The Majesty of the Bulova Sea King

Bulova Sea King Product Shot

Thanks to the vast expanse of the internet, a treasure trove of brand-new, discontinued watches awaits the discerning buyer. Personally, I find the pursuit of these elusive timepieces even more gratifying than acquiring a new watch from an authorized dealer. It was through this endeavor that I first entered the enchanting world of Bulova. And among their discontinued models, one stood out and called to me: the Bulova Sea King.

It’s Good to be the King

Bulova Sea King and friend

There’s no denying it: the Bulova Sea King is a true giant. With a case width of 49mm and a lug-to-lug length of 55.5mm, the Sea King is to the now-defunct Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 what a HUMMER is to a Jeep CJ. Surprisingly, thanks to its angled lugs, even those with smaller wrists can comfortably rock the King. But be warned, for this watch demands confidence and the ability to ignore the naysayers.

According to various watch groups, forums, and websites, there are strong opinions regarding the ideal watch-to-wrist size ratio. Some claim that any deviation of an inch on the wrist circumference equates to a 2mm change in watch size. But I prefer to embrace the Outback Steak House X Nike mentality: no rules, just do it! As the photos featuring my seven-inch wrist demonstrate, rules need not apply.

I Can See Clearly Now

Bulova Sea King on leash

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the value of legible dials and a healthy prostate. The Sea King boasts thick white hands and hour indices outlined in orange, creating a striking contrast against the flat-black dial. If you find it difficult to read the time with the Sea King, it might be time to hand over your car keys to concerned relatives.

Bulova has incorporated an anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal, ensuring that reflections are minimized, much to the chagrin of vintage Bulova collectors (both in watch form and human form). Given the large expanse of flat glass on the Sea King, Bulova’s attention to this detail is both warranted and appreciated.

Lumatics Need Apply

Bulova Sea King dial and caseback

When it comes to luminosity, the Sea King reigns supreme. Its large hands and indices are generously coated with Super-LumiNova, resulting in a brilliant glow that can rival the brightness of a Taylor Mason concert. Even ambient room light is sufficient to charge the luminous elements, providing visibility throughout the night. At 5am, commonly known as “cat o’clock,” I could easily read the time without fumbling in the dark.

A Date with Destiny

Bulova Sea King beauty shot

The placement of the date window on the Sea King is somewhat unconventional. Rather than centering it between the 4 and 5 o’clock indices, Bulova decided to nudge it closer to the 5 o’clock index, creating a slight asymmetry. Let’s call it 4:45 o’clock. This choice challenges the sensibilities of those with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, embracing a unique design approach that sets it apart from the crowd.

The Bulova Sea King – The Tower of Bezel

Bulova Sea King Review

Surrounding the 39mm dial of the Bulova Sea King is a robust 120-click unidirectional bezel. The polished perimeter features coarse serrations and six faux hex bolt heads, providing enhanced grip and a rugged aesthetic. The numbers and marks on the bezel face are deeply engraved and enameled, exuding quality craftsmanship. The bezel’s action strikes the perfect balance, offering precise ratcheting without any play or sloppiness.

However, Bulova made an interesting choice by giving the bezel’s face a radially brushed finish, while leaving the bezel’s perimeter with a polished look. Personally, I would have preferred a brushed finish on the bezel’s perimeter, as the current arrangement gives the metal the appearance of cheap plastic. Nevertheless, this is a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things.

Hefty, Hefty, Hefty!

Bulova Sea King Review

Weighing in at a substantial 154 grams, the Bulova Sea King is not for the faint-hearted. Its robust nature is complemented by a strapping rubber strap contoured to fit snugly between the 24-mm wide lugs. Just like the watch it supports, the strap exudes a bold and substantial presence. Wearing this timepiece feels akin to strapping on a scuba diving depth gauge, but with the added bonus of plush comfort.

The machined and signed buckle is a thing of beauty in its own right. When wearing a heavy watch like the Sea King, securing the strap snugly is essential to prevent the head from sliding or rotating on the wrist.

The long end of the strap features a “nubbin” that locks it behind the second keeper, providing additional retention security. While this feature offers peace of mind, taking the watch on and off can be a hassle. Thankfully, I have another strap on the way to alleviate this minor inconvenience.

You Want a Watch with a Smooth Hand

There are few instances where a quartz movement deserves special mention, and the Bulova Sea King is one such timepiece. Bulova has employed quartz voodoo that is worthy of recognition.

Typical quartz movements hum along at a frequency of 32,768 vibrations per second (Hz). In contrast, the quartz crystal in the Sea King operates a staggering eight times faster, at 262,144 Hz. This high beat rate allows for a smooth sweep of the second hand, reminiscent of a Michael Jackson moonwalk. The hypnotic motion rivals the precision of top-notch Swiss mechanical movements.

While I previously highlighted the smooth sweep of the second hand in my review of the Lunar Pilot, on that watch, the effect is only visible when the chronograph is activated. With the Sea King, I can immerse myself in its mesmerizing rhythm throughout the day.

The Bulova Sea King – Accuracy Counts

Bulova Sea King Review

If the Sea King’s hypnotic sweep of the second hand wasn’t enough to captivate you, then consider its remarkable accuracy. The 262 kHz quartz movement offers an impressive accuracy of +/- 10 seconds per year. This places it in the realm of high accuracy quartz (HAQ) watches that often come with a hefty price tag.

For comparison, a standard 32 kHz quartz movement has an accuracy range of +/- 15 to 20 seconds per month. After tracking the Sea King for a week, I can confidently assert that it remains incredibly accurate, never veering off course when compared to an atomic clock.

As an update (as of 5/29/21), after meticulously tracking the watch for 2 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, it has maintained an average deviation of +0.05 seconds per day. This equates to an annual difference of 18.25 seconds. Although it slightly exceeds the manufacturer’s claim, it still holds up exceptionally well. In my book, that’s more than satisfactory—I’ll be keeping it!

Bulova Sea King: A Bargain Basement Bruiser

The original MSRP of the Bulova Sea King was $599, but during its time as a current model, it could be purchased for under $200. Considering its impeccable build quality and impressive specifications, it was an absolute steal. Currently, the Sea King can be found for around $450 (no commission on the link).

Bulova Sea King Review

I’ve worn the colossal Bulova Sea King with pride during a week-long test drive, and it has exceeded my expectations. While it undoubtedly commands attention with its substantial presence, it remains a remarkably comfortable timepiece to wear. Sacrifices? Not at all. This watch offers uncompromising style and performance.

Model: Bulova “Sea King” Model #96B228 Price Paid: $450


  • Case: Stainless steel.
  • Crystal: AR-coated sapphire (flat).
  • Strap: Rubber.
  • Lume: Hands and hour indices.
  • Dimensions / Weight: 49 x 55.5 x 14 mm / 154 grams.
  • Movement: 262 kHz (Ultra-High Frequency) quartz.
  • Accuracy: +/- 10 seconds per year.
  • Battery Life: ~2-3 years.
  • Water Resistance: 300 meters. Screw-down crown.
  • Functions: Analog hours, minutes, seconds. Count-up unidirectional bezel.

Ratings (out of five stars):

  • Design: ★★★★
    The Bulova Sea King is a king-sized diver’s watch that stands out with its bold design. One star deducted for the unconventional date window placement.
  • Legibility: ★★★★★
    The large, high-contrast dial ensures easy readability during the day, while the generous lume makes nighttime time-telling effortless.
  • Comfort: ★★★
    Wearing this behemoth on your wrist serves as a constant reminder of its presence. While it remains comfortable, one must consider personal comfort levels with such a large watch.
  • Overall: ★★★★
    In terms of value for money, it’s hard to beat the Bulova Sea King. Built like a tank, as smooth as a fine Swiss timepiece, and as precise as a high-end quartz watch, this timepiece excels in every regard.

The Truth About Watches is a fully independent website. No commercial consideration has been provided by the manufacturer or seller. No payment for links.