Military precision: Bulova Mil-Ships-W-2181 submersible reissue

Bulova delves into its archives to revive a rare timepiece designed for the US Navy Experimental Diving Unit

Watches & Jewellery 23 Sep 2021

Now coveted for their vintage style, many of the great diving watches were born out of a strictly practical need. This is certainly the case for Bulova’s technical timepieces, notably its Mil-Spec timepieces produced during World War II and beyond at the request of the US government. As the navy enhanced its underwater operations, its remit under the Experimental Diving Unit

expanded to include the Explosive Ordnance Divers and the Underwater Demolition Team, the former tasked with identifying and removal of military materials, the latter to conduct reconnaissance and demolition of natural or man-made obstacles which might obstruct landings. Both required reliable and robust timekeeping that could survive the toughest of conditions.

To meet these needs the search began for a watch that was watertight, impervious to the entrance of water vapour for periods of many months, and offering excellent visibility in the dark. Bulova submitted its first prototypes in 1957, going on to undergo rigorous testing by the Diving Unit and the Navy’s UDT-21 frogman team. Just a handful of these watches were ever made, delivered directly to the US Navy, a rarity that makes the revival of these designs particularly special.

The new Bulova Mil-Ships stays true to the pared-back, military look of the original, with a clean black dial accented with large and legible Super-LumiNova hands and markers. More unusually, like those first watches, it includes a moisture indicator strip displayed at 6 o’clock, which changes colour to blue should the timepiece lose its water resistance (up to 200 metres). Speaking to its serious diving watch credentials, other features include a push lock rotating top ring that only rotates when pressed down, ensuring it cannot be accidentally knocked out of place, while the double-domed sapphire crystal is finished with anti-reflective coating. The Mil-Ships comes in two versions, the first presented on a blue NATO strap and powered by a Miyota 82S0 movement, while a special limited-edition version features a black strap and is equipped with a Sellita SW200 automatic movement.