What are the numbers inside the case back?

Submitted by xyzzy on December 17, 2020 - 8:07pm

I saw a non-working Bulova lady's watch on ebay pretty cheap, thought that might be a fun project, and now I've got this guy:

From the date code on the back "M6" and the pictures on this site, I've identified it has a 1966 Lady of FWatch Pictureashion "B".  The band is a non-original Speidel.  But had been worn for a while, as it was a haz-mat site, and the round rings on the band attachment have worn grooves into the watch lugs.

Took me a while to figure out how to open it!  Someone had been at the case back with a case knife and made their mark, but there's no notch to get in there and it obviously wasn't going to work.  Eventually I saw the indentation on the side of the case back by one of the lugs.  I put an opener against the notch on the side and pried the back off by levering the opener against the lug.

The visible part of dial is ok, but the hands are rusted.  Probably why they aren't turning.


The movement looks good.  The balance was even ticking, but with very little amplitude.


Inside of case BackHere's the inside of the case back.  What does the numbers "2 69 9" mean?  There's also some numbers inscribed into the back.  Would that have been done by Bulova, or by someone afterward?  They are hard to read here, but I've some better pictures of them.  Of course everything is down scaled for the forum post too.  Some pictures are better at full resolution, but I'm having a hard time getting good focus so many really didn't lose anything.

Left image, this is just above the printed number, upside down.  Looks like "6 / 51174 5."  On the right, the vertical number under the printed six.  Look likes "4278", but interesting way of writing the four.  And on the bottom, the number up at the top of the near the edge, looks like "41135G 81".  Also the same "y" like tail on the four but with a different style.  It's looks like the four in 4278 was written with the vertical stroke first as the horizontal stroke is cut over it.  But in 41135G, the horizontal stroke was first.  The 7s and 5s don't have the same style etiher.  So I'm guessing this was done by different people.

Number 51774Number 4178

Number 41135G 81


Posted December 19, 2020 - 3:20am

The 2699 is the case model number referenced by Bulova to match correct case parts.

2699 is listed as a white gold Bulova with 6CMAC movement, 1194-2 crystal, 340W crown, G760 gasket.

All the other scratch markings are from jewelers who have serviced the watch over it's lifetime.

Only the jeweler knows what these mean, but I believe reference a date or job number.

Interesting to know that in the mid to late 1950s the FBI was looking at creating a database of all jeweler markings so they could help identify the body of a murder victim. 

FBI use watch case jeweller marking to identify the body of a murder victim

Posted December 19, 2020 - 6:43am

Interesting.  Maybe the last mark was done in 1981?  And the stylized 4 could be someone's signature.

It's too bad there is no such database, to see the history of where the watch was serviced and the previous owners lived.

Thanks for the information on the case gasket.  This watch was missing it so I didn't have anything to measure.

Posted December 21, 2020 - 9:33am

I bought an assorted bag of 100 or 200 rubber gaskets and use them to try to fit in  my watches.   Since I am not ever going to put my vintage watches in water I think this would be a enough.  I also bought a large collection of Bulova crystals and mainsprings, stems and hands,   They pop up on ebay all the time and sometimes quite cheap.  Paying $30 for a case of Bulova stems will save you big money if you are able to use at least 2 or 3 in your repair jobs. Warning...it is addictive and if you are anything like me you will be buying all the "junk" watches cheap on ebay to fix.  I do have a blast and built quite a collection from diamonds in the rough..  

Posted February 3, 2021 - 6:04pm

A lot of people don't know what those scratched marks are on the inside case surface of an old watch. Murder mysteries have plot twists involving them, such as one about the find of a buried skeleton in a small town, and the only personal item left was the watch, that had several of these marks, the old local jewelers were able to reveal their own marks and the other stores, once they found one that had the proper records, it was a matter of looking up the invoice number and info.

I sold a 1920s lady''s watch which had 6 or more entries on the inside case surface, I debated if I should explain what they meant, but then I would be pointing out my watch had had a lot of attention service wise. So less said... was the way to go. 

Posted February 3, 2021 - 6:31pm

In reply to by LisaD

'a lot of attention service wise'....this would be a good thing to let people know. It means that the watch was properly looked after and regularly serviced....a good thing IMO.

Posted February 3, 2021 - 7:05pm

Thanks Admin, I agree that the watch was well serviced and still ran, a beauty in white gold finish.

My hesitation had to do with who is going to buy this watch and what will their reaction be if they are not well versed in the watch maintenance traditions? Today, in our disposable type of commerce, reminding people of the need to maintain a cherished possession for many years is quite a foreign concept. 


Posted February 18, 2021 - 1:17pm

I have a very similar M6 I have yet to catalog.