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Joseph Bulova (Bulowa)

Also Known As: "Josef", "Bullowa", "Bullawa"
Birthplace: Louny, Louny, Ústecký kraj, Czech Republic
Death: November 18, 1935 (84)
New York, New York, United States
Place of Burial: Bronx County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Anton /:Nathan:/ Bulowa and Barbara Bulowa
Husband of Bertha Bulova
Father of Anthony Bulova; Julia Bulowa; Hannah Bulova, Twin of Anton; Anton Bulova, Twin of Hannah; Ardé Adolph Bulova and 5 others
Brother of MUDr. Josef /:Adolf:/ Bulova; Frances / Franziska Mendelson; Anna Pick and Marie Eisler

Occupation: Jeweler
Managed by: Randy Schoenberg
Last Updated:

About Joseph Bulova

Marriage: "New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), Joseph Bulova and Bertha Eisner Bulova, 25 Mar 1883; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,570,190.
1900 (Jun) US Census, Manhattan, New York, NY:

  • Joseph Bulova, 48, b Apr 1851, m 17 yrs, b Bohemia, parents Bohemia, imm. 1872, nat., jeweler–gold worker.
  • Bertha, wife, 37, b Jul 1862, 9 born/6 liv, b Bohemia, parents Bohemia.
  • Julia, dtr, 15, b Jan 1885, NY, at school.
  • Hannah, dtr, 14, b May 1886, NY, at school.
  • Adolph, son, 12, b Oct 1887, NY, at school.
  • Emily, dtr, 11, b Sep 1888, NY, at school.
  • Stella, dtr, 6, b May 1894, NY, at school.
  • Louise, dtr, 3, b May 1897, NY.
  • Grave Reference: Find A Grave Memorial
  • Immigrated to the USA in 1870, per his son's Andre/Adolph passport application:
  • Became US citizen on 17 October, 1884, see
  • Death record: FamilySearch Record - SmartCopy: Aug 11 2018, 19:16:59 UTC

From Investors Business Daily, March 17, 2015:
Joseph Bulova knew quality jewelry while working for Louis Tiffany. Bulova also saw that few people could afford hand-crafted items. So in 1875, at age 23, the immigrant from Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) opened a small jewelry shop in New York City with the general public in mind. Before he was finished tinkering, he revolutionized watchmaking and built the No. 1 company producing such timepieces.
In 1911 he incorporated J. Bulova Co. with himself as president and his son, Arde, as vice president and treasurer. The firm made boudoir and table clocks and fine pocket watches while building a reputation for excellence and creativity.
Joseph, who with wife Bertha also had five daughters, had found a rich niche. He and Arde couldn't build watches fast enough to satisfy demand.
So in 1912 Bulova established a plant in Bienne, Switzerland, dedicated to the production of watch components and their assembly into fine jeweled movements.
To accomplish this mass production, he devised the precision tools, gauges and machines with which to produce and check the quality of the watch parts. His facility featured assembly lines and the watch industry's first complete system of interchangeable watch parts.
In less than four decades, he had transformed a craft business into an industry that used standardized parts and mechanized production to create an affordable watch without sacrificing quality.
"Taking cues from Henry Ford, Bulova transformed a piecemeal craft business into a mass-production industry," Hamilton Powell, CEO of Crown & Caliber, an Atlanta-based dealer of fine watches, told IBD. "Not only did he introduce production efficiencies, but he also maintained the integrity and quality of the watches at an affordable price."
Bulova (1851-1935) knew how to take advantage of new ideas.
After the military abandoned pocket watches for more practical wristwatches during World War I, he and his son followed suit by releasing a line of men's jeweled wristwatches in 1919.
That created a fashion trend and set the duo off on a nationwide print advertising campaign.
"Joseph Bulova exemplified key characteristics of a successful entrepreneur," said Even Brande, a business lecturer at the University of Wyoming. "He had an above-average tolerance for risk, a keen ability to spot trends and was a persistent innovator in his field."
The 1920s roared with Bulova's innovation and sharp marketing.
The decade started with the construction of the Bulova Observatory on top of a New York skyscraper, where exact time was determined for the company's setting and timing unit by measuring the rotation of the Earth relative to fixed stars.Bulova achieved total standardization in 1923. Each part in any of his watches was interchangeable with the same part in any other Bulova timepiece. Suddenly watch repair was in a cheaper universe.
The company reincorporated as Bulova Watch Co. that year. In 1924, it introduced the first line of women's jeweled wristwatches.
The company also adopted the Goddess of Time, an iconic symbol depicting its watches as elegant in its ads, packaging and signage.
Taking advantage of the new airwave phenomenon, Bulova broadcast the first national radio commercial in 1926 and captured the nation's attention by proclaiming, "At the tone, it's 8 p.m. B-U-L-O-V-A, Bulova Watch time."
The firm stayed with radio ads to keep the Bulova name in front of the public. Meanwhile, Arde grabbed headlines by offering a Bulova watch and $1,000 to the first pilot to fly nonstop across the Atlantic.
Charles Lindbergh won them with his 1927 crossing from New York to Paris. Capitalizing on the excitement, Bulova shipped 5,000 Lone Eagle watches to jewelers within days and quickly sold out — they had Lindbergh appear in Bulova ads as an endorser. Also in 1927, Bulova Watch Co. went public on the American Stock Exchange and established Bulova Canada to expand its customer base.
By the end of the decade, Bulova had introduced the first clock radio, patented car clock designs and cornered 50% of the U.S. market for watches and clocks.
Besides running its Swiss plant, the firm operated manufacturing facilities in Providence, R.I., and Woodside and Flushing, N.Y.
Entering 1930, Bulova was generating an enterprise of 2,600 employees worldwide and $6.6 million in assets (worth $92 million today). The company was ticking like clockwork, with profit rising from $291,000 in 1926 to $1.4 million in 1929.
To help boost sales, Bulova introduced the watch industry's first million-dollar advertising print and radio campaign in 1931.
By now its watches featured shock resistance, waterproofing, unbreakable mainsprings and self-winding mechanisms.
Bulova also introduced payment plans to let customers buy his watches on time.
After Joseph Bulova died at age 84, Arde, who already had assumed the title of board chairman in 1930, carried on the Bulova tradition of product and advertising innovation. For the fiscal year ended March 31, 1938, Bulova's earnings were up to $2.6 million, or $43 million in today's money.
In the 1940s, Bulova aired the first TV commercial, before a Brooklyn Dodgers game. The ad featured a simple map of the U.S. with the effective message, "America runs on Bulova Time." Reportedly the ad cost the grand sum of $9.
In 1941, the Arde-led board of directors adopted a resolution to manufacture national defense products for the government at cost. Bulova produced precision military watches, aircraft instruments, torpedo fuses and other mechanisms for the war effort.
Following World War II, Arde and the Bulova Foundation established the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking for the purpose of rehabilitating disabled veterans.
Graduates of the school in Queens were assured employment, with 1,500 positions pledged by American jewelers. The school lived up to its motto, "To Serve Those Who Served Us."
"The formation of the Bulova watchmaking school was very forward-thinking," said Noel Poirier, director of the National Watch & Clock Museum in Columbia, Pa. "It served as a model for the establishment of many watchmaking schools developed later."
In 1948, Joseph's grandson Harry Bulova Henschel developed the Phototimer, the first automatic timing device used in sports.
Two years later, Arde established the Bulova Research & Development Laboratory in Valley Stream, N.Y., which would provide guided missiles, infrared sensors and electronic systems for the military.
By the mid-1950s, company sales reached $80 million, and Bulova ranked as the most preferred watch in North America. One reason was that the Bulova line of watches covered every price point.
An A.C. Nielsen survey showed that Americans saw more national advertising for Bulova products than for any others, in any industry, anywhere in the world.
In 1952 Bulova began work on the Accutron (released in 1960), a crucial breakthrough in timekeeping technology. The Accutron, powered by a vibrating tuning fork, guaranteed 99.99% accuracy — and was an integral part of NASA technology for decades.
Arde died in 1958. His duties were taken over by Harry Bulova Henschel as president and Gen. Omar Bradley as chairman.
While no Bulovas remain with the firm today, the name endures.
Loews Corp. bought Bulova Watch Co. in 1979 and built its sales up to $206 million by 2006.
Loews then sold Bulova to Citizen in 2008 for $250 million, making the Tokyo firm the world's largest watchmaker.

New York Times Obit, 19 November 1935, page 23:
Developed Small Plant, Opened Soon After the Civil War, Into Large Company.


Never Retired From Business, but Left Most of Management to Son in Recent Years.
Joseph Bulova, president of the watch manufacturing company which bore his name, died yesterday morning in his eighty-fourth year after an illness of two months.
Under his guidance the Bulova Watch Company, which occupies an entire floor at 580 Fifth Avenue and employs several thousand persons in the United States, grew from a small manufactory Joseph Bulova established in Maiden Lane soon after the Civil War.
The phrase "Bulova watch time," used for the last ten years by radio broadcasting chains in announcing the hour, was an advertising idea attributed to Mr. Bulova.
He was born in Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia) and learned the watchmaking and goldsmith trades there. At the age of 18 he came to this country. The small manufacturing Jewelry business he established in a few years bore the name of the J. Bulova Company until the firm started to specialize in wrist watches.
The company originally manufactured watch cases and used imported movements in them. Now it has works factories in Woodside, Queens, and at Waltham, Mass., and a case factory in Providence, R.I. It also has a watch-works plant in Switzerland.
Mr. Bulova never retired, although in recent years he had left most of the management to his son, Arde, who is chairman of the board of directors of the Bulova Watch Company.
Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Bertha Eisner Bulova of 470 West End Avenue; his son, Arde, and four daughters, Hannah Bulova, Mrs. Emily Henshel, Mrs. Louise Guilden and Mrs. Julia Bulowa.
Funeral services will be held at 11 A M. tomorrow at Temple Ernanu-El. Sixty-fifth Street and Fifth Avenue.

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Joseph Bulova's Timeline

September 7, 1851
Louny, Louny, Ústecký kraj, Czech Republic
January 9, 1884
Manhattan, New York, New York County, New York, United States
February 8, 1886
New York, NY, United States
May 15, 1886
Manhattan, New York, New York County, New York, United States
May 15, 1886
Manhattan, New York, New York County, New York, United States
October 24, 1887
Manhattan, New York, New York County, New York, United States
September 30, 1891
New York, New York County, New York, United States
August 30, 1892
New York, New York, United States
N. York, New York, New York, United States