July 1, 1941, Ebbets Field, New York. The Philadelphia Phillies are facing off against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The game is being broadcast live and just before the opening ball is thrown the world’s first TV commercial flashes briefly across black and white screens in homes all across America. It is for Bulova watches.
Bulova Watches. A First Time for (Almost) Everything
The TV spot is simple; a grey, sketchy silhouette of the North America coastline on a black background, overlaid by a watch face with hands at 8 o’clock. The spot cost $9 to make and lasts for 9 seconds, barely long enough for the male voiceover to announce that, “America runs on Bulova time,” and then fades. Three hours and eleven minutes later the Phillies have defeated the Dodgers 6-4, and the Bulova Watch Company has reserved its place in the annals of commercial television history, with a lot more ‘firsts’ to come.
From Aviator to Astronaut
It was in that same New York city that Joseph Bulova, a Bohemian immigrant, founded the company in 1875. Bulova was the first to standardise watch parts, the first to launch a full line of ladies watches, and was one of the first watchmakers to furnish their brand with a famous name. Aviator Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, became the face of the company’s now legendary Lone Eagle wristwatch, created to celebrate his historic flight in 1927.
But wait, there’s more: Bulova was the first watch company to equip its watches with wrist alarms (1953), the first to produce a fully electronic watch (1960), and in 1971, a Bulova model became the first privately owned watch to reach the surface of the moon, when David R Scott, commander of the Apollo 15 had to replace his NASA-issued Omega after the crystal ‘popped off’. Scott’s Bulova recently sold for $1.6 million dollars at auction.
From Curved Balls to Curved Watches
Fast forward to Baselworld 2016. Bulova presents the world’s first curved chronograph watch. The CURV collection consists of sports and dress models with movement frequencies of 262 kilohertz, which equates to a standard quartz movement x 8, and costs between £400 and £600. Despite being brought into the fold by the Japanese Citizen Watch Company in 2008, its development of the distinctive CURV movement and design demonstrates Bulova’s continued devotion to its long and proud record.