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Bulova and the Legend of the Devil Diver

Some stories never lose their fascination, especially when they evoke a salty tang of the sea. The Bulova story, though, has something more, starting with the nickname “Devil Diver” given to the Oceanographer model, which contributed significantly to the growing popularity of scuba diving. (Here all our posts about Bulova)


The Oceanographer 

It’s not clear if was pure coincidence or a marketing ploy, but the decision to give the number 666 pride of place on the dial gave the watch an unprecedented notoriety. It had nothing to do with demonology, however – it was, in fact, a reference to the depth in feet the watch could reach, the equivalent to 203 metres below the surface of the sea. 

Bulova’s watch  surpassed the diver’s watch standards of the time, which fixed a maximum limit of 600 feet. However, the Devil Divers were an immediate hit, impressing the public with their technical and mechanical content that made them a reliable diving companion. It should be remembered that at this time computers were in their infancy and watches were the only instruments available for calculating dive times. 


Bulova, rigorous tests

This explains the care and attention Bulova dedicated to the development of these timepieces, which were, when all’s said and done, genuine precision instruments.


The ads of the time bear witness to this. Before being offered for sale every Devil Diver had to complete what amounted to an assault course, from being immersed in a special tank that recreated the pressure conditions experienced at a depth of 203 metres to undergoing exposure to high temperatures to monitor the watch’s ability to resist thermal shock. 


The watch manufacturer had already gained significant experience as official supplier for the US armed forces, especially the Marines, who issued their divers with the Devil Diver when carrying out underwater missions. 

These are only some of the many stories and experiences that have helped the Oceanographer earn such an illustrious place in timekeeping history. And the brand is not content to rest on its laurels – while vintage Devil Divers have become increasingly become sought-after cult objects among collectors, Bulova’s new Oceanographer collections have in recent years appeared on the wrist of an increasingly large number of luxury watch enthusiasts. 


Devil Diver GMT

The latest features a new GMT version of the Devil Diver – the three models in the new collation have a 41 mm steel case with bi-directional rotating bezel, domed sapphire crystal, screw-down crown and the number 666 resplendent on the dial. The difference between them lies in their colours – a green dial and bezel with anthracite grey case and bracelet and lume (luminescent) hands and markers, or IP gunmetal case, two-colour bezel, dark grey and white and grey silicone textured strap on a fully luminous white dial.


Not forgetting the classic “Pepsi” version with blue and red on the bezel, a distinctive feature of diver’s watches. The Oceanographer GMT collection has an automatic Miyota premium 9075 movement with hours, minutes, seconds, date and second time zone measured by a dedicated hand.  

Matteo Zaccagnino

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