Bulova Marine Star Automatic — hands-on review by TimeCaptain
You have seen TimeCaptain wear and review Panerai, Rolex, Breitling, Montblanc and more. And you know my thoughts on selecting a proper retailer. So why would I be combing the shopping mall and looking for a several-hundred-dollar watch? Jamaica — that’s why. You see, last fall we booked a trip to Jamaica for a friend’s wedding. And the eternal question came up — which, if any, timepiece do I wear?
I wore my Longines Legend Diver for my last two trips to the beach. And while I enjoyed the experience, I still have issues with wearing an “expensive” watch to a resort in a less developed country. I do not have a problem with wearing a good piece in the water. But the worst effect on a good watch from going to the beach is not the seawater. Not the pool water. Not the sand. It’s the sun block. And when you are a pale white boy like myself, you need to slap that sunblock over ever inch of your body to protect yourself from the Caribbean sun. Sun block can ruin the strap on your watch strap and totally smudge up a nice polished case. It can find its way into all the grooves and edges and it’s not fun to clean.
I realised that I had a gap in my watch collection. I really needed a watch that was less expensive so that I could travel with it and not worry about losing it, breaking it, or getting it stolen. I needed a watch that was suited for diving or swimming for beach vacations. And the watch didn’t even need to be mechanical. So I started looking at watches in the sub-$700 range. And would you believe that I was enjoying myself? I was looking at quartz and even solar-powered watches- some of them only $200 or so. I discovered a whole new world of fairly cool and interesting watches. These were watches that, while mass-produced and low-end, were actually affordable and could be purchased without too much remorse or anxiety. By the way, I borrowed the term “anxiety” from Michael’s blog!
Just before Christmas, I found this Bulova Marine Star Automatic diver on sale. After an additional discount, it was just over 400 bucks WITH TAXES! And it was automatic! This thing easily ticked all the boxes for me. The Marine Star is 47mm and really looks the part with swim trunks. It has a 200m water resistance which, as you know, does NOT mean you can go 200m under the water with it! But it suggests that the watch could wade in the kiddie pool or paddle in the ocean. Are you ready to read how the Bulova fared in Jamaica?
How does a 400 dollar watch stack up to luxury timepieces? Well, I was quite impressed with the case, strap, buckle, and bezel. I hate rotating bezels because they get knocked out of position and it annoys me when they are not centered. The Bulova got knocked 3 times during 1 week — not bad. It was quite solid and the feel of rotating it was quite good. The dial and the hands are the real weak spot. I love their design. But they really look like cheap plastic and remind you why the watch cost way less than $1,000. The crown is another giveaway. It feels very flimsy when setting time and inspires no confidence at all. I have no idea about the exact movement this watch has (it must be a Miyota, since Bulova is owned by Citizen), but I noticed that the date begins to change well before 11:00 pm. I think that’s a bad sign. The seconds hand moves with an awful stuttering. But as I said… 400 bucks!
Low-end or not, the Bulova actually ran beautifully during my week in Jamaica. I set the watch about 25 seconds slow and when I returned, it was about 35 seconds fast. That’s actually remarkable for a 400 dollar automatic watch. The date worked properly and the watch did its job.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Bulova. Despite some low-end materials on the dial, the watch feels good on the wrist while walking around shirtless. Although I am really into smaller watches right now, you need a big watch like this for strutting around the pool… unless your watch is a two-tone Submariner! The strap wore very comfortably. Yes, it got all covered in sun block. But it sat well as I played with my daughter in the kiddie pool, dipped in the ocean and swam up to the wet bar. I wore it to the wedding with a dress shirt — it fit, no problem. I certainly would not wear this watch for business meetings. But I think I will wear it for all sorts of weekend activities and golf tournaments.
Now that I think about it, the Bulova really delivered. It was well within my budget and it allowed me to have some mechanical timekeeping on my wrist while enjoying a Caribbean vacation. It performed well and looked cool. I think it is a watch that will only come out of the box for certain situations, but it will excel in those situations. To be honest, I think the Bulova would have been a good deal at its full retail price.
Do you have a weekend warrior? Are you going on vacation? Do you have a timepiece picked out? Maybe you don’t need to break the bank.
As always, the fun is in the search…