Bulova Oceanographer Devil Diver – $430 – $600 ($795)
NOTE: The big long weekend sales seem to have ended, but be aware that while this thing was sold out for the longest time, various retailers seem to be carrying it now. Depending on the promo they’re running, price can run anywhere from $475 (Bloomingdale’s over the long weekend, and Macy’s was close to that price too) to $600. Right now, Macy’s has it for $572.40 with code SHOP. If you want to take the risk of ordering from a gray market dealer, you won’t get a manufacturer’s warranty, but you will save a bunch.
About a year ago, I was travelling to Florida and had a layover in Charlotte. Wanting to kill the time, I walked around the terminal and made my way to one of the watch stores, where I saw an assortment of Balls, Seikos, Citizens and Bulovas. I walked from case to case, and took my time admiring the dozens of watches I saw. In the back of the Bulova display, behind all the (horrifying-looking) precisonist models, I saw a cool looking retro diver tucked in the back. Curious, I asked to see it, and I was disappointed. The polish on the case seemed cheap, the bracelet rattled like it actually was from the 70s, and I just left with a very poor impression of the watch.
A year came and went, and the other day I was doing some shopping at the Naval Exchange and I saw the same Bulova in the case. I had some time to kill, and so I had the counter worker pull it out for me to handle. It almost seemed like a different watch! This one seemed well polished, the bracelet still rattled but somehow didn’t seem cheap, and the dial was just amazing. I am very set against impulse purchases, but I walked out of the store wearing it.
I paid approximately $630 for the watch, tax free at the NEX. If you get it from Macy’s, it’s around the same price, or you can get it grey market from Amazon for substantially less. I’ve used an Authorized Dealer warranty before (something you don’t get on the gray market), so I try to shop through the proper channels these days.
This is the part that sells the entire watch for me. The dial is a 1:1 perfect re-creation of the original from the early 70s. The lettering is all period-correct, the hands are chunky and vintage looking, and the indices are the same giant cups full of lume as on the original. The large indices create a very 3 dimensional look that is accentuated by the boxy sapphire crystal. Stylistically, the face is quartered by a large red cross-hair, and the depth is listed in feet as 666 (hence the nickname “Devil Diver”). The one failing is that the cyclops is crooked, though this is the same across every sample they had at the counter. The lume is very bright, and glows a strong green through the night. Several times when I woke up to take out the dog, I could easily read the time in total darkness.
The case is a cushion style, with heavy curving on the sides to hug the wrist. The entire thing is finished with a mirror polish. The caseback itself is very plain, and just an inexpensive screw down back. The crown is a signed screw-down. The shape and complexity of the case does a lot to give the watch it’s authentic vibe. Unlike the original, the modern one is 44mm rather than 40mm, and that’ll be too big for some. The bezel is a 120 click unidirectional like the original, and features an identical acrylic bezel.
44mm case next to a 41mm Corgeut (Tudor Homage).
This is the only real deal breaker for some people. Though they don’t say which model, the Devil Diver uses a low-end Miyota automatic to keep time. Though it can hand-wind, it does not feature hacking, which at over $600 is a little shocking. Still, I imagine the complexity of the dial and case contributed to the cost, and the Miyota was Bulova’s way of keeping the cost down. A special edition orange version is available with a Swiss movement, though at nearly three times the price. So far, the movement has been accurate, and Miyotas are reliable enough that I didn’t mind.
This will be hit or miss for some folks, but I think it suits the watch, however much it rattles. The bracelet features solid links and end-links, split pins, and a sort of faux-jubilee style. The end-links perfectly fit with the lugs. The clasp is a simple stamped dive clasp with a safety and a divers extension. Bulova is engraved in the clasp in a mid-century modern font.
I like it. It’s a super retro design at a reasonable price. I’ve seen some people compare it to the Seiko Turtle family of watches, but holding them both, the Bulova is the cooler watch. I know they’re not the same quality, but the Bulova is great for scratching that Doxa itch. Both have a stong 70s style and a history of both recreational and professional diving. Though I rarely if ever spend this much on a watch, I feel I got value for my purchase.
About the Author: Zach S. is a United States Marine Corps Officer and Product Photographer from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. When he’s not training or doing photography he enjoys reading and writing on a myriad of topics.