One issue faced by many American watch brands is that they tend to be rather underrated and shrugged off by many watch patrons. This is because, globally, whether it is the watch community or just casual folks unfamiliar with watches, people tend to be more familiar with timepieces that are made in European countries like Germany and Switzerland. While German and Swiss watches are certainly deserving of the prestige and recognition they receive, this does not mean American watches should be overlooked either.
One top-notch American watch brand that deserves more recognition is Bulova, whose humble beginnings originated in New York City. Bulova is a diverse watch brand, known for catering to younger generations while also showing off a selection of exquisite vintage-influenced pieces.
One such vintage watch that Bulova is famous for is the Bulova Oceanographer. More popularly known as the “Bulova Devil Diver”, the Bulova Oceanographer collection is a tribute to the brand’s acclaimed 1970s Oceanographer dive watch, which is highly regarded as a retro classic. With the original Oceanographer being discontinued, the new, upgraded version of the Bulova Devil Diver has become a popular favorite for all those vintage dive watch fans. This article will be taking a closer look at the modern Bulova Devil Diver, including its specifications, price, and everything you need to know about this dive watch.
A Brief Background on the Bulova Devil Diver
Founded in 1875, Bulova was one of the first brands that helped kickstart the American watch industry. In establishing its reputation as a top-notch watchmaker, Bulova produced a number of classic timepieces that remain quite popular in the market today, particularly in America.
One such classic timepiece was the Oceanographer. Introduced in the 1970s, the Oceanographer was Bulova’s attempt at breaking into the dive watch market. As those familiar with the watch industry will know, dive pieces have always been a major part of the industry. Owning an excellent dive watch can be a sign of prestige for the wearer, but being able to craft an outstanding dive watch is a mark of a watchmaker’s expertise and skill. This resulted in many watch brands introducing their own renditions of the dive watch, with the Oceanographer being Bulova’s.
While the original Oceanographer was discontinued, it remained a popular icon in the American watch market. Eventually, the brand revived the Oceanographer through its modern Bulova Oceanographer series. Nicknamed the “Bulova Devil Diver”, this is a line of quintessential dive watches that focuses on uniqueness and minimalism, rather than incorporating a multitude of confusing complications. This contributes to their timelessness and is one of the main reasons why the Bulova Devil Diver holds such value as a vintage-influenced classic.
With their unusual, bright colourways and straightforward, easy-to-use layouts, the Bulova Devil Diver timepieces all exude a simple, exquisite charm. On top of being engineered with high-quality materials, the bright colour schemes of the Bulova Devil Diver watches also make it easier for divers to read the time underwater, making them more effective, practical, and eye-catching dive pieces. In the next section, we will be reviewing the 2019 Bulova “Devil Diver” Oceanographer 96B322 and everything it has to offer.
The Bulova “Devil Diver” Oceanographer 96B322 comes in a 44mm tonneau-shaped stainless steel case, with curved lugs that make the watch look smaller than it is. This 44mm diameter is quite standard, allowing this watch to fit well on wrists of all sizes. Fixed on top of the case is the Bulova Devil Diver’s signature two-toned bezel, made of scratch-resistant stainless steel. This unidirectional rotating bezel also shows off an elapsed time scale insert in handsome black and sea-green hues. Instead of the resin paint used by the original Bulova Oceanographer, the Bulova Devil Diver 96B320’s bezel uses modern acrylic paint, which is less flakey.
On the right side of the case, you can find a sizeable unguarded crown. This stainless steel crown has finely grooved edges, which provides wearers with a better grip so they can grasp and turn the crown more easily. The underside of the Bulova Devil Diver is sealed shut with a stainless steel caseback, engraved with the brand’s name. This caseback is also securely screwed down, giving the watch its impressive 200-meter water resistance capacity and keeping its inner mechanisms safe from any moisture or dust.
Paired with the black and green bezel is the Bulova Devil Diver’s green dial. This dial looks almost like a shimmering green ocean when viewed under the right light, harkening back to the watch’s status as a dive piece. On top of boasting such a gorgeous shade of sea green, this dial also follows a very simple, clutter-free layout that is easy to read with just a glance. Indeed, this straightforward dial is one of the Bulova Devil Diver’s strengths as a dive watch. It comprises perfectly circular hour markers, thick sword-shaped hands, a rectangular date window outlined in silver, and a minute track with slim indices.
As with most dive watches, the hands and hour markers of the Bulova Devil Diver are all generously coated with lume. In dim lighting conditions, the lume in the Bulova Devil Diver glows green, matching the watch’s green dial and allowing for optimal legibility at all times. Fitted on top of this watch face is a box-shaped sapphire crystal. As the hardest type of watch glass available, this sapphire crystal keeps the dial safe from any impacts or scratches.
Driving the Bulova “Devil Diver” Oceanographer 96B322 is a Japanese Miyota 821D movement. While it lacks any sort of flashy complications, as a Japanese caliber, this self-winding movement is incredibly reliable. Held together by 21 jewels, this caliber beats at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour (3Hz) and has a substantial power reserve of 42 hours. It is also equipped with quick-set date and hacking seconds functions, which ensures more precise timekeeping.
Finishing off the Bulova Devil Diver’s sleek look is a robust three-link stainless steel bracelet. This bracelet comes with a double-press fold-over buckle, which keeps it securely fastened to your wrist. In addition, it also has a safety bar and extender, so that those with larger wrists can quickly adjust the length of the bracelet to ensure it fits better.
On the whole, this bracelet adds to the professional look of the Bulova Devil Diver, making it a great choice for any formal events you might have. In addition, it is also completely waterproof, so you can even bring the Bulova Devil Diver with you on your deepsea adventures without ever worrying about getting the strap damaged.
The price for the Bulova Oceanographer Ref. 96B350 starts at around $559 USD in retail. This is a relatively affordable price, especially for such a reliable dive watch.
Best Bulova Devil Diver Models
1. Bulova “Devil Diver” Oceanographer 96B350
For those who enjoy more unusual, vibrant timepieces, one of the best Bulova Devil Diver models available is the Bulova “Devil Diver” Oceanographer 96B350. Released in 2021, this is one of the most recent versions of the Bulova Devil Diver available. It comes in a 41mm tonneau-shaped case made of stainless steel, with curved lugs and a matching stainless steel bezel. This bezel bears the signature Devil Diver two-toned insert, with the first quarter showing off a bright orange hue and the rest of the bezel coming in jet-black. This handy elapsed time scale insert helps wearers keep track of the amount of time they have spent underwater.
The dial of the watch also comes in the same playful shade of orange, perfectly complementing the bezel. Aside from that, this dial is also furnished with dot hour markers, broad sword-shaped hands, a date complication at 3 o’clock, a minute track, and at the center of the dial, a pattern of crossed lines, reminiscent of an archery target. Underneath this lively watch face, you can find a Japanese Miyota 821D caliber. This movement has a power reserve of 42 hours and gives the watch a solid depth rating of 300 meters.
This Bulova Devil Diver’s look is completed by a robust, thick polyurethane strap in black. This strap is incredibly robust and virtually impossible to break or snap. This makes it extremely secure and a perfect choice to tackle all sorts of tough challenges underwater, as you can rest assured that your Bulova Devil Diver piece will never come off.
That said, one downside to the Bulova Devil Diver’s polyurethane strap is that some wearers have complained of it actually being too thick. This adds to the weight of the strap, making it less than ideal for everyday use or casual wear. In addition, wearing this thick strap while going about your daily routines can also be a little stuffy and sweaty, leading to some discomfort. All in all, frequent divers are sure to appreciate the robustness of the Bulova Devil Diver’s strap. However, those who want to utilize this watch for everyday use might prefer to check out some alternative after-market strap options.
You can purchase the Bulova “Devil Diver” Oceanographer 96B350 for around $600 USD.
2. Bulova “Devil Diver” Oceanographer 96B320
Those who enjoy sportier-looking timepieces are sure to enjoy the Bulova “Devil Diver” Oceanographer 96B320. This watch is housed in a 40mm tonneau-shaped stainless steel case, making it the smallest of the Bulova Devil Diver pieces in this article. This is coupled with slender, curved lugs and a matching three-link stainless steel bracelet. As part of the Bulova Devil Diver trademark, this watch also bears a two-toned stainless steel bezel, in colorful blue and yellow hues. Engraved on the bezel are indicators in black and white for the elapsed time scale, which stand out strongly against the contrasting yellow and blue backgrounds, allowing for optimal legibility.
The dial of this watch also comes in a rugged matte blue color. It is adorned with luminous hour markers, broad luminous sword hands, a date aperture outlined in silver at 3 o’clock, and a bright yellow lollipop seconds hand. At the center of the dial, you can find two yellow lines in the shape of a target cross, casting a sharp, eye-catching contrast against the blue background. On top of that, the watch’s details are also painted in white on the dial, including its brand name and its 200-meter, or 666-feet water resistance capacity — the source of the watch’s “Devil Diver” nickname.
Driving this watch is a Japanese Miyota 821D caliber. Held together by 21 jewels, this self-winding movement can last for up to 42 hours when fully wound.
The Bulova “Devil Diver” Oceanographer 96B320 retails at around $559 USD.
Alternatives to the Bulova Devil Diver
1. Gucci Dive Ref. YA136209A
As far as quartz watches go, the Gucci Dive Ref. YA136209A takes the cake in terms of being a reliable, stylish quartz dive watch. This sporty-looking Gucci watch is presented in a sizeable 45mm stainless steel case, making it larger than any of the Bulova Devil Diver pieces. This is coupled with a rugged red and green nylon strap and a black unidirectional rotating bezel. On this elapsed time scale bezel, you can find indicators in white, muted green, and red, matching the nylon strap and upping this watch’s stylishness factor.
The dial of this watch also comes in cool jet-black, blending nicely with the black bezel. It has a rather simple layout, comprising luminous hour markers in various geometric shapes, sizeable arrowhead and lollipop hands, and an elongated date display at 6 o’clock. On the rim of the dial, you can also find a minute track, with stick indices and small Arabic numeral hour markers for easier and quicker time-telling. Powered by a sturdy quartz caliber, this Gucci Dive watch also has a solid depth rating of 200 meters, much like the Bulova Devil Diver.
The price of the Gucci Dive Ref. YA136209A starts at $999 USD. While it is a little more exorbitant than the Bulova Devil Diver, this is still a wonderful deal for anyone searching for a dive watch that is versatile, stylish, and dependable. It even carries the famous Gucci name and prestige, which more than makes up for the price of this watch.
2. Seiko Prospex Street Series Ref. SRPF81K1
Another great alternative to the Bulova Devil Diver is the Seiko Prospex Street Series Ref. SRPF81K1. Commonly known as the Seiko Tuna for its stout, tuna can-shaped case, this is a solid, durable watch that many divers have relied on for their underwater adventures.
This Seiko Prospex watch is housed in a 46.3mm stainless steel case. This case is hard-coated, bolstering its resistance to scratches and impacts and making this a hardy timepiece that can withstand any challenges on land or underwater. Like the Bulova Devil Diver, this watch is also equipped with a two-tone unidirectional rotating bezel. Its elapsed time scale insert comes in colors of jet-black and muted orange, giving the watch a rugged yet somewhat vintage look.
Complementing the black and orange bezel is a matte black dial. The components in this dial are quite large, making this dial look a little more cluttered than it actually is. The plus side of this, of course, is that this makes the dial more readable, which is especially important for divers underwater. It is decorated with thick hour indices and broad blunt hands, all of which are generously coated in lume, improving visibility in poor lighting conditions. Aside from that, you can also find a compact date window located between the 4 and 5 o’clock markers.
Underneath this straightforward watch face, you can find an in-house Seiko Caliber 4R35. This self-winding movement is held together by 41 jewels and can last for up to 41 hours when fully wound. To make things even sweeter, this Seiko watch is solar-powered, which means it can be charged using any light source, whether natural or artificial. Finally, like the Bulova Devil Diver, this watch also has an excellent 200-meter depth rating.
The Seiko Prospex Street Series Ref. SRPF81K1 is worth approximately $589 USD, which is a reasonable price for such a sturdy, reliable dive watch.
The Bulova Devil Diver may not be the best dive watch in the market, but with its affordability and flashy looks, it certainly makes for a fantastic entry-level dive piece. As a remake of the 1970s Bulova Oceanographer, the Bulova Devil Diver carries a long and respected heritage, making it even more desirable. With the Bulova Devil Diver, wearers — both professionals and rookies — are guaranteed stylish visuals and a seamless underwater experience.
All images courtesy of WatchShopping, unless stated otherwise.Featured image courtesy of Bulova.
If you are still looking for the perfect dive watch to fit your wrists, have a look at our review on the Certina DS Action Diver—it might be the watch you’re looking for!