Bulova MIL-SHIPS-W-2181

Submitted by bobbee on December 3, 2014 - 2:00pm


  Here is an extremely rare piece, the Bulova Mil-Ships-W-2181. This watch was an experimental design that never actually went into production, other than the handful (supposedly around half a dozen at first) of original test pieces sent to the military for testing in the field.

After the military passed on the production of this model, the test subjects were given to divers in the Navy for regular use.

Only six complete watches, and one empty case are known. This one, found by Gregory Senior on the Dominican Republic recently, is the sixth known. Mr. Senior has given me permission to use his images for this thread, and for that I thank him.

As can be seen, it has a movement marked L7 for 1957, the 10BPCHN. (if anyone has one of these, or have heard of one, I can find a buyer!).

This example is no.299, as can be seen on both the case back and the movement. (This number on the case back and movement may have some meaning for other dive watches on this site too.)

The inner brass dome (pic 6) is not a dust cover, but is used in conjunction with the cicular movement spring to hold the movement in place, and being thick brass has anti-magnetic properties too. This feature is seen on other military watches like the A-11, A17-A and others.

One of these watches has been seen in popular auction for mid five figures, for a watch missing it's complete bezel! This price shows how much these models are cherished by military collectors, and complete like this may fetch considerably more.

The watch is all original, except for a crown replacement.

Enjoy guys and gals.


All photographs by Greg Senior.


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Posted December 3, 2014 - 9:35pm

I think we could counterfeit that one Bobbee if you could get your hands on it for a few days so we could get measurements.

Posted January 15, 2015 - 6:18am

One of these recently was up on ebay, and reached a five figure sum then was removed because the seller had "lost or broken" the item. Received an offer they couldn't refuse, more like!


Here are the full military reports on testing and results on the watches submitted to the Navy in 1958. 


Reverend Rob
Posted January 23, 2017 - 8:09pm

No info on the movt in any of the usual sources. Rare as rare can be. 

What we do know is that this is one of Bulova's own movts, from the 10BP. 10.5''' with the sweep second. The only thing incongruous I find about this example is the hands, they look completely wrong. 

Posted January 23, 2017 - 6:52pm

One of my most favorite watches ! Wishing there were more 

produced, what are the measurements of it? I know it's 16mm

lug with. What's the rest? I would love to reproduce it as is 

not with a huge lug width like the rest of the homage watches