Searching for the Beginning


Many of us who collect Bulova watches are not only fond of the watches themselves but are also fascinated by the quest to learn more about the history of the watches and the company that made them.  Much, if not all, of the records regarding older Bulova watches and the company’s early history were lost or destroyed in the late 1970s.  Only recently have avid collectors put forth the effort to rediscover, document, and preserve these beautiful time pieces.  That effort has led to some interesting new discoveries regarding Bulova’s entry into the wristwatch market.  We don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle yet, but we’re making good progress.  This article is an attempt to document what has been discovered and to provide a forum for further evidence gathering and discussion of remaining questions.  This article will be updated as new information is found.


By “early” in Bulova’s history, I am referring to the early 1900s, when Bulova was believed to have first become interested in watches and to have, eventually, produced and marketed a full line of men’s wristwatches in 1919.  It is those earliest watches that we are currently working to learn more about.


Coming to America and the Jewelry Business

Per the brief historical timeline provided by Bulova’s corporate website, “Joseph Bulova, the company's founder, emigrated from Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic, at the age of nineteen, arriving in Manhattan in 1870. . . . Opening his own jewelry store on Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan. . .he called it J. Bulova, and quickly distinguished himself from the hundreds of jewelers in the district with its quality and innovation in technique and artistry.”  That is the first entry we have in the timeline for Joseph Bulova and the J. Bulova Co., and it is dated 1875.


Illustration of Broadway and Maiden Lane, New York, New York c.1885


What was Joseph Bulova making and/or selling in that Maiden Lane shop at least as early as 1875?  The blurb above refers to his establishment as a jewelry store, and other evidence—scarce though it is—supports that claim.  We have newspaper articles reporting a robbery of his jewelry store in 1884, and one or two ads for jewelry under the name of J. Bulova, such as the 1897 and 1907 ads shown below.  We also have a couple of trademarks for jewelry items, as shown below.,  To date, no references to watches have been found for this point in time.  In fact, our earliest ad for Bulova watches is 1918, as discussed below.


January 1884 Newspaper Article


1897 J. Bulova Jewelry Advertisement


1907 J. Bulova Jewelry Advertisement


Per the 1904 publication of the "Trademarks of the Jewelry and Kindred Trades", two trademarks were registered to Bulova, then trading under the name J. Bulova Co.  Both trademarks were for jewelry.  While that publication also listed trademarks for watches and clocks, there are no entries for Bulova under those subjects.


Trademarks for earrings (left) and gold rings (right) - published in 1904 jewelry, watch, and clock trademark reference


Earliest Reference to Watches

While not specific to wrist watches, there is a trademark record that associates Bulova with watches as early as 1907.    Specifically, a 1927 trademark listing registers the name "Bulova" in relation to "watches, movements, cases, and parts thereof".  First use of the name in that context is reported as 1907.


Incorporation of J. Bulova Company

Not included on the Bulova corporate timeline but of some interest here is the date on which Bulova first incorporated his business.  According to New York State records, the company was first incorporated under the name “J. Bulova Company” on June 7, 1911.  The company was later re-incorporated under the name Bulova Watch Company, Inc. on April 26, 1923, and then again as Bulova Corporation on June 17, 1988.


Plant in Switzerland – The Wristwatch Business

The next entry on the corporate timeline is dated 1912--37 years after the first entry--and reads:  “Due to the demand of watches throughout America, Joseph Bulova established his first plant committed to the total production of wristwatch components. Manufactured in the plant's central building in Bienne, Switzerland, the jeweled movements were fabricated via assembly line, allowing mass production and closer toward a standardization never before seen in the world of horology.”  So, from this blurb, we understand that 42 years after immigrating to America, and at the age of 61, Joseph Bulova was actively pursuing the production of wristwatches—or at least wristwatch components. We do not know how those components were being used, i.e., to produce complete watches under Bulova branding, or sold to other companies to appear in watches sold under that company’s name.  We do not even know, for sure, what branding those early individual components bore. 


We can also surmise from this information that, prior to 1912, Bulova had become interested in watches, and was, no doubt, making his own pocket watches.  I have read from various sources that, prior to this time, Bulova was making not only pocket watches, but also boudoir and table clocks.  We have, so far, been unable to locate any advertisements for any Bulova clocks made during this time.  Presumably, as a result of his experience with those timepieces, he developed a smaller movement for use in wristwatches, which was, according to the corporate timeline, the focus of the Swiss plant established in 1912. 


Joseph Bulova


A Brief Digression into the Origins of the Men's Wristwatch

While this brief discourse is not directly related to Bulova's watchmaking activities, it is, I believe, useful to have a bit of background regarding wristwatches in general and, more specifically, what was happening in the area of men's wristwatches at the time Bulova supposedly entered that market.  Most of the story I will tell here is gleaned from vintage newspaper articles and advertisements, but I would recommend to anyone interested in military timepieces--which is the arena in which the popular men's wristwatch was born--the book, "A Concise Guide to Military Timepieces:  1880 - 1990", by Z. M. Wesolowski.  It is an excellent read, filled with images of fascinating watches.


Though today we call a watch worn on the wrist a "wristwatch", when it was first invented, it was also commonly referred to as a "strap watch", and it was merely a converted pocket watch.   According to Mr. Wesolowski, wristwatches actually started being used in the late 1800s when the Germans issued Girard Perigeaux "wristlets" to officers in the Imperial German Navy.  I found some evidence of the use of strap watches prior to that time, but their use was limited to sporting events, such as horse back riding, and they did not have widespread appeal at that time.  Pocket watches were still the norm for every day use for men.   With the increase in European military activity shortly after the turn of the century, the wrist watch began to get more attention.


The ladies' strap watch--in some forms labeled a "bracelet watch"--was popularized long before the men's version, both in the US and abroad.  Ladies' wrist watches were also often simply restructured pocket watches, particularly those for the working class.  They were offered on leather straps, just like the men's military models.  Bracelet watches, however, could be quite ornate and expensive, and were often gifts at high society weddings.

Prior to its acceptance in the United States, the men's wrist watch was worn by English high society and by British soldiers.  It then became popular in Canada, and slowly made its way over to America, where it was met with open ridicule, and even claims that wrist watches were unhealthy, dangerous, and, at best, wholly unreliable.  Eventually, amidst controvery, the wrist watch became acceptable for U.S. soldiers serving in World War I, but they still did not become a part of mainstream men's attire in the United States until nearer the war's close in 1918.


1919 cartoon and advertisement showing begrudging acceptance of the men's wristwatch in the U.S.


I have many more details to share regarding the first men's wristwatches, and many wonderful vintage articles and ads to post.  Those will be provided in a separate article so as not to distract from the point of this one.  Suffice it to say that it would make sense for Bulova to have produced a full line of men's wristwatches in 1919, as that was around the time that wristwatches truly became popular all across the United States, not just in high society or the military.  In fact, in 1918, Waltham had already gone to market with a full line of non-military men's wristwatches, as shown in the ad below.  I often see the published statement that Bulova produced the first line of men's wristwatches--not just Bulova's first line of wristwatches--in 1919, but that assertion would seem to be disproved by this 1918 Waltham ad.


1918 Waltham Wristwatch Advertisement


The First Known Bulova Wristwatch Advertisement:  World War I Style

The earliest known advertisement showing a watch advertised under the Bulova name is shown below and is dated 1918.  It is an ad for “trench” watches shipped from the J. Bulova Co. in Bienne, Switzerland.  It describes the watches as identical to those worn by soldiers since the start of the war.  It would be logical to conclude that these were surplus military watches being offered to the general public following the conclusion of World War I, or simply an example of Bulova capitalizing on something that had now become desireable.  The watch is clearly a converted small fob or pocket watch, typical of men's wrist watches at that time.  If these watches were in fact worn by soldiers in World War I, then Bulova would likely have been manufacturing them for a number of years prior to the publication of this advertisement.  Wrist watches were known to have been commissioned by the U.S. government at least as early as 1915, though the U.S. did not enter WWI until April 1917.  Additionally, Bulova could have been selling trench watches overseas, as did other American watchmakers, so their production of wrist watches could have dated to the beginning of the war (1915), as stated in the ad below, or possibly even earlier.   If we further assume that military supply was the focus of Bulova's wrist watch business during the war, then we get to 1918 or 1919 before Bulova can focus its attention on men's watches for the general population. 


1918 Bulova Advertisement


Bulova's First Complete Line of Jeweled Men's Wristwatches - 1919

The third entry in the Bulova timeline is dated 1919—49 years after Joseph immigrated to the US at the age of 19--and is the first mention of Bulova producing complete wristwatches for men.  It reads, “Bulova debuted the first ever complete line of men's jeweled wristwatches - advertising to the masses across America with an iconic visual style that matched its product.”  Here we have, at last, our first reference to a line of men's wristwatches marketed to the general public.  We do not know if these watches were marketed under the Bulova name or under some other label.  For years, we assumed that they would have been sold under the Bulova name, but recently discovered information may indicate otherwise and provide clues to the identity of these “missing” early watches.  At this point, we still have no information about this first line of men's wristwatches, but the search for these watches has led to some interesting new information.


Until the recent discovery of early newspaper ads, our earliest look at Bulova watches were ads dated in the 1920s and published in the Saturday Evening Post.  Our examples of possible early Bulova watches were few and far between.  We simply had no information regarding the full line of men's watches that Bulova purportedly produced in 1919.  However, quite recently, through searches of archived newspapers, we have found earlier advertisements, and those advertisements have provided some interesting new information worth considering.


Before I present those newspaper ads, let's take a look at an important piece of evidence that helped focus our search.  The information to which I refer takes us back—or forward really—to those early Saturday Evening Post advertisements from 1922.  Two of those advertisements provided crucial clues to Bulova’s activities prior to that time.  Specifically, they included a line at the bottom of the two ads that referenced watches made by Bulova under specific names--names other than Bulova.  Here are excerpts from those two advertisements:


Excerpts from 1922 Bulova Advertisements in the Saturday Evening Post referencing Hudson Maxim, Lady Maxim, and Rubaiyat watches


Many of us have seen—and even purchased—watches bearing the names Hudson Maxim, Rubaiyat, and Lady Maxim.  I have several in my collection.  Those watches typically do not bear the Bulova name on the dial or on the case, but they do usually--with the notable exception of some very early Rubaiyats--have a Bulova signed movement.  Their dials usually read “Lady Maxim”, “Hudson Maxim”, or “Rubaiyat”.  They typically appear in cases made by American Standard, which was a company that eventually became a subsidiary of Bulova and is believed to have made cases used by Bulova during the 1920s (and perhaps earlier).  For more information, visit Bulova Case Signatures.  


Much debate has occurred over the years regarding whether the watches with Rubaiyat, Lady Maxim, and Hudson Maxim on the dial were Bulova-made, or simply instances of a Bulova movement having been placed with another maker’s case and dial.  Discovery of the language at the bottom of the two Saturday Evening Post advertisements shown above--along with a better understanding of the role that American Standard played in Bulova’s early watches--made it clear that at least some of those examples were legitimate Bulova watches.  That new information also told us where to look for additional information regarding Bulova’s earliest wristwatches.  That is, we then began to look specifically for “Hudson Maxim”, “Lady Maxim”, and “Rubaiyat”.


Searching for the Rubaiyat, Hudson Maxim, and Lady Maxim

The first stop on the trail was the various sources of historical horological trademark registrations.  The trademark record below shows the 1917 registration of the name “Rubaiyat” by the J. Bulova Co. (later re-incorporated as Bulova Watch Co. in 1923).   According to several sources, including the United States Patent and Trademark Office's online catalog of U.S. trademarks, the Rubaiyat name was actually first used in commerce by Bulova on November 1, 1916.  One of the advertisements shown below references the Rubaiyat as having been sold by that retailer "for years" prior to the date of the 1919 ad, thus, again, establshing the Rubaiyat as having been on the market in the 1916/1917 time frame.  That information, along with the vintage advertisements presented below, establishes the Rubaiyat as the first known Bulova watch of any type.  While all the ads we have show the Rubaiyat as a line of ladies' bracelet watches, actual examples of men's Rubaiyat pocket watches and World War I trench watches have been seen.  Examples of those are shown below in the "Remaining Questions" section.


Excerpt from the United States Horological Trademark Index, by Kurtis Meyers


No trademark records concerning the Hudson Maxim or Lady Maxim have yet been discovered.


We also looked for evidence that other companies may have used the names Rubaiyat, Lady Maxim, and Hudson Maxim.  Horological trademark records reveal a company called “J.L. Hudson Company”, located in Detroit, Michigan.  The company has one trademark record with a date of 1944 for the name “St. Regis”.  Additionally, the Waltham watch company trademarked the name “Maxim” in 1896.  However, to-date, we have found no record of the use of “Hudson Maxim”, “Lady Maxim” or “Rubaiyat” by any company other than Bulova.


Next, we looked for newspaper ads that showed some connection between Bulova and the names “Rubaiyat”, “Hudson Maxim”, and “Lady Maxim”.  While we found ads for the Rubaiyat, none of them specifically referenced Bulova.  But our search for the Hudson Maxim and Lady Maxim did reveal such a connection.  The first ads found showing a connection to Bulova were later than hoped, dating to 1922 and 1923, but they were quite informative nonetheless.  The ads that follow reveal two things of major importance:  first, that Bulova produced and marketed under its own name watches called the  “Hudson Maxim” and “Lady Maxim”; and, second, that, like the Rubaiyat, those two names represented complete lines of watches rather than single models.


1922 – Bulova Hudson Maxim Advertisement


1922 – Bulova Lady Maxim Advertisement


1923 - Bulova Lady Maxim Advertisement


Now that we had confirmed the link between Bulova and the names in question via trademark records and early advertisements connected to Bulova, we went looking for even earlier ads that might tell us whether the first watches Bulova produced were actually sold under those names alone, rather than under the "Bulova" umbrella.  We did not come up empty handed.  Robert Butler’s excellent research of archived newspaper ads revealed exactly what we thought we might find—ads as early as 1919 advertising lines of watches called the “Rubaiyat”, “Hudson Maxim”, and “Lady Maxim”.  Those early advertisements did not use the Bulova name, but three of them show the well known Bulova symbol—the “Goddess of Time”, thus clearly establishing the connection with Bulova (see 1922 Lady Maxim ads below).  A sampling of these new ads are shown below.  To view the full collection of related advertisements, visit 1918 - 1929.  We also obtained confirmation that the early Lady Maxim watches did have the model name "Lady Maxim" printed on the dial (see 1922 Lady Maxim ad below).


1919 Rubaiyat Advertisement


1919 Rubaiyat Advertisement

Note that the retailer claims to have sold the Rubaiyat "for years"--could this explain the 1917 trademark registration?


1919 Rubaiyat Advertisement


1920 Rubaiyat Advertisement


1921 Advertisement for Hudson Maxim and "Hudson Maxim for Women"


1921 Advertisement for Lady Maxim watches


1921 Advertisement for Hudson Maxim and ladies' Maxim


1921 Lady Maxim Advertisement


1921 Hudson Maxim and Lady Maxim Advertisement


1922 Lady Maxim Advertisement showing Bulova Goddess of Time log


1922 Lady Maxim Advertisement showing Bulova Goddess of Time logo


1922 Lady Maxim Advertisement showing Bulova Goddess of Time logo and "Lady Maxim" printed on dial of watch


So, that’s where we are today—having proved that Bulova did produce the Hudson Maxim, Lady Maxim, and Rubaiyat lines of watches, with at least the Rubaiyat line existing by 1916.  However, many questions remain, including the one we started with:  where is the 1919 line of men's jeweled wristwatches?


Remaining Questions


Where is the 1919 Line of Men's Wristwatches?

What about that complete line of men's jeweled wristwatches that Bulova purportedly produced in 1919?  We still don't appear to have figured out what those watches were, if they truly existed that early.   Apart from the World War I style watch shown in the ad from 1918 above--which was really a converted pocket watch--we next see advertisements for Bulova watches in 1919.   Those ads are for the Rubaiyat, and they show only ladies' bracelet watches.  Trademark records show that the Rubaiyat was in production in 1916.   However, we do have actual examples of men's Rubaiyat pocket watches and a couple of examples of men's Rubaiyat World War I trench watches, so we know that there was more to that line than ladies' wristwatches.   Moreover, the trademark record for the Rubaiyat specifies that it pertains to both men's and ladies' watches.  Could those examples be the first men's jeweled wristwatches that Bulova introduced in 1919?  That seems unlikely for two reasons:  first, WWI trench watches would have been manufactured years prior to 1919; and, second, one would hardly call watches made for--or even just modeled after those made for--soldiers during war time a "complete line of men's jeweled wristwatches - advertis[ed] to the masses across America with an iconic visual style that matched its product".   Either that description was significantly embellished, or it refers to something other than a WWI trench watch.


There are trademark records regarding wrist and strap watches for which we have found no corresponding watches.  Namely, we have records for 1) the "Rockland", with first use reported as May 1, 1917; 2) the "Prince Albert", with first use reported as September 1, 1918; 3) the "Lord Springfield", with first use reported as November 18, 1919; and 4) the "Providence", with first use reported as November 18, 1919.    The "Providence" entry is particulary interesting in that it pertains to watches for both men and women. 


The Phantom line is another interesting possibility for the missing wristwatches.  We have long known about the Phantom pocket watches that Bulova produced, but trademark records show that name as first used on November 18, 1919 and registered for wrist or strap watches, rather than pocket watches. 


Our first mention in the currently available advertisements of a line of men's watches is not until 1921, when we see references to the Hudson Maxim collection--but those watches were, as far as we know, men's pocket watches, rather than wristwatches.  Could we be missing ads that show us men's wristwatches in the Rubaiyat and/or Hudson Maxim collections, or the other collections mentioned in the trademark records?  That is certainly a possibility.  It does seem apparent that we are still missing some crucial facts. 


Are All the Rubaiyats and Hudson Maxims We See Really Bulova Products?

It seems apparent, based on the advertisements we have found, that Bulova produced lines of watches under the names Rubaiyat, Hudson Maxim, and Lady Maxim at some point in time, prior to switching to use of the Bulova name alone.  However, as we continue to broaden the scope of our early watch collections to gather these early examples, we are seeing watches bearing these names that don't identify quite so obviously as Bulova products. 


A Rubaiyat, Hudson Maxim, or Lady Maxim watch that has a Bulova signed movement and an American Standard signed case is almost certainly a Bulova product.  But what about a Rubaiyat signed dial with a movement and case signed “Rubaiyat Watch Co.”, like the pocket watch shown below, or a WWI men's trench watch with a Rubaiyat signed movement, also shown below?  Similarly, what do we say about a man's watch that appears to be from World War I with a Hudson Maxim signed dial but a non-Bulova movement?  Are these Bulova products from a time when Bulova was not yet making or signing his own watch components, or did some other maker produce these watches, or are some of them simply collections of nonoriginal, mismatched parts?  


Do we have any evidence that links these watches to Bulova?  Bear in mind that we have no trademark records linking the J. Bulova Co. to the Hudson Maxim name.   Although we have ads that make that connection, those ads were produced significantly later than we suppose the watches below to have been made.  Moreover, those ads show only a line of men's pocket watches.  We have no documentation to support the proposition that Bulova made wristwatches under the Hudson Maxim name.


As for the Rubaiyat, while we do have a trademark record showing that J. Bulova had rights to the Rubaiyat name and, in fact, used that name as early as 1916, that right would not have extended beyond the United States--to, say, for example, Switzerland, where some other watchmaker could have used that name in a Swiss-made watch like the examples shown below.  Keep in mind also that our only ads for the Rubaiyat--which we are currently assuming to be showing a Bulova product, though Bulova is not referenced in those ads--are for ladies' watches rather than men's wrist or pocket watches.   We have no documentation to support the proposition that Bulova made any form of men's watch under the Rubaiyat name. 


Finally, note that the pocket watch below is not simply signed "Rubaiyat" as a model name, but rather is signed "Rubaiyat Watch Co." on both the movement and case, indicating a separate and distinct company from the J. Bulova Co.  Was that company a predecessor to the J. Bulova Co., which was incorporated in 1911?  Was it a company formed in Switzerland, where Bulova opened his first wristwatch factory?  We simply do not yet know.


Early men's wristwatch with Hudson Maxim signed dial but movement signed Racine Freres, a watchmaker in Bienne, Switzerland


Solid 14K gold men's 43.5mm pocket watch with Rubaiyat signed dial, movement, and case. 


WWI style men's trench watch with a Rubaiyat signed 10-jewel movement


Timing of the Rubaiyat, Hudson Maxim, and Lady Maxim Lines

We also have questions regarding when each of those lines was produced in relationship to the others.  The Rubaiyat ads appear to start prior to introduction of the Hudson Maxim or Lady Maxim lines, but we have too few ads to be sure of the timing.  We have an early Jewelers Circular that mentions the Rubaiyat and Hudson Maxim watches on display at a show.  That circular also references a bracelet version of the Hudson Maxim--the Lady Maxim perhaps--thus providing evidence that all three of those lines were being sold concurrently?  We have two ads that show the Hudson Maxim and Lady Maxim watches advertised together, with the Hudson Maxim described as “new” in one of them (see above).  We have an ad that describes the Hudson Maxim and the ladies' Hudson Maxim--another reference to the Lady Maxim, or something quite different (see above)?  Similarily, we have a 1921 ad that references a "ladies' Maxim"--did they mean the Lady Maxim, or do we have yet another model coming into play here?  We also have the Saturday Evening Post language that lists three lines—Rubaiyat, Hudson Maxim, and Lady Maxim—as though they were all in close proximity to each other, but all prior to those later 1922 ads for the regular Bulova line.  Moreover, we have ads for the Lady Maxim that post-date ads for the regular Bulova line by a year.  Were those retailer ads showing old stock, or were the two lines separate and concurrent?  The precise timing of these various watch lines--and the characteristics that might differentiate them--is still something to be understood.  A detailed, working timeline of the various lines and their characteristics is presented in Dating a Bulova.


Are the Lady Maxims and Early Ladies' Bulovas the Same Watches?

Another item of speculation has been whether early watches marketed in some ads under the Bulova name were actually the same watches sold under the Lady Maxim name.  In other words, perhaps, the early watches marketed under the Bulova name—which were advertised with only numbers as the model reference—were actually part of the Lady Maxim line, only later changed to the Bulova line and assigned individual model names.  A recently discovered ad for the Lady Maxim lends some support to that claim.  Note the similarity between the watches in the two ads below—one for the Lady Maxim, and the other just naming the watches as Bulovas with numerical references.  Note also that the Lady Maxim ad is one year later than the Bulova ad.  Are these the same watches being advertised in two different ways, or are they different but concurrent lines, or are they simply retailer ads for old Lady Maxim stock overlapping ads for new Bulova stock?  If they are the same watches, why would a Saturday Evening Post ad for the numbered models reference J. Bulova as  the maker of the Lady Maxim line?  Doesn't that reference indicate that they were distinct lines, with the Lady Maxim likely pre-dating introduction of the numbered Bulova line?


1923 Lady Maxim Advertisement



1922 Bulova Advertisement


Early Bulova Signed Movements

On the subject of Bulova movements, in those early years, we see three different Bulova signatures—“Bulova W. Co”, “Bulova Watch Co.”, and “Bulova”.  Growing evidence points toward the “Bulova W. Co.” dating prior to 1924, before the use of movement date codes and, possibly, prior to Bulova's reincorporation from J. Bulova Co. to Bulova Watch Co., which occurred in April 1923.  From mid-1923 forward, we see the “Bulova Watch Co.” signature quite consistently.  That date distinction coincides nicely with the company’s reincorporation in April 1923 under the name Bulova Watch Company, Inc.  Where does the rarely seen “Bulova” movement signature fit in to that picture?   Examples of that signature also have no movement serial number, no movement date symbol, and no caliber designation.  Could those be characteritics of the earliest Bulova movements, with movements signed "Bulova W. Co." following later, then replaced by those signed "Bulova Watch Co."?  For a working timeline of the characteristics of early Bulova watches, see Dating a Bulova.


Did Bulova Watches Always Have a Signed Dial?

Another question that remains unanswered is whether Bulova ever produced watches without a name on the dial.  We see many early watches that have no signature on the dial, but which do have a Bulova movement and are housed in American Standard cases—the latter two facts pointing directly to Bulova.  Are these examples of early Bulovas?  Why, then, do we see watches with “Rubaiyat”, “Lady Maxim”, “Hudson Maxim”, and “Bulova” on the dial, seemingly from the same time period?  Was Bulova simply inconsistent in its practices?  Have we just not yet figured out how to precisely date these early models, i.e., watches with no name on the dial pre-date the named dials, including the Rubaiyat, Hudson Maxim, and Lady Maxim lines?  Could they be watches produced when Bulova was only manufacturing watch components in its Swiss plant, before introducing that first line of watches—so they are really only partly Bulova products?  Are they generic, replacement dials on otherwise original Bulova watches?  Are they some of the watches produced for military use during World War I?  


I have come to believe that we cannot rely on newspaper advertisements to instruct us on this point.  After reviewing thousands of early newspaper ads, I have concluded that there was inconsistency regarding when names were shown on the dial and when they were not, and I found ads dating all the way into the 1930s with no names on the dials in the illustrations.  Simplification of the illustrations must have been the goal there, rather than accurate representation of the watches.  Though I have seen it claimed that a 1922 Bulova-produced ad showed no names on the dial, I disagree with that assessment of the ad.  I believe that we have never seen an ad produced by Bulova that fails to show the Bulova signature on the dial.


For a working timeline of the characteristics of early Bulova watches, including those with no name on the dial, see Dating a Bulova.


Which Case Manufacturers Did Bulova Use for Those Very Early Models?

Whose cases were being used by Bulova in those early years?  We have lately identified the American Standard case as a legitimate Bulova case, as explained in detail here:  Bulova Case Signatures, but there appear to be other case manufacturers involved with Bulova at that same point in time.  We have seen examples of watches that appear to be genuine Bulovas, but which are not in Bulova (or American Standard) signed cases.  Typically, these are solid gold or sterling silver models.  We now have two advertisements--one showing a Lady Maxim and the other showing a Hudson Maxim--in a Wadsworth case (see below).   I have also recently acquired a ladies' Rubaiyat watch (signed Rubaiyat on the dial and movement) that is housed in a Wadsorth case.  For more information about the Wadsworth Watch Case Co., including a look at my Rubaiyat example and relevant trademark records, visit Bulova Case Signatures.    For a working timeline of the characteristics of early Bulova watches, including those in Wadsworth cases, see Dating a Bulova.  Apex is another case signature that I have noted in early solid gold models, which otherwise fit the Bulova profile.


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


Also on the issue of watch cases, note the globe symbol in the box lid of the advertisement shown below.  We know that the globe was a trademark registered to Bulova in relation to his early jewelry business at least as early as 1904 (see above).  We also know that the globe is one of the symbols used in early American Standard cases (see Bulova Case Signatures for a detailed discussion and examples).   Further, we know that Bulova trademarked the American Standard name in 1927, reporing first use as 1918.  Does this symbol indicate that at least some Lady Maxims were placed in American Standard cases?  We certainly have examples of those models in American Standard cases.  Can we extrapolate anything from this information regarding other Bulova lines--such as the earlier Rubaiyat--or Bulova's relationship with American Standard, the origins of which are still unclear?   How do we reconcile this ad with the ad above showing Wadsworth cases for two important Bulova lines?  For a working timeline of the characteristics of early Bulova watches, including the significance of Wadsworth and American Standard signed cases, see Dating a Bulova.


1921 Lady Maxim Advertisement


1921 Lady Maxim Advertisement- Excerpt from above


Inside of case back of Lady Maxim (left) and Rubaiyat (right) wristwatches


Drawing too many conclusions from a few recently discovered ads is a dangerous business.  We need more information to answer all these questions definitively.  But, for now, we have at least settled the question of Bulova and its relationship to the Rubaiyat, Hudson Maxim, and Lady Maxim watches.  That's clear progress.


The search for facts regarding Bulova’s early history continues. . . .