Early in my vintage watch collecting, I found the variations of the Bulova Deepsea divers from the ’70s extremely alluring. Vintage Bulova watches of the time often had their depth rating inscribed on their dials.
With a rating of 666 feet, they are generally known amongst collectors as “Devil Divers.” I set out to find nice examples of some of these references.
I started in 2016, obtaining a 1970 Bulova Deepsea Chronograph “A” surfboard dial, reference 31002. It features a 38 mm cushion case with a lug to lug of 45 mm and 15.5 mm thickness (mostly due to the domed acrylic crystal). The lug width, not always the case with vintage Chronodivers, is an accommodating 20 mm. Case weight without strap is 62 grams.
The movement is a 17 jewel manual wind Bulova caliber 14EB (modified Valjoux 7733) movement running at 2.5Hz. The “Surfboard” dial, named for obvious aesthetic reasons, has tritium lume on the raised hour markers and an outer tachymeter scale for racing applications. A neon orange chronograph sweeping-seconds hand and classic “cigarette” hands (white minute and hour hands tipped with neon orange) punctuate the handset. The white sub-register hands, a 30-minute chronograph register, acrylic super-dome crystal, and especially the original, faded, rotating blue and red “countdown” bezel make this a true vintage gem.
Later in 2016, I acquired a close to NOS (new old stock) condition 1971 Bulova Deep Sea “B” Chronograph 666 Diver, also powered by a Valjoux 7733. This devil diver case shows differences to the series A described above. Its case diameter is 37 mm. Lug to lug measures 2 mm longer than the surfboard at 47mm and case thickness is slightly thinner at 15 mm even with a high dome acrylic crystal. It weighs a similar 61 grams without the strap. Highlights include a glossy reverse panda dial, tritium lume, baton hands, applied hour indices, pump pushers, 30-minute counting chronograph, and most notably its bidirectional rotating black and red “Coke” bezel. The 20-minute red zone and a luminous dot at 60 allowed divers to properly assess decompression time, guiding their ascent to the surface. The neon orange chronograph seconds hand used on the series “A” is also present on the “B” series.
I’ve always been a fan of these once very affordable vintage Bulova Chronodivers, maybe even more so today. They have great vintage flair and functionality, wearing nicely on a 7 inch or less sized wrist in particular. As an added benefit, they have nicely appreciated, having more than doubled in value over the last 6 years.
Photos by Brett K.