Bulova Hack – Full Review

Bulova Hack on the rocks?

A lifetime ago – back in late February – we revealed that Bulova was having a moment. We also predicted that the current public health crisis – along with Apple’s giant killer smartwatch – will likely disappear some well-known watch brands. Do Bulova’s new products have enough swagger to survive? The vintage-inspired Bulova Hack tells the tale . . .

The Bulova Hack (reference 98A255) is a field watch, Bulova’s modern interpretation of the watches they supplied to the US Army during WWII. Back then the Army decided that small, easy-to-read watches were an essential piece of a soldier’s kit.

Vintage Bulova

The originals included easily legible 12 and 24 hour tracks and an utterly essential timekeeping feature that we now take for granted: hacking seconds. The ability to stop (or “hack”) the seconds hand allowed soldiers to synchronize their timepieces to the second. It revolutionized the Army’s ability to conduct efficient operations.

Bulova Hack - like it was only better

Bulova’s modern Hack is housed in a 38mm stainless steel, PVD-coated case. A thin, tapered bezel holds a scratch resistant mineral crystal with anti-reflective coating. The Hack is 13.44mm thick. In all the watches I’ve owned, I’ve never known one that feels both pleasantly compact and solidly substantial. The words “brick shit house” spring to mind

If you went to elementary school anytime before 1990 you probably learned to tell time on a clock that looks a lot like the Hack. Large, luminous Arabic numerals make up the 12 hour track, with smaller red numbers providing the inner 24 hour time. For nighttime legibility, Bulova placed luminous hour plots along the outer edge of the dial.

The Hack’s Cathedral-style hands are filled with lume. There’s no date window, or any other extraneous elements. The dial is clean, uncluttered and legible at a glance. In other words, perfect.

The Hack’s powered by a Miyota 82S0 automatic. Bulova doesn’t make any accuracy claims, but the Japanese manufacturer promises a -20~+40 sec per day variation and a 42-hour power reserve.

It’s a simple and widely used engine, so don’t worry about getting your Hack fixed down the road. It’ll likely never break anyway. In the distant future, alien archaeologists will marvel over working Japanese automatic movements.

Bulova ships the Hack  98A255 with a dark green leather strap styled to look like a NATO but attached with spring bars. Though it’s neither padded nor particularly thick, it looks great and is exceedingly comfortable.

I’ve quickly discarded the appalling stock straps attached to much more expensive watches. Call me crazy, but I like leather straps that actually feel like leather. Humble little Bulova got it right with the 98A255.

That brings us back around to my question about the post-COVID, post-Apple Watch future of brands like Bulova. Leave aside the fact that the Apple Watch is ephemeral, Chinese-made trash. TTAW has cataloged, at length, it’s shocking impact on the sales of low- and mid-priced watches.

This will surely continue. But both Apple and this Bulova Hack both point to one truism that will save the “traditional” watch industry: the product is all that matters. As far as I’m concerned this has always been true, and always will be true.

I’m shocked by how frequently product focus gets pushed aside, insulted or simply forgotten. Multiple manufacturers across multiple industries have made this mistake, from Henry Ford’s Model T to Apple’s iPhone. You can spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising and pay prostitutes useful idiots to blow skies full of smoke but you can’t fool the customer forever. Crap is crap.

But…if you put careful thought into a product, if you find new ways to satisfy customers, if you do the grueling work necessary to push the product through all the bean counting and egotistical, MBA-driven bullshit that “professional management” brings to corporate culture, you will have accomplished something amazing.

You’ll have a hit on your hands that makes (someone) a lot of money. You’ll also have made something with real value and meaning. Something that people love, care for, treasure and don’t consign to the bottom of a junk drawer.

The market for modestly priced mechanical watches will continue to shrink. Changes in tastes and the way we live and work will continue to transition the traditional watch from a necessity to a personal statement.

The watch companies that survive will do so by putting out stylish, functional and long-lasting products that stand out from the sea of Mainland trash. After all, an heirloom watch needn’t cost as much as a Mercedes Benz.

The Bulova Hack is already living in the future. The Citizen-owned watchmaker looked into the brand’s history and built something that has a story, looks great and fulfills its intended purpose flawlessly. Leveraging proven components and technology, Bulova delivered the Hack at an MSRP of $450. They’ll still be making money when lucky consumers buy them in stores and online for $250 or less.

In 1978, the science fiction writer Phillip K. Dick warned us about holding onto idealized, false versions of the past:

Do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life.

The watch market of the past is gone. A new world is being born – a market for traditional watches where quality, durability and value can be the hallmarks at any price point. The Bulova Hack shows us the way.

Model: Bulova Hack 98A255
Price: $450

SPECIFICATIONS:

Diameter: 38 mm
Case: PVD-coated stainless steel with screw-down back, 13.45 mm thick
Movement: Miyota 82S0 automatic with hacking seconds
Crown: Push/pull
Bezel: None
Crystal: Anti-reflective and scratch resistant mineral
Strap: Green pebble grain leather
Water resistance: 30 m (100 ft)

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Design * * * * 
A classic field watch – unfussy, uncluttered and utilitarian.

Legibility * * * * *
As good as it gets for a classically styled timepiece.

Comfort * * * * *
A comfortable little tank of a watch with the world’s best stock leather strap.

Overall * * * * *
A watch that just might change your life – wear it daily and you’ll develop a deep appreciation for quality, value and fitness for purpose.

13 comments

  1. Total newbie question about water resistance. Is 30m really 30m or is 30m code for don’t take this in the water? I never know how to interpret. I’m intrigued by this watch and considering putting it on a nylon NATO strap. If I do, can I take it in the water? I’d never go more than, probably 2 meters below the surface. But do I really need to find a watch with, say 100m water resistance to feel ok doing that?

    1. Hey Tom, 30 m is quite likely really 30 m. My Hack is water resistant for all the common activities like doing dishes, washing cars, boating and swimming in the lake. It doesn’t have a screw down crown so it’s not going to go deep, but it seems perfectly happy and capable of lighter activities that involve water.

      I think the Hack would be perfect for what you’re looking for. It really is a great looking and absolutely durable watch. Good luck!

    2. Actually, 30 meters doesn’t really mean 30 meters. In practical terms, it means the watch is resistant to incidental SPLASHES of water. That means no swimming and not even showering.

      I’m linking to a simplified chart of what the different levels of water resistance mean. https://bacheloronabudget.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Watch-water-resistance-chart.jpg

      That said, I was keen on this watch until I read 30 meters. To me, it means barely water resistant…. enough for hand-washing and getting caught in a spritz of rain.

      1. For what it’s worth I have a Timex Expedition rated 50m that’s been in the water with me many hundreds if not thousands of times over 15 years with no sign of leakage. With normal swimming etc I never exceed a tenth of that rating which at least seems cautious.

        Any manufacturer who rates a watch for 30 meters (roughly 100 feet!) then warns you not to swim should be publicly shamed.

    3. Do you know if the movement in this watch has a clutch to prevent damage from overwinding?

  2. a great looking watch with a bullet proof movement, real design dna and a great review to boot. apple watches….chinese trash….you couldn’t be more apt. thank you. absolute pieces of cheap nasty junk to put it midly. keep up the nice work guys. this is a cool site with some well presented articles.

  3. Just bought my Bulova hack watch with the black dial. I love it. It’s simplicity done to perfection. Great job Bulova.For Christmas I think I am going to also get the A-15 pilot watch.

  4. I picked up the ivory dial hack watch 96a246 I still want the special edition version with no red in the dial. But the last 2 watches I’ve purchased have been Bulova. Over Seiko Presage series and the Tissot, Bulova has just been putting out bangers. I went with this piece over a Hamilton! I know I must be stupid but I really dig these Hack watches! This review was great! I’m glad I read it.

  5. I love what Bulova has always stood for… Reasonable prices and reasonable quality. I recently purchased a Computron, which Bulova is again producing. I want this new field watch next. I’m guessing it will give Hamilton’s similarly-priced field watch a run for it’s money.

  6. There s a Bulova Army Watch in the museum at Arromanches. It belonged to a combat engineer at Omaha Beach…he took it in the water off the landing craft. It did not leak.

  7. Did enormous amounts of research and finally got this Bulova Hack, in no small part, due to this article. Couldn’t be more satisfied with my decision. I was looking for an every day watch to replace my Swiss Army Infantry which I beat to oblivion with yard work over 20 years not realizing I should have had a beater for yard work. It’s now my beater for yard work! Being retired from both the USAF/Reseves and National Background Investigation Bureau with a deep affinity for the “Greatest Generation”, this watch literally called out to me as an every day watch over the 600 meter deep rated diver watchers desk divers keep saying should be our every day watch. Big salute to anyone who raised their right hand and took the oath…

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