Bulova’s Automatic Collection shows off the inner workings of their watches by fitting their fascinating designs with open apertures and exhibition casebacks. Powered by the natural movements of the wearer, you could say that each of these pieces is a watch-lover’s watch.
This review will provide you with an up-close look at one piece in this collection, the Bulova 96A194. Read on and see if this might be the next addition to your watch collection.
Probably the first thing you’ll notice about this watch is that it’s square, not round, and that alone makes the design eye-catching. The silver-tone stainless steel case is 35×49 mm (so, actually rectangular) and 11 mm thick. It’s also fairly lightweight—only 6.56 ounces, so this might be a good watch for people with smaller wrists.
Far from a flat box, the case has an interesting geometric look, with tapered corners and faceted sides. The dial window—crafted from scratch-resistant sapphire crystal—is likewise faceted and lends a prismatic appearance to the 96A194’s face. The gear-shaped crown barely protrudes from the case, yet it’s easy enough to operate—a plus if you don’t like having unwieldy knobs protruding from the side of your watch.
The caseback, while slightly angular, is mostly flat, the better to fit your wrist. It’s an exhibition caseback with four tiny screws holding it securely in place. The window here is gratifyingly large, allowing a good look at the movement rotor. The Bulova name is printed in black across the glass.
Although the numerous screws on the front and back of the case might suggest otherwise, this is not a completely waterproof watch. It has a resistance rating of 30 meters, so occasional splashes or rainstorms are OK, but we don’t recommend taking this watch in the pool.
The black dial on this watch is rather busy-looking, with different textures and dials competing for your attention. A series of concentric grooves encircles the outside of the dial, conjuring the image of an old vinyl record. Etched inside of that ring is a set of deep vertical notches, lending further texture to the dial. Four triangular depressions in the corners of the dial show off tiny silver screws that call to mind the meticulous craftsmanship that went into this timepiece.
The 96A194 has faceted minute and hour hands. In a questionable design choice, Bulova has foregone the second hand in favor of an entire subdial between four and six o’ clock for tracking seconds. This dial takes up a lot of space and, depending on the time of day, can really clash with the minute and hour hands.
Next to the seconds subdial you’ll find a small aperture that allows you a peek at the watch movement, with both gold and silver-tone components on display. Just north of that, at nine o’ clock, is another subdial for displaying twenty-four hour time.
The hour markers on this watch are your basic applied stick indices. Both these and the minute and hour hands are luminescent for easy viewing in low-light conditions. Minute hash marks run around the chapter ring as well. Missing from the face is any kind of a date window, which might have meshed better with the dial layout than the rather large and ungainly seconds subdial.
The 96A194 uses an automatic, 21-jewel, self-winding movement. Bulova themselves call it a “heart-beat movement,” which is a little misleading—your heartbeat alone will do nothing to power the watch. But not to worry: just wearing the watch as you walk around, work at your computer, or show off your best Viennese waltz is enough to keep the watch wound. And with a 40-hour power reserve, you don’t have to worry that it will stop ticking at an inopportune time.
The bracelet is stainless steel, composed of tightly-spaced rectangular links. This makes the band a perfect visual complement to the case itself, maintaining the sharp, angular aesthetic. The bracelet features a double-press deployant closure, which ensures a snug, fitted look—an advantage over leather or canvas straps, which may be too long and leave you with a length of extra material bulked up on your wrist.
How does it stack up?
If you’re set on purchasing a Bulova automatic watch, you certainly have a number of appealing choices—some with round cases and others with the kind of straight-edged case found on the 96A194. The 96A194 is one of the pricier models in the Bulova Automatic line. It’s sturdy, accurate, and visually outstanding. It’s also, as far as the “fancy factor” goes, pretty middle-of-the-road, so you may find yourself wearing it more frequently than you would another watch in a similar price range. This may not, however, be a watch for guys looking for a big, rugged, masculine timepiece. For a near-identical watch in stunning black, check out the 98A180.
To have a look at Bulova’s entire range head over to their official website here.