The Bulova 96A101 is a very polarizing watch. You either love how it looks or you hate how it looks. It’s a shame, too, because underneath the polarizing exterior is a rock-solid automatic movement, a well-put together stainless steel case & bracelet, and the always-attractive exhibition case back.
Bulova is known for producing decent quality watches at affordable pricing. While the brand may not carry the same level of prestige as Omega (or similar), it provides excellent Swiss-made timepieces at reasonable pricing.
Acquired by Citizen in 2008 (and resulting in the worlds largest watchmaker), Bulova actually operates four lines: “Bulova”, “Caravelle” (the more affordable brand), “Wittnauer Swiss” (a dressier line), and “Accutron” (the sportier brand).
With an MSP of $450 (but easily available for under $250), is the 96A101 worth your investment?
Essential Details About the Bulova 96A101
MSRP: $450 USD (commonly found for under $250)
Case diameter: 42 mm
Movement: Citizen Miyota 9015 82S0
Crystal material: Mineral
Power Reserve: 40 hours
Other: Open-heart face, luminescence, exhibition case back, stainless steel bracelet
Note that there are variations of the 96A101 with a different color face.
Bulova 96A101 Aesthetics & Functionality
Upon unboxing this Bulova you’ll find it delicately perched atop its pillow, its open heart greeting you warmly. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this watch is the weight: the first time I picked it up I was taken back by how heavy it is. Automatics in general tend to weigh more than their quartz/digital counterparts, but this one is heavier than most automatics I’ve come across. This is even more surprising given its 42mm case, as it easily weighs more than the Victorinox Infantry Vintage Mechanical that I reviewed earlier by a significant margin.
That being said, it’s not overbearingly heavy, nor is it tiresome to wear. If anything, it provides some reassurance that the timepiece that adorns your wrist isn’t going to fall apart after the first time you wear it.
The weighty quality transfers to the stainless steel bracelet and deployment clasp. Both items feel secure and sturdy- a welcome departure from flimsy stainless steel bracelets and clasps that almost feel hollow. This one tells you immediately that it means business.
Operation of the clasp is simple: push the pins on either side to open the clasp. When locked it feels secure and does not open without the pins being pressed. This is reassuring when wearing the 96A101 throughout the day. I feel confident knowing that the clasp won’t surprise me and open unexpectedly.
The 96A101’s stainless steel bracelet is integrated well into the casing, but this integration is what causes my first point of contention: the clasp connection points look cheap, as if they were over-styled in attempt to convey class or quality. Instead, the look appears forced and cheapens the overall appeal of the watch. The Bulova 96A108 (pictured right), which is an indentical watch with the exception of sporting a handsome brown leather strap, looks immensely better as a result of the leather.
The Bulova 96A108 can be found for roughly the same price as the 96A101 and is a much more handsome watch (in my opinion).
The luminescence on the Bulova 96A101 is average, which is superior to what is typically offered by luxury-style watches (especially in this price bracket). After several hours under direct sunlight the luminosity was easy to read in total darkness and was faintly visible in low-light. See the photo at the bottom of this review for reference.
Movement Accuracy & Reliablity
The Citizen Miyota 9015 82S0 powers millions of watches. It is widely considered to be a reliable movement and is well regarded among watch enthusiasts. Alternate versions of the Miyota 9015 82S0 offer chronograph functionality (as well as other complications).
To Conclude My Bulova 96A101 Review
Part of me feels bad for this review. The 96A101 is a fine watch in basically every respect. The Citizen Miyota movement keeps accurate time and has a history of being trouble free, and I certainly can’t complain about the level of quality that went into this watch.
Though it has a polarizing face, it’s aesthetics are greatly diminished by the cheap-looking stainless steel bracelet’s connection to the case. If the watch I was reviewing was the Bulova 96A108 it’d easily be a four-star review, but given the piece in front of me, I like it- but I don’t “four-star” like it.
If you’re interested in this watch I highly recommend you see it in person before buying. The photos don’t do a good job of showing the connection between the bracelet and the case. Personally, if I was going to buy this watch all over again, I’d skip the stainless steel bracelet and get the Bulova 96A108 with its alligator-grain leather strap.
Buy: $450 USD MSRP, easily found for under $250 on Amazon.