Over the years Bulova has managed to create a huge amount of iconic vintage models. This Oceanographer Snorkel is one of my favorites, and took a long while to track a good one down. During my years searching I saw a decent amount of them go by. Some with wrong hands, hands without lume, hands that were re-lumed, unoriginal crowns, rusted movements, unoriginal movements, and just about everything else under the sun. Then this one came up.
It was supposedly running well (see previous post for my thoughts on that claim) but that was less important than the fact that it was all original (except the crystal) and in phenomenal shape.
This watch is just so awesomely 70s. It’s very hard to imagine that Bulova was rolling out sleek Accutrons at the same time as this big automatic beauty. While the shape is stereotypically 70s, it is worth noting it was super early in the decade when this one rolled off the production line (1972) and this model was rolled out in 1969 making them one of the earliest trend-setters in the large 70s cases that followed. Usually watches have luminescent paint on the dials but Bulova did something I have never seen since which is an odd very raised luminescent pillar. The combination of hand shapes is also unique and the sweeping circular second hand is perfect on it. The combination of a bold, unique look, and a short production run time makes it one of the most sought after vintage Bulovas on the market.
The watch itself ran for about a day after I got it. The unfortunate thing about Bulovas is that while parts are plentiful, and their movements can run for years, the failure rate is high, and they can prove to be very finicky pieces. Any Bulova collector must be prepared to be patient with what may come their way.
My caution with taking “serviced” or “running well” at face value is the following: those terms are really not specific enough to tell me anything meaningful if I don’t know who it is coming from. A service can mean it was fully disassembled, cleaned, lubricated, inspected, and tested. It can also mean a watchmaker looked it over said “it runs.” It can also mean that the movement was taken, placed in a cleaner, dried, re-lubricated and they called it a “service.” I’m not sure what this watch got before it came to me, but it certainly wasn’t the first scenario I listed. A cursory servicing does not help the issue as it does not indicate potential wheel failures or balance condition. As a result it needed a real service, a new mainspring and balance, and it was running beautifully again.
Mechanically it was running well, but there was just one problem. The crystal. These models came with a magnifier over the date and this piece arrived without one. Fortunately I impulse buy rare bits for watches like this just in case I do one day need them. With the genuine original crystal installed I put the watch on a band whose color scheme I found appropriate.
Back together it is one of my favorite Bulovas and definitely one of my favorite 70s divers. It stands out as one of Bulovas most iconic and sought after pieces, and after a very long search, I’m glad I finally got the opportunity to work one a great example. It is also one of the most reasonably priced amongst the rare vintage divers of the 70s (but is getting more and more expensive quickly.)
Aaron, I’ve recently acquired one of these Bulova Snorkel 600 divers watch exactly as per your one. It’s in great condition and runs well. Unfortunately the rotor is broken or missing on it, and I have to manually wind it to keep it running.
Would you have any suggestions where I might find a replacement part for this watch? I can send you pictures of the movement if that would help you identifying what is wrong with it.
It’s a lovely watch indeed.
Mark, I believe I have one in my parts stock. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org