1969 Bulova Sea King Caliber 11BLC

When I choose watches to purchase, I usually have at least some idea of what I am getting into. When I do repairs for others it is always a guessing game. My most recent “restore” truly lived up to its name. It was a full on restore. I took a watch from scratched, rusted out, and not running to beautiful working order (If I may say so myself.) While work this extensive can be expensive it is really worth it if you are attached to the piece, and want more than a rusted lump sitting in the drawer. That being said this watch owner was relatively lucky. The rust did not penetrate into the more delicate (and expensive) bits, and as a result the replacements were mostly confined to the keyless works (the setting and winding bits of the watch.)

I was contacted about this Bulova Sea King from a person who had purchased it in knowingly bad cosmetic shape with a missing the crown. They had the belief that underneath the dirt and all back together, this watch would be a great vintage gem. They were right. The case was dirty but in fantastic condition, and underneath the scratched crystal was a near perfect movement. The real unknown was what the movement looked like.

Sea King Before  Bulova 1969 Sea King Before 2 Bulova 1969 Sea King Before 3

I received it without having seen the movement, so when I opened it up I was sad, but not shocked to see a lot of rust in the movement. When I see damage like this I feel it is important to contact the person and give them an honest assessment before proceeding. I believe that there is nothing worse than not knowing what costs to expect when dealing with restorations or services in general. It also provides an out should the person decide that the potential cost exceeds their expectations. Fortunately, this collector, while not entirely happy, chose to proceed.

Bulova 1969 Sea King Rust 2 Bulova 1969 Sea King Rust 1

My first step was to entirely disassemble and pre-inspect the parts. As I had said earlier, the rust was fortunately not on the balance, gears, or mainspring barrel. I replaced all the rusted out parts and then cleaned everything and reassembled.

Bulova 1969 Sea King Keyless Works Bulova 1969 Sea King Movement

Once the movement was done I got to the case. As can be seen in the original pictures sent to me the case tube had been crushed. It often does not look like it but the case and the case tube are often separate pieces. I did not know this until I had an unfortunate accident with my crystal press a few years ago. I accidentally crushed the tube on the case I was working on while I was fitting the crystal. After fitting a new tube, I cleaned the case thoroughly. This required several trips through the ultrasonic cleaner and the removal of a melted (and hardened) gasket and rust from the inside of the case. Additionally, there was some caked dirt that the cleaner just wasn’t getting rid of on its own. Once this was done I used a very fine abrasive and gently stayed with the grain of the case and brought the shine back without ruining or obscuring the finish. While the result is not as deep and precise as sand blasting (which is how that grain is put there in the first place) it is preserved and reflects light in the way the design intended. Underneath the dirt there were a few case scratches, but nothing major. Once I finally got the casework done I fit the crystal (obviously being mindful of the crown tube.)

Bulova 1969 Sea King Case-back

After I tracked down the crown I was able to complete this watch. Fortunately this was one of the rare instances where a repair comes in well under estimate. Back together this watch is an instance where its owner took a risk and was right. Beneath the dirt, scratches, and rust, it is a great vintage Bulova gem.

Bulova 1969 Sea King Finished Bulova 1969 Sea King Side Bulova 1969 Sea King Angle Bulova 1969 Sea King Front

3 comments on “1969 Bulova Sea King Caliber 11BLC

  1. Mark Percival. says:

    Hello from Australia. I’ve J just stumbled across your site while searching for Longines Ultra-Chron. I’ve recently bought one from a reliable UK dealer. I also saw the dial of the black and red Bulova Sea King you fixed. From another UK dealer I trust I’ve bought the same diled watch, but without the Sea King moniker. Otherwise it looks identical. I’m not qualified to say it’s the same movement though? Do you know if it would be?

    You’ve a great site, interesting stories and watches. How do I know what’s for sale? Why? Because I’ve a small collection of about 90 vintage watches and 10 modern non-vintage pieces, but I’m always looking to add another, if the piece catches my eye and fits my budget. Please let me know how to see what you’ve for sale. Enjoying reading one after the other of your repair jobs down here on my day off! Thanks.

  2. Mark Percival. says:

    Sorry. I just went to my photos of this black and red number and the one I’ve bought from the UK is the same caliber. Watch about 34.7mm across, same design. Just wanted to let you know having moments ago asked you a caliber question about it. I’m still interested to learn how I might buy from you. Thanks.

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