with parts from inventory left over from 1969. Cool, huh?

Also while my watch was away at the spa I spent time searching the internet using different search engines and different search terms.  Guess what?  I found two more of these watches mechanically and cosmetically identical to mine.  That makes a total of four of these watches now known to our collector world.  I list below the two sites showing these watches.  Please be aware that both of these sites are private sales sites. Disclosure: I neither recommend nor discourage either of these sites.  I have no affiliation with either of these sites.  I just report them here for research purposes.

The first site I call Klongton.  Here is the (long) link:

Click here

The second site I call Etsy.  Here is the link:


Both Klongton and Etsy's watches have 3314 stamped inside the rear cover.  Both cases contain 30 jewel 10COAC movements.  Etsy doesn't mention the date stamp on the movement but does say that the case back is stamped N3.  Klongton's pictures are quite clear and one photo even shows the date stamp on the movement (N3, matching this case date stamp).  I call attention to his N3 date stamp because it matches the style of the deeper, less sharp N4 date stamp on my movement; further verification of era correct parts commonality.

The remaining questions are:  How many of these Commander-esque watches did Bulova make in the 1970s and why did they make them?  Who was their client(s) and why did they not advertise them?

Yes, these watches don't conform to the advertised Commanders of the 1960s.  But now that we know of four, Bulova surely made more to justify the cost of creating a new dial.  These watches are not an aberation of a 1960s watch but a heretofore undiscovered mid-1970s run using mostly 1960s NOS Commander parts.  Do they warrant a special designation, a new category?  How can we recognize them for what they are?

Hope this will stimulate some new discussion and thought.  Thanks for your attention.



Posted March 7, 2017 - 6:13pm

Thank you for the case number. The case parts book does call for the 10COAC movement with case 3314. This number can also be used to identify some other case part numbers, like the correct crown or crystal for instance.