Home Watch Types Automatic Rising from the depths with the Bulova Oceanographer

Rising from the depths with the Bulova Oceanographer

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Quick – when you think of Bulova, what style of watch are you thinking?  Perhaps a hyper-accurate quartz chronograph?  Or something of a dressier nature?  Yes, those are great candidates to think of with Bulova.  But what about a dive watch?  It seems like just about every brand had a dive watch of some sort in the 1970s, and Bulova was no exception.  One of their most popular was known as the “Devil Diver” (for it’s water resistance being listed as 666 ft, instead of 200m, on the dial), and we recently got to spend some time with a new watch inspired by the original, the Bulova Oceanographer.

While I certainly started my existence on this world in the 70s, I cannot say I am overly familiar with the original watch that this Bulova Oceanographer is paying homage to.  That said, I knew as soon as I saw the case profile of this watch that I was dealing with a 70s vintage (or vintage-style) watch.  The dial and bezel start things off with a circle, that then flares out on an angle to the eventual 44mm diameter.  On one hand, your eye is drawn to the dark circle of the bezel, so it seems smaller, but then the light reflects off of the polished case, and you realize that this is a much bigger watch.

This is also a much more polished, and dressier, version of the original.  In fact, I’d say the Bulova Oceanographer is about 92% full polish, with the only brushed surface being the center links of the 5-link bracelet.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, there’s no way that bracelet has five links.  Well, dear reader, it most certainly does.  It surprised me as I was sizing it to realize that the outer polished links didn’t have just a simple groove cut in them – it’s another, separate link.  It’s an interesting choice, and I suppose allows the brand to get the bracelet in two different widths on different watches.  Here, it’s a curiosity, and of course a styling detail on the bracelet itself.

Frankly, the bracelet of the Bulova Oceanographer was one of my favorite things.  Don’t get me wrong – it was a great watch to wear and spend time with (and it made a solid travel companion on a work trip), but the bracelet is the star of the show.  That’s probably just me, though, as I find myself enamored of the jubilee bracelets on other Swiss brands (or even Bulova, as I’ve been eying vintage Super Sevilles), and I also like alternating brushed and polished surfaces on bracelets.  So, yeah, it’s a great bracelet.  Clasp on it is average, but the bracelet I like.

It’s a shame the alternating finishing of the bracelet didn’t make it on to the case of the Bulova Oceanographer.  With that wide, flared surface, I found it to be a magnet for fingerprints and smudges.  Sure, when wiped clean it looks sharp, but I would not have minded some more smudge-resistant surfaces there.

The bezel on the Bulova Oceanographer is just as solid and clicky as you might like in a diver, and brings a welcome pop of color to the otherwise monochromatic palette.  On the dial, you’ve got a very vintage-feeling font used on the dial (along with the same 666 ft reference on the lower portion), and the applied lume columns (I don’t know what else to call them) are quite fun as well, and give a good bit of light.  The hands are decently lumed, and do well to give off light similarly to the pips.  I think if they were just a touch longer, it would do good by the watch, and of course give a bit more light.  Perhaps the stubbier hands more fit with the vintage inspiration, but if we’re going to modernize, let’s get an update in there.

Last, but certainly not least, the boxed sapphire crystal of the 156g Bulova Oceanographer had another surprise for me, and something I’ve only experienced on a few other watches – an integrated, under-the-crystal, cyclops magnifier.  I know a cyclops is divisive, but for me, I do appreciate them, and find them to be useful additions on a watch.  Here, with it being under the crystal, you have a smoother profile up top, as well as some additional help from the AR coating on the main crystal itself.

Bulova has been around for quite some time, and with their catalog, they have a watch for just about anyone – and that’s without even going into the vintage stuff that is out there for sale.  Of course, not everyone wants to deal with an older watch, and instead want a modern movement (it’s a calibre 821-D in this case) along with modern machining tolerances.   What’s an 821-D you ask?  It’s a modified 8215 movement that has a stronger mainspring to resist shock, and to conform to ISO dive watch requirements.

Then again, it’s not just the tech spec that hook us on a watch.  We’re drawn to the look, the feel, the aesthetic.  Many cannot deny the charm, nay, the siren call, of the old-school looks that they grew up around.  In that case, I’d say the Bulova Oceanographer ($795) is for you.  Especially if you had one of the originals – you’re likely at a point in your life (and career) now that you could go for the dressier alternative, which this new edition certainly provides.  Now, if they’d only re-release the Super Seville… bulova.com

Review Summary

Brand & Model: Bulova Oceanographer
  • Price: $795
  • Who’s it for? You want that original “Devil Diver” style in a modern iteration
  • Would I wear it? Sure.  Maybe not every day, but it would be a fun change of pace
  • What I’d change: The hands could do with being a bit longer
  • The best thing about it: First and foremost, I really, really like the bracelet on this watch.  Secondarily, that integrated date cyclops is much appreciated.
Tech Specs from Bulova
  • Case Material: Stainless Steel
  • Case Diameter: 44
  • Case Thickness: 15
  • Functions: Calendar, Automatic
  • Movement: Mechanical; calibre 821-D
  • Glass: Double Curved Sapphire Box Crystal
  • Water Resistance: 0200M
  • Case Color: Silver-Tone
  • Dial Color: Black
  • Strap: Silver-Tone

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