Bulova is an interesting brand in the watch collecting world. Like Seiko, you'll often find its watches for sale (and on sale) in department stores. The models on offer in those settings are typically geared more towards mass appeal than the specific tastes of watch collectors.
Like Seiko, however, Bulova does offer some models that appeal to those of us with the affliction. Seiko has a significantly larger catalog, but Bulova has a few gems in its collection too. The reissue of the vintage Oceanographer Devil Diver that you see here is one such model.
Bulova started the Devil Diver reissue collection with a 666-piece limited edition 41mm orange version that featured a Swiss Sellita movement. That version was followed up with a number of less expensive colorways including this blue and yellow version. The movements were "downgraded" to a Miyota 8-series, while the cases were upsized to 44mm.
While I would have preferred if this version had followed the smaller case format, it wears smaller than its 44mm width would have you believe. The bezel sits well inboard of the edge of the case, and the lugs are very compact (the lug-to-lug distance is only 2mm more than the width). Thus it won't overhang smaller wrists.
Additionally, it has a lot of character. If you're looking for the fun of a Doxa or Synchron Military, but don't want to spend four figures, this Bulova is a good alternative. The case shape is very similar, and it employs quite a few of its own unique touches.
Besides the colors, one of the main attractions of the Devil Diver is the three-dimensional clear applied indices. They sit on metal mounts, give the dial depth, and make it really fun to view from an angle.
As a result of this, the hands are exceptionally short. Normally too-short hands are a big pet peeve of mine, but it works well in this case. They are purposefully short as if designed that way on purpose, and not an afterthought. Their stubby nature is so extreme that makes them enjoyable to look at. Plus they are all white and the centers are blacked out, so legibility is really good despite their diminutive length.
Bulova also moved the minute track inboard of the hour markers, so the hands still reach it appropriately. The entire dial, in fact, is well thought out. The applied metal Bulova logo and fonts chosen keep the vintage appeal going, as does the italicized "snorkel" wording. Notice the depth rating too!
Finishing off the vintage aesthetic is a boxed crystal (AR-coated sapphire to modernize it, however). It applies what, at first glance, appears to be an externally mounted magnifier. It was not until I touched it, however, that I realized it is actually cut into the underside of the crystal. It's a unique solution but doesn't provide much benefit, as the magnifying power is minimal.
The bi-color bezel uses an acrylic insert, and the triangle at 12 is lumed. The lume overall was surprisingly good, as I didn't know what to expect from a Bulova. Not quite Seiko-level, but entirely sufficient to be legible throughout the night.
Wearing the Devil Diver
The Devil Diver wears well despite its large size. As mentioned, the lugs are compact, and the caseback is also slim. As a result, it sits nicely on the wrist and does not feel top-heavy.
For a watch in this price range, the bezel is also a joy to turn. The friction is a bit higher than I would prefer, but the clicks are crisp and precise with almost zero play. It lined up perfectly too. Seiko, take note!
Bulova did a nice job with the bracelet on the Devil Diver. It is a 5-row design with a brushed center section. The polished portions will be sure to show scratches, but because they are a bit smaller and curved, it won't stand out as much as with an oyster-style bracelet. The small links also make it quite comfortable.
The twin trigger stamped clasp is fairly basic, but does include a safety latch and fold-out dive extension.
Of course I've also been wearing the Devil Diver on a variety of straps. Scroll to the end of the article to shop other looks for it.
Despite being an entry-level movement, the Miyota 821D in the non-LE Devil Divers feels appropriate. The lack of hacking and slower beat rate are what you'd likely get in a vintage diver, plus it helps to keep the overall cost down. It does offer hand-winding and a quickset date.
The signed crown is a little small to grip, but has crisp clicks with very little play.
The Bulova Devil Diver Oceanographer is a compelling alternative to similarly-priced Seikos. The closest Seiko analog (pun intended) might be the SRPC95 "Nemo Turtle" that I reviewed earlier this year. Both employ similarly fun colorways, with the Seiko looking a bit more modern, and the Bulova more vintage.
The bezel action on the Bulova is much nicer, as is the bracelet. The Seiko's dial is a bit nicer, and its brushed and polished case finishing is more to my taste than the fully-polished Bulova case.
Finally, the decision likely boils down to your aesthetic preference (or brand loyalty). I'm just happy that both of these fun options were produced!
Name: Bulova Devil Diver Oceanographer
Reference Number: 96B320
Lug Width: 20mm
Movement: Miyota 821D
Power Reserve: 42 hours
Water Resistance: 200m
Crystal: Box sapphire with internal magnifier and anti-reflective coating
Bezel: Unidirectional, 120 clicks, steel with acrylic insert
Bracelet: Stainless steel with dive extension
Shop Other Straps for the Bulova Devil Diver Oceanographer 96B320: