Bulova 1939 Ambassador

Submitted by Derek on May 13, 2013 - 3:41pm
Manufacture Year
Movement Model
Movement Jewels
Case Serial No.
Case shape
Case color
Case Manufacturer
Crystal details
22mm x 15mm
Watch Description

This is what Tourneau  'Time Machine'  Repair Dept. NYC (they also sent the watch to Bulova corporate HQ Repair Dept.) wrote on the repair receipt:

1.  Case serial number "9401471" (marked on outside back cover)  

2.  " B - 10K GOLD FILLED " (marked on outside back cover)

3.  " Bulova Fifth Avenue New York " (marked on inside back cover)

4.  Watch movement: " 17 Jewels " ... then, on a subsequent repair Tourneau repair dept. stated, " 21 Jewels "

5.  Caliber: " 10 AE "

6.  Dial Color: " Beige "

7.  Size: " M "

8. Tourneau repair dept. stated, "Made 1945"

9. Tourneau repair dept. stated, "Retail in 1946 $65.00"

Bulova watch
1939 Bulova watch
Posted May 14, 2013 - 5:16am

Just following the usual procedure for variants of watches at this time, "nearest to".

As with the American Clippers et al.

Geoff Baker
Posted May 14, 2013 - 5:43am


Hi Derek - welcome to myBulova. You're fortunate to have your grandfathers watch. Most of us agree that the heirloom watches are the most treasured. To answer a couple of your questions.....

The dial can be professionally restored, it will look brand new, cleaning it is risky and the results are a mixed bag. I do not recommend trying to do it your self. Bulova changed the names of watches over the years but in some instances didn't change the watch case design, so a 1939 'one thing' can be a 1940 'something completely different'. It makes it difficult to nail a name down just from old ads as they sometime conflict as well.

Ambassador is my call.

Posted May 14, 2013 - 7:47am


Could You please update the Year of manufacture to 1939.

The ID established weighs heavily on the Jewel Count entered by the Watch owner (21 J) , if the Jewel Count entered is incorrect so is the ID. 

Posted May 15, 2013 - 12:28am
As requested ... the year of manufacture has been updated to 1939.
Gents, I would like to summarize from A. - B. what has come to light as fact regarding this watch for the record, and please, correct me if I get something wrong.  Y'all often use 'watch lingo' with each other of which I am unfamiliar with.  Remember, you have a watch green horn here.
Now, if you would like to know anything about cuff links, old or new, you have one of the foremost, knowledgeable collectors in the world here and I'd be glad to field any questions.  E-mailing me directly is best.   My informational web site is: www.EnamelCuffLinks.com  
A.  The watch is called the "Ambassador."
B.  The year of manufacture is 1939.
I have some questions still, can someone please reply in the same organized numbered format 1. - 10. as I wrote them below:
1.  The advert from 1941 showing "B. Alden " ... is this the Ambassador model (mine) from 1939 with a simple name change?  Because from the advert, it is a dead ringer for my watch.
Per what Mr. Baker stated: "Bulova changed the names of watches over the years but in some instances didn't change the watch case design, so a 1939 'one thing' can be a 1940 'something completely different'. It makes it difficult to nail a name down just from old ads as they sometime conflict as well."
2.  What is the definition of "variant" as y'all use it here in Bulovaworld?
3.  Is the watch movement definitely 21 jewels (reported after a secondary servicing), and could not be 17 as Tourneau first reported when they opened the watch?
4.  I understand the movement model is the "10 AE".  Specifically, what does that translate to/mean?
5.  The case shape: Tonneau ?
6.  Correctly, because I just guessed, does anyone know what the Case Manufacturer:  name should be called?  I chose "Bulova."
7.  Is this a standard (typical) marking for the watches at that time: " Bulova Fifth Avenue New York " (marked on inside back cover) ?
8.  What does the "B" stand for in " B - 10K GOLD FILLED " (marked on outside back cover) ?
7.  Tourneau had written down Size: " M " ... can you tell me what that stands for?
8. Tourneau repair dept. stated, "Made 1945"  They also had to send the watch to Bulova in Woodside, Queens, NYC for further service.  Was someone from one of these companies just guessing on the year made?
9. Tourneau repair dept. stated, "Retail in 1946 $65.00"  They also had to send the watch to Bulova in Woodside, Queens, NYC  for further service.  Was someone just mistaken on the year/model, thus, price?
10.  I can ask Tourneau to open up the watch again, I have no problem doing this because I like to be as historicall correct as possible ... given your collective knowledge, are there any other 'tells' (markings, mechanical set-up, specifics, etc.) and/or information (movement symbol, movement serial number) that I should have them look for that would help?
Geoff Baker
Posted May 15, 2013 - 7:23am

Wow - GREAT questions Derek - be careful though - you're about to ad WATCH COLLECTOR to your business card as well as cuff links.

1. Yes, most likely the exact same watch, We're not sure why Bulova changed names from year to year but the did regularly - marketing is the assumption. We run into trouble when we find two ads from the same year apparently advertising the exact same watch

2. A Variant is when we find an ad showing watches with names like "President A" and "President B", we call the A or B the variant (like a sub species maybe).

3. It is possible that somewhere along the way a different movement was put into your watch, perhaps the old one could not be fixed and a 17 was replaced by a 21 j or vice versa. I recommend carefully opening your to see what you really have. It is possible that Tourneau just wrote it down wrong.

4. 10 is the measurement size AE designates differences within the model. Not sure we have hard data on EXACTLY what is all means on the older movements.

5. Tonneau is a standard watch case shape designation, not to be confused with TOURNEAU the watch retailer from whom I have bought 5 watches.

6. In the early years ( 1920's ) Bulova used a couple companies to produce cases, in the era of your watch "Bulova" is appropriate.

7. Yes

8. Not 100% sure what that B stands for

Seven and Eight are duplicated in your questions

7. Not sure, guessing M = Mens

8. Back to the movement now. The movement carries a date code that, in the past we ONLY used to date pre 1949 Bulovas. A couple years ago we introduced a theory that the leading number of the case S/N indicated manufacture year as well. Today, for watches up to the late forties (when Bulova started dating case backs as well as movements) we used S/N to date cases. SO it's possible that the MOVEMENT in your watch is dated 1945 which MIGHT indicate a swap (see #3 above). Bulova's repair facility was in Woodside, apparently Tourneau sent watches to them for service. 

9. Who knows? wish we could go back and ask them though

10. I would not send this watch to Tourneau - they are a fine purveyor of expensive quality products but they might be rather expensive in terms of repairing a vintage watch. The date code and any other markings on the watch movement would be helpful. Almost any jeweler could pop it open for you.


Posted May 15, 2013 - 7:30am

1. The 'ALDEN' Case lugs differ.

Posted May 15, 2013 - 8:30am

Fifth is right, the lugs on the Alden are different from the subject watch. Derek, your watch probably had a bracelet band like the ads show when it was made. Over time it was replaced with a strap that is to big and hiding the rest of the lugs.

A strap or bracelet should fit on the spring bar between the ends of the lugs like this example, not over them.

Geoff Baker
Posted May 15, 2013 - 2:56pm

They're right Derek - my bad on the Alden call - sorry. Hopefully I got the rest of it right......

William Smith
Posted May 15, 2013 - 7:47pm

I'm g00d w/ 1939 Ambassador.  Welcome aboard the Bulova collectors world.  Good questions, and good answers from Geoff.

Posted May 16, 2013 - 1:30am

Ah.. yep.... looking at it closer... I can see the band is hiding some of the lugs.  Good spot... I'm good with Ambassador.

Welcome Derek!  I stopped by a few years ago looking for info on my Grandfathers 1940 Ranger.... and didn't leave.  They let me hang out long enough that I sort of stuck.