So, is Seiko better than Bulova? Or is it the other way round?
Seiko and Bulova were founded in the late 19th century – Seiko in 1881, and Bulova in 1875. Technically they could have been playing together at the park as kids.
They both survived and remain relevant in the watch industry until today, a testament to their quality and achievement.
Both Bulova and Seiko are also great contributors to quartz technology that brought the Swiss watch industry to their heels.
Alright, enough with the introductions. In this article, we will compare Bulova and Seiko – from history, contributions, and technology.
We will also review their strengths and weaknesses and compare watches of similar types.
ALSO READ: Is Bulova A Good Watch Brand?
ALSO READ: Where Are Seiko Watches Made?
Seiko started off in 1881. A young Kintaro Hattori opened a store called ‘K.Hattori’ in Tokyo, repairing and selling watches.
The store eventually grew, and he soon relocated to Ginza, the posh retail district in downtown Tokyo.
In 1891, he purchased a factory to produce watches. He gave it the name ‘Sei-ko-sha’ – meaning the ‘house of exquisite workmanship.’
The word Seiko was selected because it carries the meaning of ‘exquisite’ and ‘success.’ That
Exquisite is written as ‘精巧,’ and success is written as ‘成功’ in Japanese.
However, they have the same pronounciation – ‘Sei-ko.’
Seiko’s first watch came into the market in 1924. In 1969, Seiko produced the QuartzAstron, the world’s first quartz watch. The price was as high as a small car at that time.
Seiko has never looked back ever since. They continue to lead the technological advancement in watches.
Seiko introduced movements such as the Kinetic, Solar, and the Spring Drive movement, used in luxury Grand Seiko watches.
James Bond, Steve Jobs, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brian May, and many more are known to be wearers of Seiko watches.
Joseph Bulova, a 23-year-old immigrant from Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic), founded Bulova in New York City in 1875.
In 1911, he pivoted his company from making jewelry exclusively into producing and selling clocks and pocket watches.
In 1912, Bulova introduced the world’s first manufactured wristwatch. He soon became one of the largest watch manufacturers in the United States.
After the war, Bulova continued to produce quality watches. Eventually, it became one of the most famous watch brands in America.
Bulova was known for the many ‘firsts,’ showing the penchant for innovation.
First Radio Advertisement: In 1926, Bulova made history by producing and releasing its first radio commercial. The line used was “At the tone, its 8PM, B-U-L-O-V-A Bulova watch time “.
First Clock Radio: in 1928, Bulova released the world’s first clock radio, the Bulova Companion.
First TV Commercial: On July 1st, 1941, Bulova ran the first TV ad. It was a simple picture of a clock, a map of the United States, with a voice-over saying, “America runs on Bulova time. “.
First Entirely Electronic Watch: Bulova released the Accutron on October 25th, 1960, as the world’s first fully electronic watch. Accutron is a combination of accurate (Accu-) and electronic (-Tron).
First Private Watch On the Moon: During the second walk on the moon, mission commander David Scott lost his watch face. He put on his backup watch a Bulova Moon Pilot Chronograph. This Bulova was the first private watch on the moon.
Bulova has maintained itself as a leader in the quartz movement with models such as the Precisionist. Bulova was eventually acquired by Citizen Watch in 2008.
Today Bulova is a historical brand with a fun and cool look.
ALSO READ: Is Citizen A Good Watch Brand?
How Much Have Seiko & Bulova Influenced the Watch Industry?
Seiko & Bulova have, throughout their history, contributed greatly to the watch industry.
Much like other Japanese watchmakers, Seiko took their time. The first imported many watch parts from the Europeans and soon learned to produce these themselves.
Once they figured that out, they set about improving it.
Seiko is best known for releasing the world’s first quartz watch, the Seiko QuartzAstron in 1969.
A battery sends power to vibrate a quartz crystal in a quartz movement. The vibration then moves the watch’s hands.
It has fewer parts, it is easier to maintain, and it got so cheap to manufacture the watches are mass-produced and sold cheap.
Soon, everyone started buying them, ditching the complicated and expensive Swiss watches.
This sent the Swiss mechanical watchmakers to their knees. Most of them pivoted into the luxury market. Since then, Japanese watchmakers have taken over the entry and medium market.
Seiko is also the first to release the world’s first 6-digit digital watch (Cal. 0614). It is the first dive watch with titanium case, and the first no-battery-needed quartz watch.
Seiko continued their innovations by introducing many proprietary watch movements.
For example, Kinetic, GPS Solar, and Spring Drive, which combines the best of quartz and automatic movement.
They also have the Hardlex, their own proprietary mineral watch crystal.
These are just the beginning, as Seiko has many technological firsts in the watch industry, too many to list here.
Seiko is expected to continue to move the industry forward with new technology and innovations.
Bulova is known for its contributions to the marketing of watches and advancing quartz technology.
Bulova is the first watchmaker to advertise on radio and TV. The advertising would be very crude compared to what you see today. Still, it created the template and opportunity for other watchmakers to follow suit.
Bulova, however, is neck-to-neck with Seiko on alternative watch technology in the 60s. Bulova released the Bulova Accutron in 1960 as the world’s first fully electronic watch.
Automatic watch technology depends on having a rotor to wind up a spring, which powers the gears that turn the watch hands.
In the Accutron, A dry cell battery powers an electromagnetic coil, vibrating a tuning fork 360 times a second.
The result? A super-accurate watch with a distinctive humming sound. The watch does not tick. The movement is also less susceptible to magnetic force, physical shocks, or temperature changes.
Bulova further developed their non-mechanical movements technology by introducing the Precisionist movement.
The Precisionist is one of the few quartz movements globally with a sweeping second hand.
Despite now being under the ownership of Citizen Watch, it is expected Bulova will benefit from such an arrangement. Bulova should be able to access some of Citizen’s technology in their watches.
Bulova is also likely to continue to further the advancement of the watchmaking industry.
Watch Design & Style
Seiko maintains the design concepts evident in many Japanese-made products, functionality over form.
You do not find many Seikos with designs such as skeletonized dial or super oversized dials with a strange case that just screams ‘Look at me.’
Instead, you find Seikos watches designed in mainly two’ schools of design’.
One side of the design philosophy keeps it simple. Clean dial, beautiful hands. The watch rests just right on your wrist.
It does not attract attention or distract you, but it’s there, telling time when you need to.
Think of the classy dress watches such as the Presage and the Grand Seikos in this design school.
Another focuses on form – putting in complications and functions into the watch and, at the same time, trying to keep it organized.
Adjustments are made to the materials, case sizes, and shape to make the watch as functional as possible.
Seiko brings these watches to the test and ensures they work. This is why you see a lot of Seiko watches with ISO certifications.
Think of Seiko’s dive watches such as the Samurai or Seiko Flightmaster for designs of this nature.
Bulova’s design these days is more experimental and, in some ways, more daring than Seiko.
It is easier to find eccentric watch designs with bold colors and oversize cases in Bulova’s lineup than Seikos.
Even in Bulova’s signature Precisionist watch, it carries a sense of ‘bold and loud’ feel, compared to a Seiko.
However, Bulova did the designs well, not to the point of turning their watches into ‘swag pieces’ that rappers wear in their videos.
Bulova’s skeletonized dials, for example, are well made enough that they do not intrude too much on the ease of use of the watch.
Bulova also maintains many watches that carry a more traditional look. Some so simple and elegant it could be mistaken for a Grand Seiko.
Watches such as the Lunar Pilot and Marine Star Dive watches are well sought after by homage and chronograph watch enthusiasts.
Coupled with Bulova’s reliable movement and excellent after-sales service, Bulova’s watches maintain their relevance in the eyes of many watch shoppers.
Whatever movements you think of, Seiko has it all.
Mechanical, automatic, quartz, auto quartz, solar, atomic… There is a Seiko for them.
However, Seiko is most well known for their workhorse automatic movements such as the 7S26. You can find this movement in many older and previous generations of Seiko 5 watches.
The 6R15 automatic movement is also known for solid reliability and performance.
Many entry-level Seikos run on 4S36 automatic movement that comes with hacking and hand-winding.
Seiko models with these movements usually do not cost more than $300. This signals that with a small investment, you can gain access to Seiko’s world of great movements with accurate timekeeping.
Bulova is much more well known for its quartz watches, although its automatic watch line is gaining more respect and love.
Bulova’s automatic movements come mainly from Miyota, owned by Citizen.
So in technical, buying a Bulova automatic gets you the same technology and accurate timekeeping you can get in a Citizen automatic.
Bulova is, however, most well known for the Precisionist movement.
Supposed that you want the precision of a quartz movement, and also the sweeping second hand that automatic watches make. Then a Precisionist movement is something you can consider.
Bulova also is able to integrate skeletonized design in their watches, allowing you to see the intricacies of the watch in operation.
Aside from the Precisionist, Bulova watches with the (Ultra-High Frequency) movement are also well-loved by many.
It pays to understand each watchmaker’s technology to build their watch, as this helps you get the watch with the right technology for your needs.
Seiko offers pretty much all watch technology you can think of, from basic quartz to their proprietary Spring Drive.
In between, you can also choose between automatic, autoquartz and its variants such as the Solar, Kinetic, or atomic and GPS watches.
Atomic and GPS watches, in particular, are unique in the way it works – it runs on quartz but use radiofrequency and GPS waves to maintain accuracy.
Kinetic movement uses the rotor in automatic movement to power a quartz movement. Solar movements use the sun.
These movements remove the need for batteries.
The Spring Drive movement is considered to be Seiko’s crown achievement. Spring Drive technology offers an accuracy of a second a day, with a smoothly sweeping second’s hand.
In general, Bulova’s Ultra High Frequency (UHF) movements offer the reliability and accuracy of quartz, with the aesthetics of the automatic movement.
Basically you can have a quartz movement with a the sweeping second hand.
Bulova is not the only one offering such technology, but it is probably the best.
Bulova also pioneered the curved choreograph movement (CURV) design. Chronographs are usually designed on a flat watch surface. With CURV, the chronograph can be designed on a curved watch surface.
This increases comfort, as the watch now ‘hugs’ the wrist instead of just ‘sitting’ on it.
Function Over Form
Seiko has always been a watch company that places function above form. This resulted in watches that ‘do their job’ very well.
Think of the ISO-certified dive and flight watches Seiko has. Or the super simple, elegant dress watches they carry.
As a result, many Seiko watches are timeless in their design. They are not too experimental nor brazen.
If you are looking for watches that look ‘inoffensive,’ understated, and do their job well, Seiko’s your choice.
Unbelievably Wide Selection
As mentioned, Seiko offers watches that run in all sorts of movements you can imagine. This gives you the option to choose from a wide array of options.
Need a sturdy daily beater? Just get one of their ultra-affordable quartz.
Developed a little taste in watches but doesn’t want to splurge too much? Shop their Seiko 5 range of watches.
Want to try high-tech watches? Seiko Kinetic, Seiko Solar ATM likes of watches all work too.
Want a luxury watch but thinks the Swiss watches are way too overpriced? Check out the Grand Seiko line.
In essence, you can pretty much get a Seiko, no matter what budget, spec, the design you have in mind.
Seiko designs tool watches that do their job very well.
Seiko designs dress watches that uses simplicity and elegance to show quality and class.
That’s pretty much it. Nothing flamboyant.
Rarely do you see Seiko experiment with designs that are as bold as, say, Invicta or Bulova.
If you like understated, classic, timeless designs, Seiko is for you. If not, perhaps you might find better designs somewhere else.
Seiko might not be the right choice if you want watches with resale value.
In general, Seiko watches do not appreciate over time.
Grand Seiko’s also are, in general, appreciate in value over time.
However, the majority of Seiko’s watches do not appreciate.
This means, if you are new in watch investing, Seiko can be a minefield for you.
It would be easier to invest in Rolex watches, since most of them do appreciate over time.
Bold, Experimental Designs
Contrary to Seiko, Bulova is more willing to experiment with their designs.
Oversized watches? Bulova has it.
Bold colors and combinations? Bulova has it.
Strange watch shapes? Bulova has it.
Watches that don’t even look like watches? Check out the Bulova Computron.
So if you are the kind that loves bold, colorful watches, Bulova is definitely your choice, compared to Seiko.
Supercharged Quartz Technology
Bulova has been a pioneer in non-automatic movements, with the release of Accutron in 1960.
It has since improved on that technology and further developed its quartz technology.
When Citizen came in as the parent company in 2008, Bulova got a shot in the arm, resulting in movements such as the Precisionist.
This resulted in Bulova now offering one of the best quartz movements in the market, with smooth, sweeping second hand.
The Bulova Precisionist is one fine example of the level of quartz technology you can get if you purchase a Bulova.
Goofy, Fashion Watches?
However, Bulova’s tendency and bravery to experiment also landed them in difficult situations.
The more flamboyant and colorful watches they release, the more people see them as fashion watchmakers.
This means Bulova is starting to be seen as similar to watches such as Fossil, Vincero, or Daniel Wellington.
This resulted in the loss of prestige and caused traditional watch buyers to stay away from Bulova.
ALSO READ: Are Invicta Watches Good?
Why Not Just Get A Citizen?
Bulova started incorporating elements of Citizen into their watches. This started after than were acquired in 2008.
For example, it is now quite common to discover that the the movement inside your Bulova watch is not from them.
Instead, you might find a Miyota, or a Citizen movement. Citizen owns Miyota, a Japanese watch movement maker.
In fact, some of Bulova’s high-frequency quartz watches actually use Citizen’s movement.
Therefore, some watch shoppers decided to buy a Citizen instead.
This has also resulted in the loss of popularity and recognition of Bulova.
Comparing Seiko & Bulova Watches
Now that we have seen brand comparisons between Seiko and Bulova let’s compare their watches.
These watches are selected based on their popularity within the category. We also try to keep the prices close to each other.
The Cocktail Time is powered by Seiko’s own 4R35 self-winding movement with hacking.
The stainless steel case has a radiant textured silver dial with silver-tone hands and markers. . The black leather strap comes with a deployant clasp.
A scratch-resistant Hardlex crystal is used, with an exhibition back case. Water-resistant to 50 meters.
Bulova’s signature timepiece features a 43MM stainless steel case with mineral crystal.
Logged dial with luminous skeleton hands/indices and date window at 3 o’clock.
Comes with a Crocodile leather band with pin and buckle fastener, and it is 100m (330ft) water-resistant.
The watch has a 44mm stainless steel case with a Hardlex crystal.
Runs on a Seiko Caliber V157 solar quartz movement with a 10-month power reserve when fully charged (with light).
A date display is at 3:00, with luminous hands and markers treated with Lumibrite. 200M (660ft) water resistance.
This Pilot watch from Seiko is a cult classic.
The Flightmaster carries a 42mm case with a black dial featuring a gear-edge bezel, multiple subdials, date window, and fluted crown.
The watch comes with stainless steel link bracelet with a fold-over push-button clasp. Water-resistant to 200M (660 ft)
The watch features a 39mm stainless steel case with an army green satin dial behind a curved Hardlex crystal.
Baton-style hands are luminated, together with the hour markers. Day and date window is positioned at 3 o’clock, with 100M (330ft) water resistance.
Seiko’s own in-house automatic 4R36 movement powers the watch.
The 96A246 is a vintage-looking military watch with a three-hand 21-jewel automatic movement with a 42-hour power reserve.
Inside the stainless steel case, there is an ivory dial and luminescent hands and markers, 24H time.
Comes with a black nato strap with 30M (100ft) water resistance.
This basic quartz chronograph from Seiko sports a stainless steel case with two pushers and a crown.
The watch comes with analog markers, luminous hands, and a dark brown dial.
The watch comes with a black calf leather strap with a screw case back.
Is Seiko Better Than Bulova?
So, after a long and detailed comparison between Seiko and Bulova, let’s come back to the main question:
Is Seiko better than Bulova, or the other way round?
The short answer is, IT DEPENDS.
Choose Seiko if you like functional watches with basic, timeless design.
If you appreciate watch technology, Seiko is also your best choice.
In fact, you can probably wear a Seiko your whole life – the selection and levels of luxury in Seiko is just a lot more compared to Bulova.
However, Bulova is for you if you like to adorn your wrist with more bold, colorful designs with large watch sizes. Seiko doesn’t come close to Bulova in this department.
You would love Bulova even more if you like its ultra-high frequency quartz movement. You get to see your watch hands move like an automatic movement, but it is actually quartz.
We hope this guide has been helpful to help you decide if Seiko or Bulova is the watch brand for you.
Do you own a Seiko or a Bulova? Feel free to tell us what made you choose the watch. Let’s interact!