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Swiss watches in America and on the moon
The Pilot Watch Magazine
11 December 2023

Swiss precision with bohemian roots

Bulova is an American watch manufacturer based in New York City that has been part of the Japanese Citizen Group since late 2007. The company’s history dates back to 1875, when Bohemian immigrant Joseph Bulova opened his first store on Maiden Lane in Manhattan – the center of New York’s jewelry industry at the time. Enthusiastic and fascinated by timepieces, Joseph Bulova founded his own watch manufactory in 1911 and started producing pocket and large watches.

Joseph Bulova appreciates the proverbial precision and quality of Swiss watches, which prompts him to build his own parts and assembly factory in Biel, Switzerland, as early as 1912. He quickly establishes the standardized mass production of his timepieces – something completely new in the watch industry at the time – and now expands his range step by step. Bulova timepieces were very popular with Americans, not least because of their appealing design and unrivaled precision. Even show legend Frank Sinatra was later said to have a pronounced soft spot for watches from Bulova.

If you’re not early, you’re late.

Frank Sinatra

Good marketing and good deeds

In 1926, the Bulova brand became known across the American continent in one fell swoop – one sound, to be exact. Bulova produced the first radio commercial, in which it solemnly announced with a beep: “At the tone, it’s eight o’clock, Bulova Watch Time” – an announcement heard by millions of Americans. And the next PR coup followed as early as 1927: Charles Lindbergh became the first pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic without a stopover. Lindbergh thus wins prize money of over 1,000 dollars and – a Bulova watch.

After World War II, Arde Bulova, son of the company’s founder, opens the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking to provide training for disabled veterans. The school later becomes a well-known rehabilitation facility and the center of wheelchair sports in the United States.

Once to the moon and back

In the 1960s, Bulowa competes with Omega to be the “first watch on the moon.” As is well known, Omega’s famous Speedmaster watches were to win the race. However, in 1971, a Bulova chronograph finally made it to our Earth satellite with Apollo 15. Pictures show commander David Scott with his Moon Pilot Chronograph on his wrist while he salutes the American flag on the moon – and incidentally makes space history: Scott had bought the watch himself. It is thus the first privately owned timepiece to have made it to the moon and back.

Manufacturer of innovative and high-quality automatic watches

During the quartz crisis in the 1970s, Bulova follows the general trend and focuses on the production of electronic timepieces. The watches are a great success in the market and ensure Bulova’s survival. To this day, Bulova is one of the leading companies in the watchmaking industry, and the brand name now stands again in particular for the production of innovative and high-quality automatic watches – including, of course, models for pilots.

More from Bulova

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