Bulova introduced the first line of wristwatches in 1919 and before buying insurance to cover a vintage timepiece it’s important to ask the question, “What is my vintage Bulova watch worth?” It’s a good idea to do some research in case the watch is damaged or stolen. Bulova watches are found at flea markets and auctions and the wristwatches are easier to restore than many other brands, due to the company’s innovation of parts standardization in 1923.
Prices of vintage Bulova watches vary widely and depend on a number of factors, including the state of the economy at any given time. The more expendable income in the economy, the higher the Bulova wristwatch prices. Some watch features guarantee a more valuable watch, however, regardless of the economy. Vintage watches from the 1940s through the 70s, in good condition, bring anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars for high-interest models with original parts and packaging.
Bulova watches made from platinum and gold have added value due to the metal. Rose-colored gold draws a high amount of interest, and cash, from collectors. Check for watch faces made from the same material. These faces can add a few hundred dollars to the price, depending on the amount of metal used in the face.
Wind-up Bulovas with more than 10 jewels used in the movement are worth more than lower-jeweled models. Working movements mean higher worth. Avoid winding a watch to test if it’s working. This can actually damage a movement that hasn’t been used in years. Wind-up watches need watch oil to run properly and age dries the oil.
Quality precious and gem stones set in the watch case or watch face bring extra dollars. Diamonds make the worth greater, but sapphires and rubies, while less valuable, also draw collectors and higher prices.
Bulova watches with 1920s and 30s deco-style or “space age,” 1960s-theme faces also are worth more and bring the highest prices at auctions.
The crystal is the watch face covering the dial and unusual shapes draw collector interest. Geometric shapes are the most valuable, but since the domed construction extends well above the watch face, the special crystals are frequently damaged and scratched. Pie crust crystals, with a ruffled edge, are easier to find, but still a difficult proposition. Pie crust watches are worth more than a flat crystal.
High Interest Models
Demand controls the value of vintage watches. High interest Bulova models include railroad and doctor’s models (with extra second hands) and watches identified on the face or case as “Accutron” or “Spaceview.” Unusual shapes also draw collectors. An octagonal-shaped watch is a great find and large squares, with rounded edges, is a worth more than a simple square timepiece. Military watches add several hundred dollars to the worth of the Bulova watch. Dual dial faces also attract collectors and are worth more for some collectors.
Men’s watches, as a rule, are more valuable than women’s watches. The addition of precious metals and jewels, however, may increase the worth of women’s models due to the value of the bling.
The age of the Bulova watch does not always mean higher value, but it at least gives you a clue as to the style and quality of the interior works. Beginning in the 1940s, Bulova put serial numbers on the interior case of the watches. An “A” indicates a watch made in the 1940s and “L” codes show a watch manufactured in the 1950s. “M” codes mean a 1960s watch and an “N” indicates a watch made in the 1970s. Newer watches use a “P” or “T” designation in the serial number. Anything newer than a watch from the 1970s is not as valuable or collectible.
“100 Years of Vintage Watches,” Dean Judy, 2004
“Watches: Warman’s Companion,” Dean Judy, 2008
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