As always, it seems like there are fewer hours in the day and days in the month than there should be. Amidst the backlog that is Watchuseek content I found myself staring at a screen—working on something that I simply didn’t have the heart for—and decided my last hours of 2019 deserved to be spent on something with passion and motivation behind it. This, my friends, is the last hands-on review of 2019; this is the Bulova Oceanographer Devil Diver.
There are several reviews that need me to take ‘pen to paper’ soon, but as I stared into my personal watch collection this piece immediately sprung to mind. It’s one that I added to my personal collection not long after the initial review period this fall, and though said collection is anything but short on dive watches, the funky green Devil Diver still gets a fair amount of wrist time though we’re well past the “honeymoon phase”. Of the many benefits of still having the piece on hand, it has allowed for a deeper dive, so to speak, into the characteristics and quirks of the well-priced piece.
Because so many of us still set our go/no go parameters around dimensions, let’s start there. Yes, it’s 44mm across and 15mm thick, but it still works perfectly well on a smaller 6 3/4″ wrist. You can see in a series of wrist shots here, the shorter lug-to-lug length (no spec, but I suspect around 49mm?) helps it from overhanging on the wrist, and the smaller diameter of its bezel in relation to the case itself further shrinks its overall presence. Does it wear like a vintage diver? No, of course not. It’s got heft and is anything but svelte or lightweight. I’m the first to admit that when it comes to more standard case proportions I’ll typically lean towards things 42mm and below, but the Devil Diver is one of many exceptions to the rule—much in the same way as most Aquadive watches or the Hamilton Pan-Europ.
This piece is yet another from Bulova’s Archive series, and one of now innumerable ‘vintage inspired’ watches to hit the market in the last 5+ years. I tend to flip flop a but when it comes to this topic. Some brands have legitimate history to draw from, as well as the ability to execute a vintage reissue thoughtfully. Others see a booming trend and go ‘hey, we should get in on this’. In the case of the Devil Diver, I’m especially familiar with its roots. I’ve owned one of the originals back in the day—not the specific reference this is built from, mind you.
Aside from its retro and very Doxa-like vintage cushion style case, the real hero with this watch is its dial. Down to every last detail—the color, the font choices, the hands, the indices—this thing is just a treat to stare at. The hour markers are unlike anything being done in the market today, using clear acrylic cylinders on top of a heavy coating of luminous material, this look is a pure and unfettered throwback to the late ’60s and early ’70s that just doesn’t appear in the modern watch market, let alone in the sub-$1k range. Of course the famed ‘666 FEET’ appears at the bottom of the dial text.
It’s worth noting that this piece isn’t just for show. Bulova ensured ISO compliance, and the Oceanographer Devil Diver is a proper diver’s watch. Its crown screws down as it should, and its bezel action is surprisingly firm given that they went for a 120-click version rather than 60. The clasp on its bracelet is a simple locking fold-over as you’d expect in the category, though I’d say this is one of a few shortcomings of the watch overall. Given the heft of the watch and bracelet, the folding elements of the clasp just feel a bit more flimsy than I would have hoped for.
In terms of other shortcomings, the use of acrylic for its bezel insert came as a bit of a surprise as well. While it’s more true to the vintage, I’m going to remain curious about how resilient it is to scuffs and scratches over time. Thanks to the bezel design and its box sapphire crystal, the bezel itself is thankfully well protected in the grand scheme of things.
The last gripe, and I know many of you have been shouting it since starting to read this review, is the choice of automatic movement. Yes, the Bulova Oceanographer Devil Diver uses the Miyota 812A. This means no hacking seconds, and in some cases a slight stutter in its sweeping seconds hand. To the latter, granted it’s not my only watch and I’m not constantly watching it, I’ve not really noticed. Whether or not this bugs you, well, that’s personal. I’d like a hacking seconds hand, but at the same time, I love so much of the character of this watch that it wasn’t close to a dealbreaker for me.
At full-pop retail, you’re looking at $795, which all-in-all is a decent price, but because Bulova deals with a number of big-box retailers you can often find this and other versions of the watch on sale. Case in point, we’ve spotted it for $432 right now, which is pretty hard to beat.