Bulova 1962 Military Issue

Submitted by JermR82 on May 16, 2023 - 9:14am
Manufacture Year
Movement Model
Movement Date Code
Movement Jewels
Case Serial No.
Case shape
Case color
Case Manufacturer
Watch Description

I recently purchased a Vietnam issue Mil-W-3818A with an A17A case back. I'm sure it was common to have mismatched parts but I am looking for a correct case back. That is not my reason for posting. When I opened the back it has a Bulova 15 jewel 10BNCH movement which is correct for the 3818A variant. I was surprised to see what appears to be 2 date codes. It has the usual small date code of M2 (1962) but next to BULOVA WATCH Co, I see a stamped M8 which is 1968. Is this also a date code? Bulova stopped making watches for the military in 1962. 

Sorry If the pictures aren't great, I tried my best.   I appreciate any information you can give. Thank you!

Watch front
watch case back
15 Jewel 10BNCH movement
both date codes
Date Code M2
Posted May 18, 2023 - 1:57am

That certainly looks like a double date code stamp on the movement. Whenever I see these (and it's rate) I always think that the movement was refurbished by Bulova and reused for another watch. Keeping in mind that many of their movements were able to fit most cases of the day. The 10BNCH I believe means 10BN = base movement model, C = Center Sweep hand, H = Hack feature.

I'd love to know how these military issues can be dated from the backcase details.

Anyone know?

Posted May 18, 2023 - 6:24am

In reply to by mybulova_admin

To my knowledge, the 10BNCH movement was only used in military watches. Could the movement have been redone by Bulova and put back into military service? That is my guess. I bought it from a military watch collector. 

Posted May 19, 2023 - 1:04am

I believe you can look up the order number to find out when the US Army ordered the lot.  That is certainly an interesting double back mark with some a big gap in years.  We can only speculate as to why.  The MIL-W-6433A should have outer minute markers so this does appear to be a 3818 dial in an A17A case.  There is no telling if this was a factory set up but believe it unlikely as the military was very strict.  1962 Bulova Military A17 noting a replaced case back for a model A17A.

Geoff Baker
Posted May 19, 2023 - 9:31pm

Sorry Jerm but I remain highly suspicious of any and all military watches that do not seem to conform to what we normally see as they are second only to Accutron Spaceviews in watches that are assembled from spare parts and presented as original. when they aren't.  A watch with a replaced case back is unusual. The first American combat troops were sent to Viet Nam in 1965 so I'm also not sure I would consider a 1962 watch to be of that era. I agree that a possible double date stamp is not seen very often but we have no idea if it was norm. I'm reluctant to tag this as an A17 but will go with the other panel members if that's the direction we go.

Posted May 19, 2023 - 9:39pm

In reply to by Geoff Baker

This type of watch was issued by the military from 1956-1962. By 1963 Bulova lost the contract to Benrus. It is actually very common to see mismatched parts of the A17A and 3818A. I have seen A17A cases with 3818A dial and hands, I have seen 3818A cases with A17A dial. I have seen quite a few that you could call not correct. The only thing not correct for my watch is the caseback. The hands, dial, ans 15 jewel 10BNCH movement are correct for a Mil-W-3818A. 

Posted May 19, 2023 - 9:41pm

In reply to by Geoff Baker

All I need is a Mil-W-3818A caseback and it will be as it originally was. The M8 code on the movement is the only thing I don't understand. 

Posted May 19, 2023 - 9:50pm

In reply to by Geoff Baker

Yes it's true that this watch was made prior to US troops entering Vietnam, but the A17A and 3818A were used during the conflict along with Benrus and Hamilton although by 1963 Bulova was no longer producing them for the military. It is still an issued watch and may have seen combat in Vietnam but that is impossible to know for sure. 

Posted May 22, 2023 - 8:44am

I have been back to this one a few times and have a couple of possible theories. The military purchased lots of spare parts for watches (there are still lots of them out there floating around) If subject watch was repaired during the Viet Nam era by the military, it seems more likely that either the whole case was switched out, or the movement/dial were.  It seems a fair assumption that if Bulova received an order for replacement movements, they would add a date stamp for the year of release to the govt. 

If the case or case back was the repair issue, it would seem that the entire case would be replaced or the watch would be thrown in a parts drawer and a new one issued. Catastrophic case damage to a watch case would more than likely also include severe damage to the wearer. If the crystal was compromised, the damage would be the dial and movement (water). That seems more likely.

My thoughts are either this is a A17A with a replaced govt spare parts movement and dial - or it is a watch made from spare parts after the fact as we have seen a lot of those that originate is Asia. The source of the purchase would be a contributing factor. Was the watch from ebay or a vet's dresser drawer?

As Geoff stated, these are like Spaceviews. Highly desirable and prone to "reproduction" in this case, possibly from govt surplus parts.

It is also possible that somewhere in Viet Nam during the conflict that watches were in short supply, so the order was given to assemble as many watches as possible at a supply depot from spare parts to issue; We will never know.

My suggestions for ID of watch as presented would either be 

1962 A17A with replaced dial and movement (most likely explanation)  or  1962 Military Issue - no variant - also noting inconsistencies.

Geoff Baker
Posted May 22, 2023 - 9:26pm

I'm not in favor of A17A as it's only the case back. I'll go with "Issued" but no further right now.