Bulova Dress Watch Review | Dirt Cheap…But Is It Any Good?
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One of the perks of this job is that I am snowballed with suggestions of great and terrible watches to review.
As is the case with our boy Peakrider here. He left a comment about a classic looking Bulova which he had snagged from UK retailer Argos for a mere £30.
A Bulova? For £30? I checked the listing and sure enough, he wasn’t lying.
This was the cheapest new Bulova I’d ever seen and this model was indeed retailing for far less than on other sites. You can probably guess what happened next. Unfortunately, these sold out rather quickly at that price. I could have collected it for free but us Bloggers don’t go outside so it was technically £34.
The real question is…is it any good? Did I get a great deal, or is this a piece of junk cashing in on the Bulova branding? Well, let’s take a closer look.
For such a low price, the packaging was pretty special. A very attractive and protective gift box, with a secret slot at the base for the paperwork. I’d anticipated something much more basic, so this was an early surprise.
True to form, for the low price I paid, I thought the watch itself would be basic and indeed that is the case. This 96B276 has a classic design resembling somewhat of a field watch aesthetic, with an array of large outer Arabics with an internal ring of 24-hour numbers. All of these, along with the logo are printed directly onto the dial, being punched through from the rear to raise them a bit.
This is potentially the first time sword hands have made an appearance on this blog, with the chunky pair widening substantially and then rapidly tapering off towards the tip. Neither these nor the indices feature any sort of luminescent filling, so low-light visibility could be an issue with this particular watch. While rather basic and flat, the dial is well proportioned and in typical conditions is very legible thanks to the high contrast against the black background.
Of course, as you might guess for a £30 watch this uses a quartz movement, as is evident from the ticking second hand. Within is a basic Miyota quartz movement. This is the same type often labelled as ‘luxury’ by some fashion watch brands. In reality, it’s accurate yet basic, making it suitable for a low-cost watch. For once, this one appears relatively consistent, with the second hand generally hitting on or close to the markers. It could be a little longer as like the minute hand, it doesn’t quite extend to the chapter ring. To the right, there’s also a small date window that integrates nicely with the monochrome colour scheme present throughout.
I was pleased to discover that this was indeed a full stainless steel case. While it’s nice and thin, at a mere 8.9mm, the 42mm diameter means it’s too big for my small wrist; despite the sub-50mm lug to lug length. Despite that, I think this would fit the average wrist better than the width measurement would initially suggest.
Finishing is comparable to a £100 watch, so it’s no surprise that this is retailing for more elsewhere. While it’s not outstanding, you certainly won’t find many watches that are this neatly cut in the £30 range. It features a predominantly glossy finish, including the fixed bezel, with the top of the lugs exhibiting a contrasting brushed look instead. While small, the crown is very responsive and easy to use, featuring a lightly lasered Bulova logo.
Water-resistance is certainly not the backbone of this piece, with the snapback rear only helping secure the watch to a measly 3-bar splash resistance. Don’t go washing the dishes or swimming with this or you’ll be waving goodbye to your budget Bulova.
You’ll notice I’ve left the central sticker on for this review as I thought it was quite humorous.
Japan movement, China band. Yeah, while Bulova may be an American brand, like many of their models, I’d guess the majority of this one is predominantly constructed in the Far East. They’ve been owned by Citizen since 2008, so whether their production coincides with their parent brand, it’s unclear.
The Chinese have done a very good job with the strap though. While it may lack the convenient quick-release system, it’s unlikely you’ll be wanting to swap it out, as it’s among the best I’ve seen on affordable watches. After an initial breaking-in period, it becomes rather supple and has some nice natural graining that feels satisfying to touch. This is very comfortable on-wrist and even comes with a steel buckle emblazoned with the Bulova logo. Honestly, you could probably sell this by itself for 2/3rds of the price I paid for the whole watch and it looks good too, so I have zero complaints on that front.
My impression is that for the right price, this could make a great gift watch more than anything else. The design is quite safe but attractive and the construction is solid enough to not let you down. For the clearance price I paid, I think it’s a very fair deal for a basic watch.
That being said, some sites are cashing in on the Bulova name and charging obscene prices northward of £150! I can’t see a world outside of the Matrix where this watch is worth that figure. Amazon has this currently for a more reasonable £75, though personally, I wouldn’t consider this tempting unless it was below £60. It’s not a premium Bulova model by any stretch but at least it was an interesting and affordable first look at the brand.