Today I present you with a pair of Bulova watches that have a lot in common, yet their unique colors and finishes make for two very different looking watches. So, we have somewhat of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation here. I would consider the cream white-dialed 97A136 the gentlemanly Dr. Jekyll as it would be a great watch for wearing to the office. The 96A199 would get the Mr. Hyde name, as its more suited for a night out on the town. These models both hail from Bulova’s Classic Automatic Collection; a large catalog of watches that features the likes of the previously reviewed 96A120.
The fact that Bulova has chosen the 97A136 to grace the header of the Classic Collection webpage tells you all that you need to know about how proud the American watchmaker is of the watch
Let’s start by describing the features both watches share, starting with the heart and soul of any watch: the movement. An automatic Miyota movement is used in both models, displayed via the exhibition case backs as well as the aperture window above the 6 o’clock hour marker on the dials.
One of the movement’s 21 jewels is centered within this window, making for a nice symmetrical look. Once it is fully wound by the movements of your wrist (unfortunetly there is no hand-winding functionality on this movement), the watch should remain working for about 40 hours.
Thin lines starting at the 12, 3, and 9 o’clock hour markers draw inwards to place a bullseye on the dead center of each watch. That 12 o’clock numeral is actually Bulova’s trademark tuning fork logo, a really nice touch that I am surprised Bulova doesn’t use more often; let’s hope these models represent the start of a trend in that direction.
Both watches have a crown situated at the not-so-common 2 o’clock position, with the tuning fork logo stamped onto the end of them. The shapes of the hands, hour and minute markers, and the case are identical on both models as well. Both versions of the watch carry a water resistance rating of 30 meters, although I am sure owners of the 97A136 watch will be slightly more hesitant to expose their watches to the rain than those who own the steel-braceleted 96A199 watch.
Reasonably sized at 41 millimeters in diameter and 12 millimeters thick. Mineral crystal.
The 96A199 uses a black dial set against a stainless-steel case and bracelet for a chic, almost sinister, look. Yes, with the red crosshairs centered on the dial and the cold silver-on-black look, this watch almost has something devilish about it.
This isn’t really an evil watch, of course. If anything, it is more hip and youthful than its gold-and-white sibling, and I think it pulls off the exhibition window much better than does the 97A136, with the steel elements of the movement providing excellent accompaniment for the silver finish on the dial, case, and bracelet. This watch retails for just under $500, according to Bulova’s website.
The gold-on-white theme sported by our 97A136 watch creates a very different atmosphere, one much more fitting for an upstanding professional. The rose gold stainless-steel case, hour markers, and hands seem to favor the “gold” over the “rose,” at least to my eye. It is a very nice color and complements the white dial very well. While not as fun and lively as the 96A199, this is a very elegant watch that would prove to be a great accompaniment for a suit or dress shirt. At $450, this watch is nearly $50 cheaper than the black-dialed watch.
A handsome stainless-steel bracelet matches the finish on the 96A199’s case and features interlocking rectangular links consisting of 5 rectangles. The white-dialed 97A136 makes use of a soft croco-embossed leather strap with a rose-gold buckle closure that features another tuning fork logo.
These offerings from Bulova seem to be very solid choices in the mid-level automatic dress watch category. With a dearth of sporty features, but style in abundance, these are clearly watches intended to be worn with a suit. With everything being identical aside from the colorways and bands on these two models, the choice between them is purely down to personal preference. As for downsides, I would have hoped for one or two nicer touches on these watches, considering the price point; perhaps a higher-quality crystal or a fancier-looking movement. That said, when taken in total, both the 97A136 and Mr. Hyde are extremely attractive watches, and that’s really the main point of dress watches like these.
To have a look at Bulova’s entire collection you can visit their official website here.