Bulova 1950's Dress Watch
Bulova 1950's dress watch with fancy ripple case and period band. Measuring 39 x 25 mm in 14 karat yellow gold filled, it still has its original glass crystal. 17 jewel manual movement running well. Factory dial and hands. A rare 1950's Bulova men's wristwatch with fancy case.
Joseph Bulova, a Czech immigrant, founded the company that bears his name in 1875. Only 23 years old at the time, Bulova opened a modest jewelry shop in New York City. Initially, Bulova sold mainly pocket watches and other jewelry, but over time he expanded his line of products. He was manufacturing and selling his own desk clocks and other timepieces by 1911, the year he incorporated the operation as J. Bulova Company. By that time, Bulova's pocket watches had already attained a reputation for excellence, and New Yorkers bought them as fast as he could make them. Although wristwatches existed before World War I, it was returning veterans who made them fashionable. Once Americans became aware of their convenience, the market for wristwatches in the U.S. expanded quickly. In 1919, Bulova introduced the first full line of jeweled wristwatches for men. Over the next several years, Bulova added several other industry firsts, including the first ladies wristwatch line and the first line of diamond wristwatches. In 1926, the company sponsored the first nationally broadcast radio spot commercials, featuring the immortal "At the tone, it's 8 p.m., B-U-L-O-V-A Bulova watch time" tag line. Bulova began selling the world's first clock radio two years later. Meanwhile, the company's name was changed to Bulova Watch Company, Inc., reflecting the growing role of Arde Bulova, Joseph's son, in the firm's management. By this time, Arde Bulova was firmly in charge of the company, and he ran it very much as a one-man show. Under Arde, Bulova grew to become one of the market leaders among U.S. watchmakers. By the mid-1950s, the company's annual sales had reached $80 million. In 1954, Arde Bulova hired Gen. Omar Bradley, a World War II hero, as chairman of Bulova Research & Development Labs, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary involved in developing the company's defense product business. Bradley was a close war-time friend of Harry D. Henshel, Arde Bulova's brother-in-law and one of the company's largest shareholders. When Arde Bulova died in 1958, Bradley was the logical choice to take over the chairmanship of Bulova, although it took a committee of 14 department heads to cover the huge range of responsibilities that Arde had refused to delegate in the past. Meanwhile, a new contender had risen to challenge Bulova's dominant position in the watch industry. Throughout the second half of the 1950s, Bulova faced stiff competition from the Timex watch, made by U.S. Time Corporation. Priced far lower than Bulova products, Timex eroded Bulova's market share enough to cause the company's revenue to slip to $62.8 million by 1961. Under Bradley and CEO Harry B. Henshel, Bulova began to fight back. First, they began to institute modern management practices, replacing the old-fashioned methods of the autocratic Arde Bulova. More importantly, the company developed Accutron, the world's first electronic watch. Accutron represented the first major revolution in clock technology in three centuries. Before it was available in commercial products, the Accutron timer mechanism saw important action in the space program. When the Accutron watch finally became available to consumers in late 1960, it was a huge success. Far more accurate than any other watch commercially available, the Accutron was the first to be sold with a written guarantee of accuracy to within one minute a month. Accutron technology became the standard for the next decade both on human wrists and in orbiting satellites. In 1963, Bulova introduced another line of watches, the Caravelle. The Caravelle was the company's answer to Timex and the other cheaper watch lines that had been eating away at Bulova's customer base for several years. Caravelle was priced much lower than the company's other watches, and it was hoped that the line would catch on among younger buyers who would later graduate to more expensive models. With the addition of Accutron and Caravelle, Bulova was able to regain much of the momentum it had lost to Timex and the many nameless brands of cheap watches that had hit the market over the previous decade. The company also eliminated outlets that were selling Bulova watches at discount prices, a practice company officials felt tarnished the Bulova name and reputation for excellence. By fiscal 1964, the year the company shipped its 250,000th Accutron watch, Bulova's revenue finally surpassed its pre-slump level, reaching a new high of $73 million. The next several years were good ones for Bulova. By 1965, sales had grown to $84 million, about 20 percent of which was generated by defense and industrial products, including timing mechanisms and fuses. There were 58 different Accutron models for the wrist and 11 Accutron desk and table clocks by that time. Bulova controlled an estimated 15 percent of the market for high-priced men's watches. Throughout this period, the company also worked hard to increase its sales abroad. By 1967, 20 percent of Bulova's sales were generated in foreign lands. Bulova watches were being sold in 89 countries by that year, up from 19 in 1961. The fact that most of Bulova's watch movements were assembled in Switzerland added to its international flavor, and in 1967 the company acquired Universal Genève, a Swiss manufacturer of upper-end clocks and watches. Company sales leaped to $124 million for that year. Meanwhile, Bulova remained NASA's timekeeper of choice. Timing devices built by Bulova saw action during the first moon walk in 1969, as well as on subsequent missions. By the beginning of the 1970s, Bulova had sold nearly 1.5 million Accutrons, and the company's watches could be bought in 110 markets around the world. The company was operating 20 plants, 12 of them in the United States. Even at that time, Bulova was still the only manufacturer of jeweled-movement watches in the United States. In 1971, the company launched a joint venture with a Japanese outfit, Citizen Watch Co., to make Accutrons for sale in Asia. Bulova was offering four basic lines of watches by 1973, covering every price range: the low-priced Caravelle, starting at $10.95; the Bulova line, which cost $35 and up; the still booming Accutron, whose bottom price had dropped to $95; and the Accuquartz, introduced in 1970 as the first quartz watch sold in the United States.