Bulova's New Empire

This past May, Bulova added another chapter to its historic ties to the city of New York, where Joseph Bulova founded the company 140 years ago, only five years after arriving to the United States from what is now the Czech Republic. Operating for decades in Woodside, Queens, where the firm will retain back-office operations, Bulova today celebrates the finalized move of its executive, administrative, marketing and design offices to a full floor of the Empire State Building.

“The new space is a perfect home for our expanding portfolio of watch brands and signifies a new period of growth for the company,” said Bulova President Gregory Thumm. “Moving back into the center of the fashion capital of the world provides us with a renewed energy and creative spirit while honoring our company’s Manhattan origins.”

To officially celebrate the move, Bulova hosted an opening event party on Tuesday for friends and partners, including honored attendee Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful soccer manager in history and the former manager of Manchester United, for whom Bulova is official timekeeper.

The new office features an open workspace on the 29th floor with 360-degree Midtown panoramas and a reception area with displays set up as a rotating exhibit. Its hand-painted floor features the exposed-dial design of the original Bulova Accutron 214 movement in a Spaceview. Formerly housing building-control machinery, the floor is among the few in the building with extra-high 16-foot ceilings, Thumm reports, a logistical perk that helped convince him the time was right to return Bulova to Manhattan.

“This building is probably the most famous building in America, and what it does is create a whole new dynamic for Bulova,” Thumm adds. “Not only for those who want to work, who have a cool place to go to work each day, but for our partners. With the 16-foot-high ceilings, when you walk around here, you don’t feel like you are in a skyscraper. This floor had never been rented to a tenant, and when the owners of the building moved the utilities around and this floor suddenly had no equipment in it, it was meant to be.”

Founded as J. Bulova Company, a jewelry retailer on Maiden Lane not far from Wall Street amid what at the time was the city’s jewelry district, Bulova quickly expanded. It opened a watchmaking factory in Switzerland in 1912 and maintained a role as one of the world’s most innovative watch companies. Advertising men’s wristwatches as early as 1919 (the rectangular-cased Lone Eagle, a 17-jewel manual-wind model, could be had for $37), Bulova combined technical innovation with ground-breaking marketing and advertising.

Bulova’s 1920s location on 47th Street and Fifth Avenue was outfitted with a rooftop observatory it used to measure sidereal time based on the earth’s rotation against fixed stars.

In 1926, Bulova broadcast the first-ever on-air national radio ad, reprising the feat in 1941 for television in an ad actually broadcast from the top of the Empire State Building. In the 1940s, Bulova moved to a new location on 51st street and Fifth Avenue before opening a new corporate center in Jackson Heights, Queens, in the 1950s. After World War II, the company opened the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking near the company’s headquarters. The tuition-free school assisted in rehabilitating disabled soldiers while training them to work repairing watches.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Bulova worked closely with NASA and aviation companies, supplying on-board clocks and instruments for satellites and missions to the moon. Bulova’s Accutron, launched to the public in 1960 and powered by a vibrating tuning fork and one-transistor oscillator, pioneered new levels of accuracy as the first electronic watch. The 1980s saw the company move to One Bulova Avenue in Woodside, Queens, and now, three decades later, the company returns to Manhattan.

Bulova is celebrating moving its headquarters to the Empire State Building with commemorative watches. These introductions include a limited-edition Statue of Liberty Coin Timepiece and a special-edition 140th Anniversary Special Edition Precisionist Chronograph.

The 39mm Statue of Liberty Coin Timepiece, a steel and gold-finished model based on the 19th-century Liberty-head gold coin, features a dimensional medallion dial and 12 diamonds, individually hand-set into star-shaped settings. The back of each case will feature Bulova’s 140th Anniversary logo.

The 140th Anniversary Special Edition Precisionist Chronograph features Bulova’s UHF (Ultra High Frequency) with its high-speed quartz crystal that vibrates at 262 kHz, eight times greater than a standard quartz crystal and producing a sweeping seconds hand. The 140th Anniversary Special Edition Precisionist Chronograph features green dial details in the same color used on the dial of Bulova’s revolutionary Accutron, introduced in 1960 as the world’s first fully electronic watch. The steel-cased watch offers a 140th Anniversary logo on its caseback and features a curved sapphire crystal, carbon-fiber dial, luminous hands and markers, tachymeter, calendar and water-resistance to 300 meters. Both timepieces will be available this fall.

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