Retracing Bulova History

Submitted by FifthAvenueRes… on September 12, 2012 - 7:33am

Retracing Bulova History.

The Bulova Corporation was founded in 1875 by Czech immigrant Joseph Bulova in a small premises on Maiden Lane, New York City.

By 1911, Joseph Bulova had set up manufacturing to build high quality boudoir clocks, table clocks and pocket watches and by the following year (1912) Joseph Bulova was able to establish his first dedicated Watch manufacturing and assembly plant in Bienne, Switzerland, building only quality fully jeweled movements.

'At about the time of the First World War, there were many European watch manufacturers that said that the wearing of a watch on the wrist would never be a popular alternative to the pocket watch. Joseph Bulova, creating a pioneering spirit that was to become the 'culture' of Bulova, started to experiment with compact spring and balance wheel timepieces that could withstand the impacts and shocks of being worn on the wrist. Out of only a handful of manufacturers of the day, Bulova introduced its first line of fully jeweled men's wristwatches in 1919'

So, where are these 'Bulova Watches' Dating from 1911 to 1921  You may ask?

The clues are right before Us.

The first clue was recently discoverd in an ad which appeared in a 1922 Cosmopolitan Magazine.

* Note: the ad reads:

 J. Bulova Co. Fifth Avenue at 36th Street. New York
Makers of the famous HUDSON MAXIM and RUBAIYAT Watches.

The image appears to be Copyrighted 1920 or 1921 and there is no mention of Bulova Watch Co in fact to the contary, the ad reads J. Bulova Co.

Clue 2. 
In 1917 a Patent was issued to the J. Bulova Co.

*Note: there is no notation of when this Patent was applied for or when the Name 'Rubaiyat' was first used by the J. Bulova Co

Clue 3.
Enter into the picture this piece:

The Watch shown above is a First World War era (WWI 1914 - 1918) Gent's wrist Watch, correctly Jeweled (7) for Military issue at the time, manufactured in Switzerland, signed on both Case and Movement Rubaiyat W. Co. in the very same fashion, identically even, to early movements signed Bulova W. Co., which appear around 1921. Also please note the Rubaiyat signature on the Movement rolls the same way depicted in the Patent issued to J. Bulova Co.

What does this mean?

It is My contention that this Rubaiyat W Co. signed piece is the early work of Joseph Bulova manufactured while operating as the J. Bulova Co. pre Bulova Watch Company and the reason We do not see any 'Bulova Watches' pre Dating the early 1920's is that they do not exist. They do, only during the Decade of 1911-1921 Mr Joseph Bulova of the J. Bulova Co was manufacturing His famous Watches from the facility in Bienne, Switzerland under the Names of 'Rubaiyat' and 'Maxim' as indicated by the early 1920's ad.

This contention would also help explain early 1920's Watches which are American Standard Cased Bulova signed Movements with Maxim, Rubaiyat or nothing at all printed on their Dials, as J. Bulova Co grew and morphed into Bulova Watch Company, casing and timing Watches downstairs from the newly constructed Bulova observatory on Fifth Avenue, New York.

Many thanks to Mr Stephen Oilman, owner/admin of for allowing the presentation of this information on site and to fellow MyBulova members who take time to read, evaluate, enjoy or critique.

Fifth Avenue Restorations.

Posted September 12, 2012 - 7:47am

No criticisms from me. A very well thought out and presented piece, Mark. 

I totally go with this, as, if granted the trademark name in 1917, when did he actually apply? In all probability it wasn't awarded immediately, and could have had to wait for several years, but in the meantime carried on making watches with this name.


William Smith
Posted September 12, 2012 - 7:52am

Rubaiyat a pre-Bulova branded watch...we see several of them.... Good stuff.

Posted September 12, 2012 - 8:07am

So is it fair to say that both the Hudsin Maxim and Lady Maxim are also early Bulova made watches?

I've always contended that the answer is 'yes'.

This is a great find and I hope something that we can expand on in the future with more adverts from this era.

I have another 1922 advert heading my way that also states the compnay name of J Bulova Company and not Bulova Watch Company. So it would appear that they started to trade under the BWC name either in late 1922 or 1923 as we have dated 1923 adverts using the Bulova Watch Company name.

This name change I think explains a lot about that transitional period we see in how Bulova labelled their very early watches.

Nice work Mark!

Posted September 12, 2012 - 9:32am

"So is it fair to say that both the Hudsin Maxim and Lady Maxim are also early Bulova made watches?"

Absolutely admin!

There was a Watch named the 'Hudson Maxim' which is depicted at a J. Bulova Co. display booth at a convention. The image is from a Jewelers circular Dated 1921. 

Let Me toss this one out there, what if the 1922 Cosmopolitan ad were to read:

"Makers of the famous Hudson,  Maxim and Rubaiyat Watches".


There was a Hudson Watch Co:

Swiss Movement signed Hudson W. Co.

Could the 'Hudson Maxim' have been a conglomeration of the Hudson and Maxim Watch Companies?  More Avenues to explore....

Undoubtably the 'Rubaiyat W Co' Watch shown in the OP was manufactured by J. Bulova Co. an early Bulova Watch.

fun stuff!

Posted October 4, 2023 - 6:06am

In reply to by FifthAvenueRes…

11 years on and we now have hard evidence that Adolph (Arde) Bulova did in fact owned the Hudson Watch Company, located at 22 Maiden Lane, New York in 1917.

1917 Trow's general directory of the boroughs of Manhattan and Bronx city of New York - Bulova, Rubaiyat and Hudson Watch Companies

RTN: Registered Trade Name

Posted April 14, 2024 - 5:44am

In reply to by FifthAvenueRes…

Posted April 14, 2024 - 5:45am

In reply to by FifthAvenueRes…

No denying the font used on early Maxim dials is the same as used by Bulova. 

Posted May 4, 2024 - 4:37am

In reply to by mybulova_admin


I think it's safe to say that the early Hudson Maxim is a coming together of the Hudson Watch and Maxim watch Co's,  pre Bulova watch Co

Posted May 4, 2024 - 4:58am

In reply to by FifthAvenueRes…

The clincher would be to officially connect Joseph or Arde to the Maxim Watch Company.

Then again maybe MAXIM was just a tradmark and not an actual watch company.

Interestingly there are HUDSON branded pocket watches with no watch manufacturer stamping on the movement, just HUDSON - USA

Posted May 6, 2024 - 5:02am

In reply to by mybulova_admin

We have solid proof that Rubaiyat and Hudson branded timepieces were pre Bulova W. Co Bulovas'

Here is a Hudson W. Co branded watch in a Wadsworth case, it is unknown to Me if the case is original.

Now to link Maxim.....

Posted May 6, 2024 - 5:23am

In reply to by FifthAvenueRes…

* I will note the similarity of the Hudson W. Co watch above to that of the Lady Maxim posted April 14, 2024

Posted May 8, 2024 - 4:32am

In reply to by FifthAvenueRes…

I've been watching that watch for a while.

"Now to link Maxim"....see my comment above and your comment below from September 2012.

Posted September 12, 2012 - 12:01pm

Wow.  Excellent information - and nice detective work.  BTW...That Rubiayat in the original posting is very nice.  Looks like a porcelian dial with no branding at all...

Posted September 12, 2012 - 3:30pm

I want to get this in the record...     Note how the RUBAIYAT signature patented by Joseph Bulova rolls, almost like a Wave.

On April 14, 1912 The R.M.S. Titanic struck an iceburg and sank in the Atlantic Ocean - 'The luxury liner was carrying several works of art. Among the most famous was "The Rubaiyat," a compilation of poems written by Persian astronomer and mathematician Omar Khayyam in the 11th Century. The copy of the book had a binding that included more than 1,000 gem stones'.


Reverend Rob
Posted September 12, 2012 - 6:55pm

Excellent digging, Mark. Gotta love when it all starts to come together. I have a listing for Rubaiyat dating to November 1916 in Biel Switzerland by J. Bulova & Cie, perhaps this is the applied for date. 

Posted September 12, 2012 - 7:28pm

ecstatic Reverand!

Thank You for the info.

So, the Rubaiyat could possibly Date to as early 1916 +/-.


Posted September 12, 2012 - 11:23pm

Nice work Mark!

We need to be keeping an eye out for early Hudson, Rubaiyat & Maxim watch ad's/info, there may be more clues to be found!

I have seen some early J. Bulova Co. ad's, but the only rings were featured.

Rule #1 in business is start small and build up...looks like old Joe followed the rule book...

Posted September 13, 2012 - 5:15am

The WW1 Medal belonged to My Grandfather and was issued to British Soldiers for Service.

The Rubaiyat is shown as found.


It's not clear if the 1922 Cosmopolitan ad is indicating the Hudson and the Maxim were 2 Companies but indications point in that direction.

Tally ho...

William Smith
Posted September 13, 2012 - 6:25am

Here's a section of August - October 1921 edition of "The Jewelers' Circular" Mark cites above.  A single quarterly publication consolidating the "American Horological Journal", "The Jewelers Weekly", and "The Jewelers Review".  They were perhaps three individual publications, of which parts appeared in the Circular?  As one reads through the September 21st part of the publication, it highlights the 16th Convention of "The American National Retail Jewelers Association", taking place on the 13th - 16th of September 1921 in Buffalo, New York.   One article shows exhibits of various manufacturers at this convention, including J. Bulova Co.  The intro to the Bulova section starts "Standardized imported watches were to be seen at the booth of the J. Bulova Co of New York.  The  Hudson-Maxim watch was featured at this booth, as was also the Rubaiyat watch".  A couple more short sentences appear to be about J. Bulova Co., then the next paragraph referrers to the Bulova-Henshel Co.   At bottom, a picture of the J. Bulova Co booth, along with the exhibit of the Bulova, Henskel Co. (note the spelling/typo? of Henskel in the graphic title)

Two people are mentioned in the J. Bulova Co. ppg; Ballard S. Epstein and A. Lindner
Three people are mentioned in the Bulova-Henshel ppg: Harry Henshel, M.M. Kolish and L.S. Shoen.

This entire publication is available for free download as a Google Book.  It's good reading.



Two pictures of Joseph Bulova - in 1877, a couple years after founding J. Bulova In New York City, and as an older man at the bench.


Posted September 13, 2012 - 7:27am


oh and here's a picture of said Hudson-Maxim watch that Nova posted in the Lady Maxim thread (one of my favorites)

Posted February 5, 2012 - 6:36pm


Mr and Mrs Maxim.…

Fact. Bulova loved associating famous people with their watches.They have been innovative marketers from the early days. This is what set them apart from other watch companies.

I'm still on the fence. I want to believe that in the early days (pre 1921) Bulova were starting out their wrist and pocket watch business by promoting watches baring celebrity names rather than their own, which at that time may not have been well know in the watch industry. The ealiest advert he have is 1922 so we may never know how they started advertising their watchs pre this period.

Its is my theory that they where getting blank movements from the Swiss, stampinng them Bulova, then using 3rd party casing companies and marketing then the best way they could.

Hudson Maxim was extremely well known at this time so why not use his name to market a watch. It wouldn't be the first time Bulova has done this. What would be nice is some confirmation that Hudson has a connection with Bulova. Another thing we also see time and time again is the release of a Ms version...often called 'Lady' something. Again history has repeated itself time and time again with Bulova.

Posted September 13, 2012 - 8:34am

In the discussion regarding the 'LADY MAXIM' on site I'd mentioned finding information indicating 'MAXIM' was an independant Watch making Company, so the MAXIM Company did exist.

The HUDSON W. Co also existed.

Most definately J. Bulova Co manufactured the 'HUDSON MAXIM'.



Posted August 10, 2019 - 5:34am

In reply to by FifthAvenueRes…

Looks like they were responsible the the entire line of Bulova Hudson Maxim watches including ladies versions (pre Lady Maxim).

This May 27, 1921 newspaper adverts shows a full line of both pocket and ladies watches all branded 'Hudson Maxim'.

What made me smile is the reference to Mr A. Bulova :-)

"Mr. A. Bulova, the maker of these highest grade watches, finally consented to come to Indianapolis during this HUDSON MAXIM week. He will be at my store in person to demonstrate the perfect workings of the mechanism of this wonderful watch."

The advert also states:

"A wonderful assortment of ladies' watches of many kinds are included in the HUDSON MAXIM watches in this introductory sale."

Click image to see larger version.

1921 Hudson Maxim watch by Bulova advert

Bobbee posted another version of this a few years back, but that didn't mention Bulova by name, only as 'a representative of the factory'. This adverts finally confirms that Bulova owned and made the entire HUDSON MAXIM line of watches.

Posted August 10, 2019 - 5:54am

In reply to by FifthAvenueRes…

A month later in June 1921 we see the Lady Maxim now mentioned in a Hudson Maxim advert.

Hudson Maxim and Lady Maxim watches by Bulova 1921

Posted September 13, 2012 - 8:40am

I'd say that the 1922 advert is referring to 'Hudson Maxim' as a single entity as it would appear the advert has some relation to the article show above that mentions:

The intro to the Bulova section starts "Standardized imported watches were to be seen at the booth of the J. Bulova Co of New York.  The  Hudson-Maxim watch was featured at this booth, as was also the Rubaiyat watch"

Reverend Rob
Posted September 13, 2012 - 9:21am

A curious thing. The same entry I have for the Swiss patent for Rubaiyat mentions a US registration for 1942. It could be that the Rubaiyat watches were sold only in Europe prior to 1942. Also, 1942 is a bit late to be using the Rubaiyat name in the US, are there even any examples of this? 

Also, I have posted this elsewhere, but I will include it here to kind of put the manufacturing process into perpective:


Bulova owned the factory(s) in Switzerland that manufactured ebauches for their watches. An ebauche is a raw movt, and can be modified to a particular finished design.

The US factory made plates, dials, and escapements that were fitted to these, and other ebauches, which Bulova purchased from various leading ebauche manufactures, like ETA, FHF, Felsa, A.Schild, Aurore-Villeret, Sonceboz, Glycine, Peseux, Unitas, FEF (Fleurier), Le Phare, Junghans (alarm), Gruen, Venus, Michel, Liengme, Recta, and possibly others. The ebauches from Gruen were of the famed Aegler company, jointly owned by Rolex, Gruen and Aegler. 

In 1930, Bulova was manufacturing components, that is, plates, dials and escapements in the US at their factory. By about 1940, Bulova was manufacturing complete watches, and by the early 1950s, they were producing over a million watches per year, approximately half being imported Swiss, and half Domestic (US). It seems the watches were always cased and assembled in the US. The cases, as we know, were sourced from various casemakers. 

So Bulova did indeed use US made in-house movts as well as Swiss in-house movts, but these are in the minority. Keep in mind, a lot of major compnanies like Rolex, Breitling, and Panerai only started producing their own in house calibres relatively recently. Panerai, for example, once famously used a Rolex movt in their watches, but it was sourced by Rolex from Cortebert.

Posted September 13, 2012 - 11:34am

Going backwards in time I think We should look at/for the Maxim Watch Co and the Hudson Watch Co.

Reverend Rob
Posted September 13, 2012 - 12:39pm

I'm finding the name Maxim trademarked by Bulova, but there are other Maxim Watches (including by Waltham)  and also Hudson Watch Co.'s not attributable to Bulova, they are separate companies owned by others. I'm coming up blank for Hudson-Maxim. 

edit: I see that Hudson Maxim was the inventor of the explosive Maximite, and if this watch is named after him, I'm guessing it is a model name, rather than a Company Bulova may have owned or run.  

Posted September 13, 2012 - 3:29pm


I'll add this for clarification of information in the original post:

"Bulova was founded and incorporated as the J. Bulova Company in 1875 by Joseph Bulova Joseph Bulova (1851 - November 18, 1935). It was reincorporated under the name Bulova Watch Company in 1923"

Posted September 13, 2012 - 4:24pm

That ties in perfectly with my earlier comment above regarding the cross over in vintage adverts from J Bulova Company to Bulova Watch Company.

So now we have evidence that the Bulova Watch Company did not start trading under this name until 1923.

1922, 23 and 24 seem to be the years when Bulova really started to get their act together and become a driving force in the watch market.

Reverend Rob
Posted September 13, 2012 - 7:23pm

After some exhaustive digging, I am convinced that the Hudson Maxim watch is named after Hudson Maxim.

I know, Duh. 

I find no evidence of a Bulova related Maxim Watch Co, nor a Hudson Watch Co relating to Bulova either. Hudson Maxim was from a famous family, and a US super-patriot, a much-loved inventor and media savvy personality. He invented Maximite, an explosive, and also smokeless powder. (As a former gunsmith, I should have remembered that) His brother Hiram Stevens Maxim invented the Maxim gun, and his nephew Hiram Percy Maxim invented the Maxim silencer.

There were several Hudson Watch Co's in Europe prior to the 20th century and up to the 1930's. None were in any way related to Bulova. Hudson was a model name used by others, also, as was Maxim. 

Posted May 15, 2024 - 6:04pm

In reply to by Reverend Rob

New evidence (2024) now confirms that Hudson Watch Company was owned by Adolph (Arde) Bulova and operated in the same building as Rubaiyat.

1917 Bulova Companies

Posted September 14, 2012 - 12:10am

Possibly just a coincidence.... I said possibly :-)

Posted September 14, 2012 - 3:17pm

What a great piece of work. You are all to be thanked and congratulated for the time and effort put into digging out this invaluable info. It just keeps getting better every day.

Posted September 18, 2012 - 12:36pm

In 1951 Ardie Bulova presented a Sundial to the Botanical Gardens in Queens NY.

If I may quote from it - "the best is yet to be"

This info according to Mikrolisk - The horological trade mark index:

  • MAXIM                                                                      
  • Bulova Watch Company, Inc / J. Bulova & Cie
  • Biel, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Schweiz; New York, USA.

Biel is the German reference to Bienne, Bienne being the French. - Schweiz translates to Switzerland

No Date is given although I do find it interesting that J. Bulova Co. Bienne, Switzerland is noted. The Date of this MAXIM trademark is a key piece of information.

Posted September 22, 2012 - 4:51am

Ok this new advert cements two very topically points that have been discussed here on over the last year or so.

  1. Did Bulova make the Lady Maxim?
  2. Did Bulova make early Bulova watches without 'Bulova' on the dial?

The answer to both questions is a definitive "YES"

December 16, 1922 Bulova Watch Advert -  'The Saturday Evening Post

Posted September 22, 2012 - 7:10am

oh snap!


This is fun Gents.

Posted October 1, 2012 - 7:46am

U.S. Patent Office document below Dated 1948 indicates Rubaiyat as being 'in use' since November 1, 1916 by J. Bulova Co.

Posted October 1, 2012 - 7:51am


That now gives us a date period when these were in production or at the very least confirmation that Bulova owned this brand.

Posted October 1, 2012 - 1:20pm

agreed admin.

A liitle more about the origins of J. Bulova Co.

I stumbled across this image:

55-59 Maiden Ln. New York - Bulova

The image is Artist John Mackie Falconers' rendition of what was 55-59 Maiden Ln. New York. 57 Maiden Lane being the address of Joseph Bulova in 1875.

The rectangular sign which is centrally located in the image next to the Road states '59 Toys', a Toy shop which would make 55-57 Maiden Lane on the left the property of J. Rucklass -Tailor.

The painting is Dated 1851

This locale is at the Corner of Maiden Lane and Williams St. where the Federal Reserve building now stands.

The origins of Maiden Lane.

"Where Maiden Lane is there was once a narrow stream or spring water, which flowed from about the present Nassau Street. Women went there to wash their clothing, so that it came to be called the Virgin's Path, and from that the Maiden's Lane."

above excerpt from the book: Nooks and Corners of Old New York by Charles Hemstreet.

Posted October 1, 2012 - 4:09pm

Very true Bob.

"His house, located at 57 Maiden Lane, was rented from Robert and Peter Bruce, grocers at 3 Front Street, "for 100 pounds per year." St. John de Crevecoeur wrote that Jefferson "lived in a mean house in Maiden Lane and not approving much of the stiff style and etiquette of New York he gave up all his time to the establishment of his new department, foreign affairs, and home."To his home he added a multi-windowed gallery in the back for his papers, books, and plants. A plaque erected in 1921 by the Home Insurance Company commemorates Jefferson's place of residence in the former capital."

edit: (although the plaque itself states 1929)


William Smith
Posted October 1, 2012 - 7:55pm

Jefferson lives there three months and gets a plaque.  Bulova was there for quite a while, and nothing.  Boy these historians need to get their priorities straight.