Bulova 23
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  1. #1
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    Bulova 23

    I have been honing in on a 1950s Bulova 23 as my first foray into vintage automatics. Seems they are quite common, making them easier to service and to comparison shop on eBay.

    As I noted in another thread, I see a wide variety of quality at the same price points, from fully serviced watches with spotless movement pics to absolute clunkers with burry dial pics, no movement pics, and no information other than "it runs."

    My strategy is to aim somewhere in the middle... find a watch with good pics, a movement shot, a statement that it runs properly, but no recent servicing. Then buy it for a bargain, take it to a watchmaker for evaluation, and hope it doesn't need a $200 service.

    I've watched this particular one go unsold at $59 and get relisted at $35:
    Vintage Bulova 23 Jewels 10BPAC 6 Adj Mens Watch Selfwinding 3 Day Auction | eBay

    The seller says it "works good since I have wound it" and provides a movement shot. Here's where I need some help. To my untrained eye, the movement looks quite good for a 60 y.o. watch, but I do see green marks on the interior of the case -- not on the movement itself. Is this a red flag or just something that can be easily cleaned?

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    Re: Bulova 23

    That looks a corker, a little verdigris on the inner threads is nothing, just the copper content of the case coming through after 60 years.
    The 10BPAC is one of Bulova's best movements, adjusted 6 times including heat and isochronism. High performance almost COSC like.

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    Re: Bulova 23

    Quote Originally Posted by DC guy View Post
    I have been honing in on a 1950s Bulova 23 as my first foray into vintage automatics. Seems they are quite common, making them easier to service and to comparison shop on eBay.

    As I noted in another thread, I see a wide variety of quality at the same price points, from fully serviced watches with spotless movement pics to absolute clunkers with burry dial pics, no movement pics, and no information other than "it runs."

    My strategy is to aim somewhere in the middle... find a watch with good pics, a movement shot, a statement that it runs properly, but no recent servicing. Then buy it for a bargain, take it to a watchmaker for evaluation, and hope it doesn't need a $200 service.

    I've watched this particular one go unsold at $59 and get relisted at $35:
    Vintage Bulova 23 Jewels 10BPAC 6 Adj Mens Watch Selfwinding 3 Day Auction | eBay

    The seller says it "works good since I have wound it" and provides a movement shot. Here's where I need some help. To my untrained eye, the movement looks quite good for a 60 y.o. watch, but I do see green marks on the interior of the case -- not on the movement itself. Is this a red flag or just something that can be easily cleaned?
    I buy about 15 watches a month like these then re sell them. I recently bought and sold one with the same face but with a 25J movement. They are solid and rugged watches. That being said, I saw that one and decided to pass. If you are a first time buyer of vintage watches, my advice is to buy from a seller that takes returns. If you really like this one, I would not pay more than $45. The one I sold was a L9, in a lot better condition and it sold for $74 at auction on eBay. I dont know your budget, but look into Helbros and Benrus auto from the same era.....they are just as nice as the Bulovas and sell for less. I love my Bulovas but units like this SS Helbros are some of my favorites. The Elgins, like the one to the left of the Helbros (before 1968) are a solid choice as well. You should be able to get a decent vintage American branded auto for under $70 and a nice to very nice one for under $100....good luck!
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    Re: Bulova 23

    I think $200 is almost a STANDARD fee to service an automatic. Higher end of the range from an independent watchmaker, perhaps, but still, not out of range for a simple service on a watch with one complication.

    I would also not trust that 'serviced' in an Ebay listing means 'serviced properly' unless I know the seller. Might have been, or it might have just had a little oil added to the pivots to make it run, or might have been 'dip and swished'.

    That particular watch, there's brassing on the back of the lugs and it needs a new crystal, and a new band. Buyers may be avoiding it because the scratched crystal makes the 'sunburst' dial pattern appear to be scratched. The dial doesn't seem to have the green tinge at the edges that you sometimes get after 60 years of gaskets aging. A service and new fittings, and you'll be amazed how good it looks.
    Bodyblue likes this.
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    Re: Bulova 23

    Thanks all for the advice, especially for putting me at ease about the green stuff.

    I agree the scratched crystal probably drives away other bidders, which works out in my favor.

    As for the old band, most bands don't fit me anyway, so I'll buy a replacement no matter what watch I get. That may also work out in my favor.

    I do understand that claims of "service" have different meanings. Here's an example of a serviced watch I would consider:
    RARE Fancy Vintage 1955 Bulova 23 Jewels Selfwinding Texture Dial Watch Service | eBay

    It says, "The movement was FULLY disassembled, the constituent parts put in a 5 cycle wash fluid cleaning system; after being cleaned the parts were fully inspected, and the movement was then carefully reassembled and and oiled at each step) and tested for a 24 hour to insure that it is keeping great time. I only use Quality Swiss grade tools and MOEBIUS synthetic oil and grease on all my serviced watches."

    At $145, this seems like an incredible steal, as the cheapest local overhaul service I can find for a Bulova 23 runs $150.

    Nevertheless, I feel like gambling on the unserviced one... the dial is a bit nicer and I just love the idea of snagging a 1950s mechanical for only $45-$50. Been watching too much "American Pickers."

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    Re: Bulova 23

    Never seen a Bulova from the fifties with a 25 jewel movement before. Or any year come to that.
    Do you have a picture of it Bodyblue? I would love to see it.

    Cheers, Bob.

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    Re: Bulova 23

    BTW, yes I am also shopping the Elgin and Benrus watches. Great stuff and great bargains, but with some minor risk that watchmakers won't be able to service them as easily as a Bulova. I definitely see myself owning one once I get some experience owning a vintage mechanical.

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    Re: Bulova 23

    There's no reason why an Elgin should be less serviceable than a Bulova. There were actually more Elgins sold over their 100 years than any other jeweled watch brand, and there's nothing strange about the way they're made - well, except for the Durabalance and the 760/761 automatics.

    BTW, the average price of the Elgins in my collection is right at $31. It used to be $30, but I grabbed a BW Raymond Railroad Wrist Chronometer for $155. That lifted the average!
    Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent - Pogo

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    Re: Bulova 23

    Quote Originally Posted by bobbee View Post
    Never seen a Bulova from the fifties with a 25 jewel movement before. Or any year come to that.
    Do you have a picture of it Bodyblue? I would love to see it.

    Cheers, Bob.

    TYPO! 23J! LOL sorry!
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    Re: Bulova 23

    If you find an Elgin auto (I have just the one right now) here is a good site for you to check out.

    Swiss Elgin Watches: Elgin Grades and Equivalent Swiss Calibres

    The auto Elgins had these swiss movements before 68. Any Elgin in good shape made before then is an awesome watch. Elgin was the GM of American watches from the late 1800s to 1968....they made solid quality watches at reasonable prices in huge numbers. Any watchmaker that can work on an Elgin can work on other like brands from the era. Most high volume models from that era (and now) are pretty straightforward. One can find a Benrus or Helbros or Elgin in better shape than a Bulova for the same money since Bulovas sell for more. Dont be stuck on the name and you can really find some awesome deals.
    Last edited by Bodyblue; February 22nd, 2015 at 20:21.

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