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An eBay listing for a Bulova chronograph Type A-15 recently ended (sold for US$1,527.00). eBay item 270619066552. eBay photos and description provided below.
I’m aware that these watches have in the past created debate about their authenticity as an US military watch. I would be interested in an update on views.
Of the four examples I have seen (on the web) of these types of watches, it appears there are two types of dials – one dial has the 24 hour inner markers circled outside the “Buolva” marking , while the second dial has the 24 hour inner markers in a “squared” format on the inside of the “Bulova” marking. Some examples have a sterile caseback.
The movement is 16-jewel with an extended third wheel with a pinion bridge for the central sweep seconds – what appears to be A-11 spec heritage. Diameter of the case is 32mm.
A previous eBay listing of a Bulova A-15 sold for US$899 in June 2009. See this link on IHC 185:
Very Vintage, Very Rare, World War II, Bulova Air Force Navigation watch, Prototype, A-15, Serial No. NO.AF44-295, Part No. 10AK-CSHE, Order No. PO 44-599E, Buloa Watch Co. Very unique watch in good running order; keeping good time. This features the brass/nickel case, stainless steel snapback, with dual rotating dial, so different times can be set for navigation, some type of a chronograph. The dials are original: the top crown rotates a 60 minute dial, and the bottom crown rotates a 12 hour dial, with the inner dial featuring a 24 hour military setting. This is a 16 jewel, Bulova, USA MADE, (not Swiss), mechanical hack-set movement. I have collected watches for over 20 years and this is the first one I have seen. The case has the normal wear you associate with 65-70 year old watch (brass is showing through the nickel). This fine watch measures 32.5 MM in diameter and 39 mm lug-to-lug. I found a thread on Watchuseek, which authenticates this watch; plus the watch is listed in the Shugart book under the Bulova section.
In the absence of contrary views, should we conclude that the Bulova Type A-15 is a legit US military issue watch?
I have little doubt that the A-15 are genuine, possibly prototype of very limited issue quantity. For the few that have surfaced, including the two I have, the 16j hacking movements (cal. 10AKCSH) are all dated to 1944 which is consistent with the case back marking. I believe there is only one dial type, the variance seen have refinished dial. The original dial has radium luminous numeral and yellow 24hr chapter ring signed BULOVA. The dial is quite fragile which probably explained reason for refinishing.
Is it correct to describe the Bulova A-15 as a "prototype" - as it appears to have been issued, albeit a limited quantity (one of your examples has the serial number 385 - so at least 385 were produced)? Isn't a prototype model pre-production? I guess it depends on the definition of "prototype" in the timepiece world...
In Wesolowski book, it said the A15 was "tested but never adopted". Given the disproportionate number of sterile/unmarked case seen among the few that have surfaced, it does seem to reaffirm that assertion.
|IHC Life Member|
I think it was a limited production model, having made it past the prototype stage. If we are to believe the serial numbers, I think there were too many made for it to have been only a prototype. I think it was probably made for a very specified requirement. Here are pictures of mine which I purchased about a year ago. I have it on a vintage nylon strap from the same era.
Here it is with some of it's post WWII cousins. All of the 9 known Type A-17A and Type DTU-2/P Bulovas by the way. Oh, and also prototype Bulova dive watch!
One more for the record...
Thanks for the post (as always, very informative).
It seems we are in agreement regarding the Bulova A-15 -- it appears to be a limited production rather than a prototype.
With regard to the MIL-W-6433A and MIL-W-3818A spec watches, you mentioned on another forum that there were nine to ten distinct versions. Could you elaborate regarding the variations, I'm very curious about these types of watches?
|IHC Life Member|
You’re welcome Ken. I do not have anything definitive with respect to the Bulova Type A-15, only what my gut tells me. Pure speculation I am afraid. I would like to address something that was posted up above by Lau Siew Ming…
I assume my watch is the example he refers to in his post. As I have the watch to examine, I would like to say that dial has not been refinished in any way and neither have the hands. They are still very radioactive although they long since stopped glowing. The dial finish matches exactly that of the inner rotatable dials. There is a very distinctive crazing, ever so slightly but perceptible and they are all matching. After taking it apart, I looked for evidence of refinishing and found nothing to indicate such. I was told before I bought it that the word was it had been refinished so I made extraordinary effort to determine. The seller actually gave me quite the discount because he believed the stories. This was a watch that when it first popped up in the Japanese Mook (Magazine+Book=Mook) that I initially thought was some kind of put-together creation based on the fact that it was the only one I’d ever seen and also there were other fanciful creations in that Mook as well. So when the chance came to buy one, I passed. Then another popped up but it went for way more than I was willing to spend at the time. And then it became an obsession to get one. An obsession such that even after finding my exceedingly rare Bulova prototype UDT dive, I still had to have one. I must say, other than the inner numbers being different on my example, everything else about it is top-notch. I do think the second hand is a replacement and I am sure I have a correct example in my parts boxes, I just haven't had the time to go looking for it. The watch overall is in excellent condition and gets worn on a weekly basis when I am in the office. It is not much bigger than it’s contemporary Type A-11s that share the same movement but it wears much larger due to the fact that the dial extends all the way out to the very edge of the case. And then there is that fantastic glass bubble crystal. You have to see it to believe it. I know if I ever crack that crystal, it will be very difficult to find an exact replacement so I am very mindful whenever I am wearing.
About the Type A-17A and Type DTU-2/P series of Bulova watches, that is a lot of information. To make a long story short, there are 9 different examples based on different contract numbers and stock numbers, broken down into three basic types, the Type A-17A (4), Type DTU-2/P with 24 hour dial (3), and the Type DTU-2/P with 12 hour dial (2). That photo above shows them all and it took me about 5 years to complete the set.
Now where it gets interesting is when you add to the Bulova examples, the examples from Elgin (Type A-17A and Type DTU-2/P; 12 and 24 hour) and the Hamilton 12 hour Type DTU-2/P for a grand total of 13. I have them all except the 12 hour Elgin Type DTU-2/P. If you want, you can add the earlier Waltham Type A-17s (MIL-W-6433) (3 examples) but they are more of an early 1950s up-date of the WWII era, Star dust-proof cased Type A-11. The earliest Bulova Type A-17A dates to 1958 with a good majority dating to ’60, ’61, and ’62. I created a whole spreadsheet (like I usually do with all my watches) so I could track all the different examples, such as manfacturer's part numbers, movement types, specification/type, order/contract numbers, stock numbers, movement (year) dates, and dial and handset types. So I pretty much now know what correctly belongs with what.
Since we are on the subject of Bulova watches, the following useful information on dating Bulova watches was recently pointed out to me -- can be be accessed at: http://www.manleyhorlogerie.co...h_History/bulova.htm
The year of manufacture of Bulova watches may be determined by a date code system. The code may be found on the back of the case as well as on the movement itself.
The date code consists of one letter and one number, such as "M4" where "M" denotes a watch made in the 1960s and "4" is the fourth year of the decade.
So, "M4" = 1964.
L=1950s, M=1960s, N=1970s
examples: L2=1952, M5=1965, N7=1977, etc.
Symbols may also be found on some Bulova movements. These symbols were used from 1924 to 1948 and are found near the stem set screw.
Until there is proof that they were issued I don't think it would be fair to assume they actually were. I have no doubt they were initially designed to be marketed to the military and that there were several hundred made - at a minimum 4 to 5 hundred or more the looks of the serial numbers plus the ones with no case back markings - or the number could be much higher. It is possible that the military actually bought and issued some, but it is equally possible that they were simply sold off after the war in an effort by Bulova to recover some of their bad investment of a watch that did not sell to the military. What is needed are some records from that era from Bulova to say exactly what these were.
As a new member I would like to describe my newest
acquisition. I saw it ia a small shop selling
low end jewelry, encased with 3 other preowned
watches. The dial caught my attention. The back
reads, TYPE A-11,SPEC No 94-27834, Serial # AF
43142875, Part No- 10AKCSH, Order #W535AC33934,
BULOVA WATCH CO. Did so research found out since
silver was not a strategic metal during 1940's, it
was made of silver, it was ordered for the Army
Air Force and has the hacking ability.Unfortunately, I cannot sent a photo, but
will be happy to answer any inquiries.
Hi Jack. Welcome to the forum!
Your watch is the basic type A-11 wristwatch that was widely issued to men in the Army Air Force during WW II. They were made by various manufacturers including Bulova, and are one of the most common watches of this era. It seems they were issued in very large numbers and very few were thrown away or lost. I think that they are a very nice and affordable watch to collect.
Some were made with silver cases, but most were brass with chrome plating. There is no real difference in terms of value. As you say, silver was not a strategic metal and in those days it was not a very expensive metal either - likely not much difference between the cost of sterling silver and chrome plated brass. Does yours say "sterling" on it? If not it is likely chrome plated brass.
There were three basic varieties of these A-11s, the AK, the AKCS with the sweep second hand, and the AKCSH with the sweep second hand and hacking movement. This last one is the kind you have and from what I have seen seems to be the most commonly found variety.
Yours was part of the order placed for these in 1943 and would have likely have been made and delivered in that year.
I would recommend that you not try to do anything with the dial as the material that looks like brown paint on the numbers and such is radium and even though it is not glowing it is still just about as powerful as the day it was made. The reason is does not glow is the zinc sulfide it was mixed with was the material that actually did the glowing and the power source was the radium. The zinc sulfide has long since been burned and oxidized by the radium so it no longer reacts to the radioactivity of the radium in the paint.
Wesolowski's Japanese version of his informative book "A Concise Guide to Military Timepieces" has a picture of a Bulova Type A-15 on the cover. Wesolowski indicates that the A-15 was "tested but never adopted".
Based on historical documents obtained, it appears that approximately 500 Type A-15 watches were service tested both in theatres of operation (Europe, Asia and the Pacific) as well as continental US in late 1944 and early 1945. The tests were completed by 1 May 1945. The AAF Board subsequently made the decision that there was no military requirement for the Bulova Type A-15.
However, the Air Technical Service Command instructed some locations after testing that the Type A-15 could be issued to pilots on the same basis as the Type A-11 hack watch. Therefore, at least some of the test Bulova Type A-15 watches were subsequently issued, and most likely to USAAF pilots involved in military operations in Europe, Asia and the Pacific.
Well, the documentation doesn´t get any better than that...
proves once again that Jim is wrong in his assessment...
Thanks Ken and Siew Ming for opening up yet another door!
My WWW collection is now complete, time to look for new ventures!
To the contrary, I think it confirms my assessment. This confirms that they tested 50 of them, this does not say these were accepted by the USAAF and subsequently generally issued. Unfortunately it also does not indicate the serial numbers of the ones that were tested as I think those particular examples would have a special status to a collector like me who seeks proof before accepting stories.
Jim, the watches that were tested , were issued at the end of testing to pilots...Whether they were accepted or not!... It clearly says so on the last document that Ken kindly provided us with!
My WWW collection is now complete, time to look for new ventures!
Recent sale of Bulova Type A-15 Serial No. 174
Sold for US $3,075.00
eBay item: 111084306802
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