Bulova Case Signatures

For the vast majority of Bulova watches, no case manufacturer signature other than Bulova's appears anywhere on the case, and every genuine Bulova watch bears one of the known Bulova case signatures--of which there were many more than you might think.  With just a couple of easily recognized exceptions, a genuine Bulova watch will bear the Bulova signature somewhere on the back of the case, either on the inside or the outside, or both.  Exceptions to that rule include:  1) early 1900s models that bear only the American Standard or Wadsorth name, and 2) some late 1970s LCD/LED models that bear only a Swiss maker's name or symbol or no case signature at all.    There are quite a few instances where another case manufacturer's name or symbol, or even a country name, such as Germany or Hong Kong, appears along side the Bulova name.  Examples of that phenomenon are discussed below, along with the two instances where Bulova's name does not appear on the case at all.  

 

Toward the bottom of the page, I have cataloged all the case signatures in my collection and listed them by decade.  So, if you're looking to match a particular signature configuration, you may want to check that list.  If you have an example of a case signature that I don't list there, please send it to me so that I can include it in this discussion.

 

Wadsworth Watch Case Co.

We have recently verified through vintage advertisements that Bulova used another watch case company for early models, in addition to American Standard, which is discussed below.  That additional case maker is the Wadsworth Watch Case Co.  Advertisements declaring Wadsworth as the maker of the case for two different lines of watches known to be early Bulova products--the Lady Maxim and Huson Maxim--are provided below.  Moreover, we now have an example of another early Bulova wrist watch--the Rubaiyat--housed in a Wadsworth case.  Currently available advertisements and actual watches examples suggest that Bulova used Wadsworth cases both prior to, and concurrently with, cases made under the American Standard name.  (For more information about the Rubaiyat, Lady Maxim, and Hudson Maxim lines of watches, review Searching for the Beginning).

 

According to the book "History of the American Watch Case", by Warren H. Niebling, the Wadsworth Watch Case Co. was formed on January 4, 1892, when it was incorporated in Kentucky.  The company manufactured both solid gold and gold-filled cases and had a reputation for high quality.  After 1900, their cases were sold directly to watch making companies, rather than only to wholesalers.

 

According to trademark records, Wadsworth owned seven trademarks, including the "Referee", which was registered in 1914 and appears in the watch example shown below.   The company also trademarked "Wadsworth" in various scripts, with first use reported as 1916, as shown in the listings below.

 

Excerpts from the "United States Horological Trademark Index", by Kurtis Meyers

 

1922 Bulova Lady Maxim (left) and 1921 Bulova Hudson Maxim (right) advertisements specifying Wadsworth cases

 

Bulova Rubaiyat wrist watch c. 1917 in Wadsworth "Referee" case

 

 

American Standard Watch Case Co. 

American Standard was a Bulova owned subsidiary at least as early as 1931, per the published annual business report for that year.   According to trademark records, Bulova claimed rights to the American Standard name on July 28, 1927 and reported first use of the name on Aug. 1, 1918.   Below is an excerpt from the Bulova section of the "United States Horological Trademark Index" (copyrighted material):

 

 

Based on that information, there can be little doubt that Bulova used the American Standard name, and early Bulova watches bearing that signature--either alone or along with the Bulova name--are legitimate.   However, it is important to note that there are actually two different American Standard case signatures, and it may be that only one of those falls within the trademark rights presented above.

 

It has recently been discovered that some very early Rubaiyat watches have cases signed "American Standard W.C.Co." versus simply "American Standard" as seen above in the trademark owned by Bulova.  It is my theory that this other version of the American Standard case signature pre-dates Bulova's ownership of the company and of the name "American Standard".  Thus, watch cases signed "American Standard W.C.Co." pre-date August 1918, when Bulova first used "American Standard" on its watch cases.  This name change may also be an indication of when Bulova purchased the American Standard Watch Case Co.  Below is an example of a Rubaiyat watch in a case signed "American Standard W.C.Co.".

 

c. 1917 Rubaiyat with case signed "American Standard W.C.Co."

 

Beginning in 1918, the typical signature seen on early Bulova cases is simply "American Standard", along with "Warranted 20 Years" or "Warranted 25 Years" and a globe symbol.  Bulova eventually trademarked the word "Monogram" for use in watch cases, and reported first use as November 1919.  Thereafter, and the term "Monogram Quality" appears on some watch cases.

 

Many early Bulova cases (i.e.,  late 1900s and early 1920s) were made by the American Standard Watch Case Company and bear only the American Standard signature on the case.  By 1924, we start to see the Bulova name appear on some watch cases.  At that time, cases were signed "American Standard" or "Bulova Quality" or "Bulova, American Standard" or "Bulova Quality, American Standard".   By 1925, the "American Standard" only signature is no longer seen.  Below are examples of the American Standard case signatures seen on early 1920s Bulova watches.

 

Note the globe symbol used on these cases.  Per the 1904 publication of the "Trademarks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades", the globe symbol was registerd to the J. Bulova Co. (predecessor to the Bulova Watch Company).  Below is an excerpt from that text.  The globe symbol appears on cases signed "American Standard" through 1921, at which time the globe is replaced by a shield symbol, shown in several examples below.

 

Excerpt from 1904 "Trademarks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades"

 

Early Rubaiyat model - 1919

No movement caliber, 15 jewels

No date code on movement

Movement signature:  Bulova W. Co.

 

Early Lady Maxim model - 1921

AAII, 15 Jewel movement

No date code on movement

Movement signature:  Bulova W. Co.

 

Unknown model - 1922

10.A.I., 15 jewel movement

No date code on movement

Movement signature:  Bulova W. Co.

 

Model "150-B" - 1922

10.A.I., 15 jewel movement

No date code on movement

Movement signature:  Bulova W. Co.

Unknown model - 1924

10A, 16 jewel movement

1924 date code on movement

Movement signature:  Bulova Watch Co.

Treasurer - 1925

10P, 15 jewel movement

1925 date code on movement

Movement signature:  Bulova Watch Co.

 

Moving on to the 1930s, on quite a few Bulova watches, including some very well-known and often seen models dating to the mid-1930s, a sheld-like symbol appears on the back of the case beside the Bulova name.   Sometimes this signature combination is seen in conjunction with the standard Bulova signature inside the case; other times it appears with no inside case signature (see below for many examples of both scenarios in my collection).  It is believed, but not proved, that the symbol may be related to the American Standard name, similar to the shield seen on some of the early Bulova models shown above.  Bulova continued to use the American Standard name on watch bands and other items at least as late as the 1960s, so it would not be surprising to see elements of the American Standard name appear at other times and places.  The following is an example of the shield symbol seen on the back of some mid-to-late-1930s Bulova watch cases:

 

 

 

Jonell Watch Case Inc. and Other Makers of Solid Gold and Silver Cases

Solid gold and silver models may bear, in addition to the Bulova signature, various symbols such as a pickaxe, or the letter "J" with an arrow through it.  Those symbols indicate the involvement of another case maker.  For instance, the letter "J" with an arrow through it is the trademark for Jonell Watch Case Inc. (http://www.trademarkia.com/company-jonell-watch-case-inc-660071-page-1-0).  In addition to solid gold models, the Jonell symbol discussed above also appears on some gold filled models dating to the 1960s and 1970s.  The image below shows the trademarked Jonell signature.  There are many other maker's marks seen on solid gold and sterling models.  It is important to remember that these models will also have the Bulova signature on the case, either inside or outside, as shown on the image below.

 

 

Jonell trademark symbol, as published   

Jonell signature on a Bulova watch case

 

1954 solid gold Bulova watch case bearing "Apex" signature, along with Bulova signature.  Apex cases have also been seen on very early 1920s solid gold models

 

 

Star Watch Case Company

The Star Watch Case Company was known to make some mid-century military issue cases for Bulova and other watch manufacturers, and those watches bear the Star signature and trademark symbol inside the case, while the Bulova name is printed on the outside of the case back.  It has also recently come to light that Star was more involved with Bulova, at least in the 1960s, then originally thought.  Several 1960s non-military models have been seen with cases that bear both the Bulova and the Star watch case signatures.   Also, 1950s models with the "Water Tite" or "Water Proof" language on the back of the case typically include a star symbol beside those words, possibly indicative of some level of involvement by the Star Watch Case Co.  Shown below are three commonly seen trademark logos used by the Star Watch Case Co., along with examples of Star signatures seen on Bulova watches.

 

 

Inside case back of Bulova-made military-issue model A-17A

 

Outside case back of Bulova-made military-issue model A-17A

 

Inside case back of a 1965 23-jewel dress model

 

Outside case back of a 1965 23-jewel dress model

Note the star symbol

 

Inside case back of 1960 waterproof model

 

Outside case back of 1960 waterproof model

 

Outside of 1953 waterproof model showing star symbol on Bulova signed case

On this example, the Star signature does not appear elsewhere on the case

 

Late Model Case Signatures

Some Swiss made Bulova models, particularly in the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, include symbols or initials, along with the Bulova signature, which are likely indicative of a Swiss case maker.  Unfortunately, according to Bulova corporate headquarters, the Swiss office both designed and manufactured its own watches during that time, and no record of those watches exists today, either in Switzerland or the US.  So, little is known, or can be known, about these interesting models.  Similarly, some late models (late 1950s through late 1970s) may bear a country designation, such as Germany or Hong Kong, along with the Bulova name.  Additionally, a few late 1970s LCD/LED models do not have the Bulova signature on the case at all.  Rather, they bear the Bulova signature on the crystal, dial, and/or strap.  These are well known and documented models, such as the various Computrons, and their authenticity is not in question.

 

Catalog of Actual Case Signatures

Below are the Bulova case signature configurations found in my collection.  The comma between words indicates a line break in the signature text.

 

1920s:

  • Inside:  "American Standard, 25 years"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "American Standard, 20 years"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "American Standard, Warranted 25 years"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "American Standard, Warranted 20 years"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "Bulova, American Standard"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "Bulova Watch Co"; outside:  no signature (seen in solid gold and sterling silver models)
  • Inside:  "Bulova W. Co"; outside:  no signature (seen once in a very early solid 18K model)
  • Inside:  "Bulova Quality"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "Bulova, New York"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "Bulova"; outside:  no signature (seen in one solid gold ladies' model from 1929)

 

1930s

  • Inside:  "Bulova Quality", sometimes followed by "o A o" or "A A A"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "Bulova, New York"; outside:  no signature (two examples)
  • Inside:  no signature; outside:  "Bulova" (at least nine examples, seen only in 1934)
  • Inside:  no signature; outside:  "Bulova" plus a shield-like symbol (at least ten examples, seen only in 1935 - 1936)
  • Inside:  no signature; outside:  "Bulova Quality" (seen in at least three models dated 1935 and 1936)
  • Inside:  "Bulova, Fifth Ave, New York"; outside: "Bulova" plus a shield-like symbol (at least 10 examples, seen only in 1936 - 1937)
  • Inside:  "Bulova, Fifth Ave, New York"; outside:  "B -"
  • Inside:  "Bulova, New York"; outside:  "Bulova"
  • Inside:  "Bulova, Fifth Ave, New York"; outside:  "Bulova"
  • Inside:  "Bulova, Fifth Ave, New York"; outside:  "Bulova Quality"
  • Inside:  "Bulova"; outside:  no signature (two solid gold ladies' models from 1930)

 

1940s:

  • Inside:  "Bulova, Fifth Ave, New York"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "Bulova, New York"; outside:  no signature
  • Inside:  "Bulova, Fifth Ave, New York"; outside:  "Bulova"
  • Inside:  "Bulova, New York"; outside:  "Bulova"
  • Inside:  "Bulova Watch Co. Swiss"; outside:  no signature (seen in two Watertite models and one 1940 Chronograph)
  • Inside:  no signature; Outside:  "Bulova Quality" (seen in one example dated 1945)

 

1950s:

  • Inside:  "Bulova, Fifth Ave, New York"; outside:  "Bulova"
  • Inside:  "Bulova, New York"; outside:  "Bulova"
  • Inside:  no signature; Outside:  "Bulova Quality" (seen in four examples dated 1950, 1951, 1953, and 1958)
  • Inside:  no signature; Outside:  "Bulova" (seen in two examples dated 1953 and 1956)
  • Inside:  "Bulova Watch Co. Swiss"; outside:  no signature (seen only in 1951 stainless steel and chrome Magellan)
  • Inside:  "Stainless Steel Swiss" and the two character date code; outside: "Bulova Watch Company Inc." (seen only in all stainless steel 1954 Lady Bulova)
  • Inside:  "RP, Germany"; outside:  "Bulova Watch Co, Inc." (seen in one 1954 model)
  • Inside:  "Swiss" and the two character case date code; outside:  "Bulova" (seen only in 1958 all stainless steel Lady Bulova)
  • Inside:  "Bulova Watch Co. Swiss"; outside:  "Bulova" (seen only in 1959 all stainless steel Bulova 23)
  • Inside:  "Bulova Watch Co."; outside:  "Bulova Watch Co." (seen in one 1955 model, which indicated the case was made in France)

 

1960s:

  • Inside:  "Bulova, Fifth Ave, New York; outside:  "Bulova" (seen only in 1960)
  • Inside:  "Bulova Swiss"; outside:  no signature (no other markings of any kind; no serial number) (seen once in a 1960 model)
  • Inside:  "Bulova Watch Co. Swiss"; outside:  no signature (seen only in 1963 Stop Watch)
  • Inside:  "Bulova, New York"; outside:  "Bulova" (seen in one 14k solid gold model dated 1965)
  • Inside:  no signature; outside:  "Bulova" (seen in all but three models between 1960 and 1970)
  • Inside:  no signature; outside:  "Bulova Watch Co." (seen only in 1967 Wrist Alarm)
  • Inside:  no signature; outside:  "Bulova" plus the Jonell Watch Case Inc. symbol (letter "J" with an arrow through it; seen in two solid gold models from 1965)

 

1970s:

  • Inside:  no signature; outside:  "Bulova" (seen in all but four models from the 1970s)
  • Inside:  "Bulova Watch Co."; outside:  "Bulova, Hong Kong" (seen in one 1977 Oceanographer)
  • Inside:  "Bulova, Hong Kong"; outside:  "Bulova, Hong Kong" (seen in two quartz LCDs dated 1977 and 1978)
  • Inside:  "Bulova, Swiss"; outside:  "Bulova" (seen in one 1979 Braille)
  • No case signature, rather only signed on dial and bracelet (seen in one Swiss made 1979 quartz LCD)
  • Inside:  no signature; outside:  "Bulova" plus the Jonell Watch Case Inc. trademark symbol (letter "J" with arrow through it; seen on two gold filled models from 1973 and 1975 and one solid gold model dated 1971)