"Bulova Quality" marking

Submitted by thom on December 10, 2023 - 10:04pm

Everything is copied verbatum from the record.

It appears Bulova switch to the “Bulova Quality” marking instead of the Karat marking on the watch cases because they reduced the gold content in the cases and did not want to advertise the reduction.

June 14, 1930 Congressional Record – House 10835

Bulova “Lone Eagle” watch not 14-Karat white gold filled

A circular recently sent to Bulova dealers, advertising Bulova watches as graduation gifts, referred to their “Lone Eagle” model as 14-Karat white gold filled. Several watches were shopped by the bureau and found to be represented as 14-Karat white gold filled by retailers. Assays made of the cases for the bureau showed that the cases were not 14-Karat gold filled, in accordance with the trade practice conference rules of the watchmaking industry. An executive of the Bulova Co. acknowledged this fact but pointed out that the “Lone Eagle” model is now stamped “Bulova Quality”. When attention was called to the misdescription of the “Lone Eagle” model in this circular, the firm acknowledged the error and asserted that it was unintentional.

Posted December 11, 2023 - 5:20am

Interesting, and great to understand why they switched over to "Bulova Quality'. I'm also going to assume that the Lone Eagle model they referred to was the later 1930 tonneau model.

Posted December 11, 2023 - 9:02am

Since the House hearing was June 1930 and the Senate hearing was Nov 1929, Bulova made the change somewhere in this window. My assumption would also be the 1930 model.

Posted December 23, 2023 - 1:29pm

Is it assumed it became 10k like all the later models?  ---

Posted December 29, 2023 - 10:47am

I don't know personally what it became, there isn't a record in either the Senate or the House hearings. What I can surmise from the times is inflation, by 1930 the Depression was strongly taking root, people could not afford what they could previously. You need to lower costs of goods to reduce retail price which can only result from inferior quality products. In order to keep the name "clean" I believe Bulova started to lower costs with cases before movements but still offered a variety of options. My Father did the same thing, he purchased a jewelry store in 1922, during the depression he cut the gold content of basic jewelry. He eventually reduced the quality of the stones in the rings as the depression wore on but his original scheme was with the gold content. 

The 1929 Laurel Bulova 1929 Laurel | myBulova.com and the 1929 unknown Bulova 1929 -Unknown | myBulova.com both utilized what I would call "Providence Cases", that is cases that would normally be reserved for watches branded as Westfield. Of the few dozen I have handled of both examples, they should be considered more of a plated case vs. a rolled case. Most examples I have owned or seen are worn through, this points to reducing cost of goods to reduce retail yet maintain a market hold.

These examples are watches that were probably produced prior to Black Tuesday (Oct 24, 1929) but consumers were already feeling the pinch of inflation before the wheels fell off the bus. I have spent a lifetime dealing with manufacturing to meet consumer demand and in a free enterprise society, the only way to stay afloat is to keep down the cost of goods and breed innovation.

1919 - 1925 was an easy time in America but that started to change with the times, similiar to what Clinton walked into in 1992 but by 1994 the country was on a downward turn that only got worse by 1998. Bulova was competing, I don't know if they surrptitiously attempted to change the case content for all watches or honestly made a mistake with the LE release. What I do know from other Congressional testimony is the company was somewhat shady, at least in the portrayal in the testimony.

Their "5th Ave Observatory" was a sham, they named the assembly room the observatory and built a literal tin shack on the roof. This point was brought up in the congressional testimony and Bulova admitted they were timing watches in their assembly room. Their contention to the tarrif increases in 1929 pointed out specific instances of Bulova promising Swiss Watchmakers a certain salary but once they arrived in the US they would cut the salary. Bulova was also importing parts that were basically complete movements minus a couple of components and just screw in the components once in their shops to get around the tarriffs. 

I believe by 1929 Bulova was hurting financially due to the cost of goods and by the time the 1930 house hearing rolled in, they were back peddling as much as possible to ensure the House was on their side. I personally believe the whole contention of the 1929 and 1930 Congressional hearings were somewhat unfounded but I also believe those hearings put Bulova on the straight and narrow.