Hello, I'm a new member and I really like vintage Bulova watches! I have a '64 Regatta 23, and a '61 black dial that I'm identifying, and a '57 tank style. Attached are front and back photos of the tank, which is my first Bulova. My dad bought it at a garage sale in the late 80's for $2.00. He gave it to me and I had a watchmaker clean and service it shortly after for about $30. It has run like a top ever since.
L7 dating, 23 jewels, tank style, gold plated bezel/crown, stainless back, waterproof, shock resistant, anti-magnetic, self winding. Doesn't say SWISS on the bottom, so I assume it could be a USA movement.
My questions are:
What model is it? Is there a "Surfmaster" model that it might be?
How rare is it?
Hi, Kob. Nice watch! Thanks for sharing it with us. I've been looking for ads for these squarish 23-jewel models for quite some time and have not yet found any clue to their identity.
According to the ads we have to-date, the Surfmasters all had 17-jewels, so I think we can rule that out as a possibility. There was also a similarly styled model called the Albatross, but it too had 17-jewels.
I find your watch quite interesting in that most of the watches I see with these specs are in cases made by Star, but yours appears not to be, though it does have the usual star symbol next to the waterproof language on the back. Is there anything stamped inside the back of the case?
In my article on the Bulova 23 models, I note the existence of 23-jewel men's dress models, which were not part of the "Bulova 23" series. Bruce Shawkey also noted the existence of such watches in his article on the "Bulova 23", which was published in the NAWCC Bulletin. Unfortunately, we have no additional information regarding what they were actually called.
Stay tuned. Some day we'll find the elusive ad that answers this question.
Lisa, thank you for taking time to respond. I will keep looking for information and if I find anything, will let you know.
I haven't seen the inside of this watch. It goes together with four little pins and I never tried to open it myself. I'm okay at unscrewing conventional backs, but I didn't want to try to unwedge the pins on this watch.
Your website is very nice...keep up the great work!
As usual, myBulova is completely wrong. As I explained previously, all ads indicate that the Surfmasters had 17 jewels, not 23. The jewel count matters, particularly in watches from that time period. I believe there was discussion of that fact in the thread on myBulova that you read, but you didn't comment on that. That crucial fact was also ignored by the site Administrator, Stephen, who would rather have an easy ID than the truth.
In addition to the jewel count, the Surfmasters also had manual wind movements, and your watch is an automatic (a/k/a "self winding"). That is also a telling difference between your watch and the line of Surfmasters.
Lots of Bulova watches during the 1950s and beyond look alike--perhaps even use the exact same case--but will have different features that are characteristic of the different model names assigned to them. Jewel count and type of movement are the two things to look for first. If they don't match, you don't have a match.
Call the watch what you want, but my money is not on any version of the Surfmaster. That's just a bad call, IMO. The myBulova database is replete with those and is not, IMO, a reliable source of information.
In addition to finding out that I was wrong on this, I am learning that the vintage Bulova watch world requires a lot of study and digging for information. I will be more prudent in using myBulova.com as a source. I was hoping I was on to something!
So could Bulova have just taken a Surfmaster case, put a 23J self-winding movement in it, made some appropriate dials, and manufactured a few of these watches? If so, maybe there was never a name developed for it?
Guess I'll keep looking and maybe solve this little mystery.
Hi, Kob. Yes, this watch collecting business takes much careful thought and study. Some of us have been at it for many years. For me lately it has been a full-time job.
By all means, please keep looking for your watch. I hope you find something marvelous that we've never seen before. I love to learn something new and identify another watch.
Don't be surprised, though, if it takes a while to figure this one out. I've been looking for something on the 23-jewel squarish models for quite a while. Plus, just look at all the watches in my collection that have "unknown" as the model name, and that's after looking for information for years. We just don't have all the ads yet, and it's a rather slow process to gather them all up from so many different sources over so many years, all from so long ago.
This watch collecting business also takes a great deal of patience. I hope that you'll stick with it and bring us your insights.
P.S. I've not known Bulova to just make a few watches without a name. I never rule out anything as impossible, but I would not think that scenario at all likely. There are more of these squarish 23-jewels out there than you think. I just bought another one last week, and it's on the way to me now. Also, the Surfmaster wasn't the only watch to use that case. I mentioned the Albatross in my first response (also 17-jewels). There was also the very similar Spencer (not 23 jewels though). There were probably others that we haven't discovered yet. We just found ads for the Albatross a few weeks ago.