Unknown Lady's Bulova

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Unknown Lady's Bulova

  I found this lady's Bulova watch about a year ago at a second hand store. I like the looks of it, it fits me nicely, and runs well. I have tried to find out what model and year it is, but so far I have had no luck.  
  The only model I have been able to find that is somewhat similar (not exact) is 1951 "Nightingale, while I have seen a picture of the watch band on this site attached to a 1966 "Flight Nurse" watch (ad for same watch shows that my watch's band is probably not an original Bulova band).
  When I opened up the back, I was surprized to see that while the movement looks great, the inside back cover has been very marked up for some reason (can still make out the Bulova Fifth Ave New York underneath the "damage").  I cannot find a serial number of any sort and it doesn't look like it ever had one (not removed that I can tell). On the outside of the cover, I can make out what looks like a very faint partial 4-digit letter/number/mark of some sort possibly ending in "..OC" (very hard to see & impossible to photograph, if it was visible in the back cover photo, it would be on the very right edge of the cover's "circle" next to where the watch band is still attached). The first letter/number may be either a 7 or a Z (only top part visible) and the second letter/number may be either a 2,3,C,O or some other letter/number with a curve at the top (again only top part visible).
  Thank you for your help with my "mystery."

 
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Re: Unknown Lady's Bulova

Hi, Watcher.  Thanks for sharing your watch with us.  I do so love a mystery!

Your watch appears to be a Miss American "D" from the early 1940s.  Now that I've skipped to the punch line, let me go back and explain how I reached that conclusion.

I downloaded your photos and enlarged them on my computer to see if I could find the elusive serial number and date code on the movement.  While I was looking around, I noted that your watch is fully signed by Bulova on the case, movement, and dial.  Everything looks good in terms of authenticity.  I then went looking for an indication of the date of manufacture.

I could not make out a case serial number, but I think I found the movement date code (near the 17).  Unfortunately, I couldn't quite determine which symbol it is.  It appears to be either the asterisk or the "X" (?) This style of watch could date to the 1930s or the 1940s.  There were similar watches in the 1950s--like the Nightingale that you found--but the 1950s style dial is noticeably different, and the Nightingale has a sweep seconds hand.  Plus, a 1950s model would have a two-character date code on the movement and the case, and neither you nor I spotted those.  The asterisk was not used as a date code in the 1930s, so I knew that, if the symbol was an asterisk, it had to indicate 1941.  I decided to start there in looking at the ads, and I got lucky right off the bat.

I found two ads dated 1941 and 1942 that match your watch.  The case is a match, as are the dial and jewel count.  I could not verify the case composition, because I cannot read what's stamped on the back of the case.  Hopefully, it reads 10K Gold Filled.  

One of the ads identifies the watch as the Miss America "D", while the other omits the "D" and simply refers to it as the "Miss America".   The variant designations were used to distinguish between different styles of watches that went by the same general model name, such as "Miss America".  Some ads included the variant, some did not.

The marks inside your watch are rather startling, but I wouldn't worry about them.  We typically see cases that are quite marked up with watchmaker's notes, but someone really went to town on yours. Fortunately, they are inside where no one need see them.  

Finally, as for the band, I never give those much consideration.  Every now and then a watch's ID is dependent on the band.  For example, the 1940s Tuxedo specifies the matching solid gold band, and calls the watch with the gold filled band by another name.  But most watches can be identified by their case alone.  Most straps get replaced many times over the years, so we really can't expect to see the original strap so many years later.  Also, there were probably a variety of straps available at the time/place of purchase, allowing the original buyer to select something other than what was shown in the ad.  So, even a non-matching strap could be original to the watch.

Here are the two ads that I found.  Let me know if you have any additional questions.

1941 Miss America
1941 Miss America


1942 Miss American "D"

- Lisa
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Re: Unknown Lady's Bulova

  Wow! That was a quick reply. Thank you so much for your help. 1941 is earlier then I had thought possible (I was thinking '50's at the earliest).
  I looked at the movement again to see if I could tell if the symbol you weren't sure about was an X or an asterisk. If it is the symbol between the "17" and the movement edge, it is an asterisk. When I originally saw this mark, it didn't look like the other marks (it doesn't have the gold-colored "filled-in" look of the other marks) so I thought it was "damage" similar to that of the case interior only "nicer looking."
  As for a 10K Gold Filled mark on the back, I still can't make out anything different then before.
  Thank you again for your help.
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Re: Unknown Lady's Bulova

The early movement date symbols do not look like the rest of the inscriptions on the movement.  They do sometimes look like random marks, not intended to mean anything, but they are, in fact, rather important.  They can also be quite small and lightly inscribed, making them very difficult to see without excellent lighting and strong magnification.  Glad it was the asterisk, as I thought, as that definitely confirms the 1941 date.

Movement date codes in the 1950s and beyond get much clearer and easier to see.  If your watch had been from 1951, as you thought possible, both the case and the movement would have been inscribed with a small "L1".

I am surprised that the case composition indication on the back of the case is so hard to read.  Do you have a good jeweler's loupe?  Most magnifying glasses are not strong enough for this kind of work.  I would get at least a 10x loupe, and 20x would be better.  I sometimes stand near a window where bright sunlight can shine directly on the piece.  That really helps too, as most regular indoor lighting is just not bright enough for the really hard to read inscriptions.
- Lisa
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Re: Unknown Lady's Bulova

  Thank you again for your reply.
  I have tried looking all over the back of the case for any other marks beyond the ones I have already found and noted, but haven't had any luck.
  I was able to figure out how to photograph the few marks I do see:  I used the same fine detail lamp that I used to light my previous photos, but instead of simply using my camera to take a close-up photo, I placed my loupe over the camera lens.  This gave me additional magnification on top of the camera's original magnification.  It took many attempts to get the lighting perfect (not too dark or too much glare), but here are the results:

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Re: Unknown Lady's Bulova

You did manage to get some nice, close-up shots.  What you're seeing in that shot is a portion of the case serial number.  The number would have been six or seven digits long in total.  Seven is the norm, but I do see models scattered throughout the decades that only have six digits.  We're looking at the serial number upside down, and we can see 0-0-?-2.   We're missing the first three digits.

In watches that pre-date the use of the two-character date code--such as the "L1" discussed in my previous post signifying 1951--the case serial number can sometimes be a useful way to date the watch.  BUT only the first digit of the case serial number is useful in that regard, and only if it is a number rather than a letter.  For instance, if we could see the first digit of your serial number, and it was a "1", it would match the asterisk date code on the movement and confirm the 1941 date.  It is not at all unusual for a case and movement to differ, but, ideally, they would not differ by more than a year or two, with the case date being the latter of the two dates.  So, if your case serial number started with a "2" or "3", that would not be at all surprising, and would indicate that your watch has a movement that was left over from a prior year or years, before the case was manufactured--not an unusual scenario.

Having said that, it is possible that the first "digit" would actually have been a letter instead of a number.  I see that in many ladies' models from the 1940s.  I have no idea why so many of them during that time had a different serial number configuration.  I have models like that scattered throughout the 1940s.  I only see it in the ladies' models from that time period.  In those cases, the case serial number tells us nothing that we currently understand.

Another thing we can conclude from what you have found on the case is that there is no two-character date code.  If your watch were from the 1950s or later, we should see that code on the movement and case.  That's where the "L1", etc. come in to play.

So, as for the indication of gold content--it should be on the other end of the back of the case, opposite the serial number.  Given how worn down the serial number is, it is entirely possible that the gold content indication on your watch is simply worn away.  At one time, it likely read "10K Gold Filled".
- Lisa