The Bulova A-15 Pilot Ref 96A245 might look and feel like a new watch, but it’s actually one of the oldest watches in Bulova’s catalogue. This is just the first time it’s ever been sold. The design dates back to 1943, when the US Army Air Force Air Technical Service Command ordered 500 units of Bulova’s A-15 and sent them to service members around the world for testing.
However, the watch never made it out of the testing phase before World War II ended. Rather than release the watch, Bulova shelved the project for 76 years. Now, in 2020, they’ve finally decided to release the A-15 to the general public, with a few modifications to bring it up to modern standards. Let’s take a closer look at this military-inspired wonder.
Classic Military Design
The A-15’s stainless steel case measures 42mm in diameter, which gives it a medium-large wrist presence. At 14mm, it’s also relatively thick. However, much of this height comes from the double domed sapphire crystal, which arches well above the bezel.
Considering the arch, it causes relatively little distortion. The dial is actually very easy to read. That said, when viewed from an extreme angle, it does distort the outer edge of the dial. This doesn’t detract from the A-15’s function, but it does add an attractive accent to an otherwise understated watch. The crystal also has an anti-reflective coating to prevent glare.
The bezel is curved at the outside, with a slant towards the top where it meets the crystal. The angle is relatively shallow, which means it’s noticeable, but not hard enough to create a sharp edge. There’s a slight indentation where the bezel meets the main body of the case, another small accent that makes the A-15 so easy on the eyes.
The lugs are narrow, with a slightly curved design, and extend a good distance from the case body. This timepiece has a triple-crown design, with crowns located at the 2, 3, and 4 o’clock positions. The A-15 is water-resistant to 30 meters, which makes it splash-resistant. For anything wetter than a shower, leave this watch at home.
One of the A-15’s most attractive features is the World War II-style leather strap. It has a military look and feel, with a flat finish and stitching down both sides. This no-nonsense look is a throwback to a simpler age, when a watch was just something you used to tell the time.
Automatic Miyota Movement
The Bulova A-15 Pilot utilizes an automatic Miyota 82S6 movement, with 21 jewels and a 42-hour power reserve. It’s accurate to -20/+40 seconds a day, which is serviceable, but will require resetting every few days. The interesting thing about this movement is that it was designed for “open heart” watches, where the movement is visible through the dial. In a way, it’s a shame that Bulova used this beautiful movement on a watch where it’s not visible. Then again, the form factor is ideal for the A-15’s case.
A True Pilot’s Watch Dial
The A-15 dial is designed to be easily visible, so you can read the time at a glance. This only makes sense, since it was meant to be used by World War II aviators. The dial consists of four concentric rings, which each has its own function. The inner ring is a 24-hour scale, with Arabic numerals from 13 to 24, printed in a bright yellow that forms a sharp contrast with the black background. The next ring is a standard 1-12 dial, with numerals printed in easy-to-read white paint. At night, the numerals glow pale blue. Single-minute positions are indicated by a ladder scale, which rings the main part of the dial.
The hands have a classic design, with a spade-shaped hour hand and a longer, pointier minute hand. They’re white in the daylight, with a silver skeletonized frame. By night, they glow in the same pale blue as the numerals. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the A-15 is even easier to read at night than it is in the daytime.
The feature that makes the A-15 Pilot most unique is the pair of inner rotating rings, which are controlled by the 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock crowns. The inner ring has a white arrow at 12 o’clock, with white numerals from the 1 o’clock to 11 o’clock position. The outer ring has a similar design, but it marks off minutes instead of hours, with numerals at 5-minute intervals and hashes at single-minute positions. By rotating these rings to coincide with the current hour and minute hand positions, you can keep track of how much time has passed. Indeed, the rotating rings are what gave the A-15 it’s original US Army designation, the “Time Elapsed Watch”.
This is a beautiful piece, one that would fair well in a military style watch collection. Do keep in mind the watch is on the larger side and will suit a larger proportionate wrist better.
To read more about the A-15 visit the official Bulova website here.