Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

For all that it is, I don't think that the newer Bulova Precisionist watch collection gets enough attention. I don't blame people because it takes a bit of education to understand what makes these watches so special - especially at their price. What you essentially have here is a high-end quartz watch at relatively inexpensive price.

The Precisionist is a sort of sub-line under Bulova right now as each of them have the same movements. Right now there is really only one Precision movement (or movement style), but I have a feeling in time there will be more. Thus, all Precisionist watches will have both "Bulova" and "Precisionist" on the dial - but also fall into their own collections. This piece for example is in the Precisionist Champlain collection and is the model reference # 96B132. I'd like to thank WatchCo.com - who have a nice collection of Bulova Precision watches (among others) available - for supplying this review piece.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

Let's talk about the movement and why it is cool first. Inside all the current Precisionist watches are the Japanese made Bulova caliber P102.12 or P112.10 quartz movements. As far as I know those are the only two Precisionist movements available right now. Bulova is owned by Citizen (Japanese) at this time, but used to be US owned. The movement offers three major desirable features. First and most importantly is the accuracy. The watch is accurate to about plus/minus 10 seconds a year. That is in comparison to about 15 seconds a month for standard quartz movements. It is also comparable to much higher-end Japanese and Swiss thermocompensated quartz movements. Second, the watch has a smooth sweeping seconds hand. It is smooth like the seconds hand on a Seiko Spring Drive, and more smooth that the seconds hand on most mechanical watches. Third, it has an acceptable battery life rated at between 2-3 years per power cell.

The reason most quartz watches have a ticking seconds hand is to save on battery power. Pushing a seconds hand along all the time requires a lot of power, and quartz movements must slowly sip power from their batteries. This is the one element of the Bulova Precisionist I really don't understand - how Bulova was able to give the watch a sweeping seconds hands and retain a battery life of 2-3 years. It might be because they use a high-energy lithium ion battery. I am not sure and it is hard to find this information online. Whatever the technology, this is a major feat, and many people will enjoy the piece's high precision and the sophisticated look of a mechanical watch dial in a quartz piece.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

How is the watch so accurate without thermocompensation? Well, according to Bulova, Precisionist movements use a three-versus-two prong quartz crystal as the regulator. Apparently the addition of this third prong not only allows for a higher frequency movement, but also creates some type of stabilizing effect. The P102.12 movement operates at 262,144 Hertz. That is really fast and accounts for the accuracy. In comparison, a standard quartz movement operates at 32,768 Hertz, and a mechanical movement operating at 28,800 bph is only running at 4 Hertz.

Operation of the Bulova Precisionist seems to be exactly the same as any other quartz watches - save for the sweeping seconds hand and enhanced accuracy. Overall, this is an amazing and very modern quartz movement that anyone interested in watches or accuracy should know about. I further think it is interesting that Bulova aimed straight for analog watches, when it might have made sense for Citizen to place it into digital watches first. Yes, these might compete with their atomic-controlled models, but I think it represents a distinct technology. Precisionist movements hopefully will blossom into a much larger collection.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

The growing range of Precisionist watches from Bulova contains both formal and sporty watches. Each have a very unique character to them. This Champlain model comes in a rather comfy but large 46.5mm wide case, here done in titanium. There are steel models available as well, and ones in black colored cases. This model is marked by a multi-layered carbon fiber dial with nice blue seconds hand. I like the logo at the end of the seconds hand which is both a "double P" for "Precisionist," as well as an infinity loop symbol.  The case is rather well engineered but mass produced. The round dial is matched with an angular look for the case and I like the large hexagonal screws on the corners. the bezel looks like a rotating bezel but sadly is not. The crown design and texture is a nice detail.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

Bulova opted for a curved crystal that I believe is coated mineral glass, for these watches.  The curvature is nice but offers some visual distortion making it look a bit like you are seeing the dial inside of a bubble. The modern dial design combines relatively good legibility with all sort of little details, textures, and things to look at. The hands are lume covered and big enough to see without too much distraction. There is an open date window that uses a black disc. The color is good, but I am never a fan of open "extended" date windows. There are four screws on the dial to match the look of those on the case, and the carbon fiber is deep feeling. For me the prominent hour markers and hands make it enough to appreciate. While it lacks a European sense of design refinement (as is the case with most Japanese analog watches - but not all), it is enough given the theme and technology.

The case is actually pretty sporty with 300 meters of water resistance and a relatively light weight given the size. The straps on Precisionist watches seem to be a source of contention. While the quality is fine, many people seem to think they have a better idea of what matches the design of the watch. On this model Bulova opted for a Cordura fabric strap that sort of visually matches the carbon fiber on the dial. The black textile strap is actually OK in my opinion, but you could easily swap it out with another 24mm wide strap to give it a more personalized look. Other Champlain models come on steel metal bracelets.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

While the designs of Bulova Precisionist models range from funky to novel, the technology used in them is outstanding in my opinion. Bulova Precisionist watches retail prices go up to over $850, but the street prices of most are from about $250 - $500. This model 96B132 retails for $599, but is just under $450 at WatchCo.com. Even if Bulova Precisionist models aren't right for you right now, you should know about the technology and keep an eye on the range as I think they are a great addition to any collection. See this and other Bulova Precisionist models at WatchCo.com here.

Thanks to WatchCo.com for the review unit. Opinions are 100% independent.

24 comments
donfl11
donfl11

I have been a watch collector and a big fan of BULOVA for many yrs.!  I was always impressed by it being a USA made watch with swiss mvmt's. in them,  Now all BULOVA is, is another run of the mill Japanese mvmt. watch company!  That's too bad!!!

slyfx
slyfx

I purchased this watch for my husband and he really likes it, but after a year the band is starting to fray along the edges.  Do you have any suggestions of where I can find a replacement band?

Fraser Petrick
Fraser Petrick

I own two Precisionists - and they have cured me of lust.

Why would I pay thousands for an up-scale, inaccurate, mechanical watch when I can have beauty and accuracy in the  hundreds?

Clueless2
Clueless2

1. It's really not comparable to TC quartz because it does not live up to Bulova's claim. Many quartz enthusiasts have done tests with the Precisionist watches and they do not live up to expectations. I don't know if these studies were done when you posted this review, just letting you know.


2. Your guess about the battery was spot on. The Precisionist uses a lithium coin battery, the CR2016. It's huge, the same size as the movement. In other watches they last 10 years.  It's really not impressive or a major feat to use a better battery though.

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

Can't beat the value; a HEQ at that price is amazing.  The designs seem a bit too funky for me though.  Hopefully Citizen will broaden the range using this movement.

MathieuRobert
MathieuRobert

It's a nice watch at a nice price. I like sweeping seconds hand. (I have a Bulova mechanical automatic) I like the open "extended" date window.

About "Champlain" : The only one I know about is Samuel de Champlain, who was a French navigator, cartographer, draughtsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, chronicler, founder of Quebec City and New France.

Since I don't see a link between the watch and him, I think it might not be about him.

1 question, rhetorical : Why choose a name that English-native speakers can't pronounce ?

Kitemiller
Kitemiller

It is a really attractive watch.The watches authentic strap adds class to extremely stylish watch

MichaelG
MichaelG

I thought this brand was dead. The dial is quite tasty and I really like the blue detailing. The case is overkill and could have done with a bit of 'less=more'. Not bad at all if this is what you're after.

CG
CG

When in Macy's I would always take a quick look in the Bulova case, there was nothing there for years but badly made CZ encrusted ghetto bling. So consequently I never took a closer look at Bulova. The brand even holds a nostalgia factor for me being the first "good" US made watch I received on my 16th birthday many years ago; a solid rose gold tank mechanical dress watch. It is great to see Bulova getting away from the pop culture crap and back into innovation to a small way. Hopefully this line will grow and from this review I will definitely search them out and look in person because the price point seems completely reasonable.
Overall, I do like this watch; even though the second hand does remind me of my wife's sewing scissors! The face is a nice subdued architecture contrasting between a metal framework and carbon. I like the protected crown and the off angle knurled grip cuts. The screws? They do and they don't add anything... Superfluous and ignorable. It would've been nice if the bezel could have been lifted and turned quarter turns and the screws used as slot guides. Funny, the color blue reminds me of the old French blue of Bugatti and Renault Alpines also the color of my IPad cursor I'm using right now! A slight push in a minor direction and this Precisionist brand could easily serve motorsport very well. They would sell like crazy at races with this price point, accuracy and some very minor design additions and/or sponsor logos. Gonna ck out WatchCo.

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

I am wearing this exact model right now, I quite like it. The case design is a little strange, but nothing too worrysome. My biggest complaint was with that horrible ballistic strap. I have long since replaced mine with a custom design that is far better suited. The grommets in the stock strap are ridiculous, and even though I have 8" wrists, it was still too long: they made that strap more for an ankle.

These are not new, I've had mine for well over a year now, and I left it unadjusted from day 1 to check the accuracy claims, and did not reset for daylight savings when it came up; after a full year, it was running just over 3 seconds fast, so certainly impressive.

This champlain line has actually been updated, but not for the better. The new models have a better handset, and an actual dive bezel that turns and everything, but the watch is covered in carbon fiber inlay panels: the bracelet links, the lugs, etc, and it comes out very gaudy. You could swap the logo for that on Invicta and no one would blink. Shame, because this is great technology for a reasonable price.

I'd love to see a precisionist chronograph.

AtSeaWatch
AtSeaWatch

The design of the case is really disjointed. It's a grab bag of elements from other watches. That's true of most designs these days, but this one really feels like Bulova couldn't decide on a concept for the watch and just kept adding angles until it looked "modern". That said, it actually comes together into an attractive whole. The dial and strap are a nice combination, and despite the silly date aperture, the dial isn't cluttered.

I really like the dressier men's and women's watches from the Precisionist line and more than that, I appreciate that Bulova is still trying to bring technical innovation to the table.

Now if you want to talk about the Harley Davidson by Bulova collection, all of that good will goes out the window.

Phillydog1958
Phillydog1958

@Fraser Petrick  Why buy a true automatic? Because of resale value and longevity in every way that a watch collector would want.I own a Precisionist and I own a Rolex. The Precisionist is a nice watch, but a Rolex is a classic time piece.

Clueless2
Clueless2

@Fraser Petrick Congratulations Not everyone has the same tastes as you though.

Beauty? I think all Precisionists look hideous with the exception of one model, and that one model is much too large.

Up-scale? Some people buy watches just because they're luxury items. I'm not one of them though, but there are many out there, and they keep the market alive.

Inaccurate? I don't mind that and many others don't either. We appreciate the inner workings of a mechanical movement and enjoy having it on our wrist. You also don't have to pay thousands for one. There are plenty of cheaper mechanical watches on the market for us.

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

What claims is it not living up to? And I'd love to see links to those user tests you mention. As in my original comment below, I synced it to the atomic clock the day it arrived and left it alone for a full year, having placed a reminder in my mobile. I did not adjust it for daytlight savings, and while the date was off (it does not track a calendar to completion: february, etc require adjustments), it had deviated by approx 3 seconds in 365 days. The claim is 10 seconds a year, so I would suggest it had done admirably, and I seen several WIS reports that are similar. I'm now on year 3 and its still running strong: I now adjust it for calendar adjustments and daylight savings, but a battery change does not appear to be on the immediate horizion. Were I need to change it tomorrow, I'd be fine with that: for the superb accuracy, a battery/gasket change once every 3 or 4 years is a worthy compromise.

MathieuRobert
MathieuRobert

About the question : I was primarily thinking about company/watchmakers not based in France / Switzerland.

CG
CG

@AtSeaWatch i took a look at them... Sheesh! Well they jumped on the HD gravy train... With more dentists and bankers buying HD bikes there is a huge $$$ market for their branded items. There are maybe 2 or 3 that I would consider but I don't ride an HD so I don't have a need and I'm not a wannabe either... The guy that fixes my bikes says on his business card; if you want tampons and key chains go to Harley; if you want your bike FIXED right see me. Sure HD definitely "cheapens" my view of Bulova...

AtSeaWatch
AtSeaWatch

@JohnnyJohnnyJohnny Good catch. It's like they saw the SubZero screws and decided to toss them into this design, no matter how out of place they are.

Fraser Petrick
Fraser Petrick

@Clueless2 @Fraser Petrick Precisionists "hideous"? Them's fightin' words. Precisionist owners of the world, unite! There's at least one barbarian at the gate! Seriously, it's the inverse snob in me that poo-poos "upscale" watches in the multi-thousands. Twist my arm and I'll take the Patek-Philippe (that someone else paid for). In the meantime $3-400 for a Precisionist is money well spent. (This is a shameless suck-up to the Bulova Watch Company who will want to reward me for this endorsement.) FP

Clueless2
Clueless2

@Kris C yes, the claim of 10 spy is what I am referring to. While yours and others may have performed within specifications, there are many others that did not. Unfortunately, I do not copy down thread links as I read them, so I do not have these user tests on hand. These reports were primarily in the HAQ forum of WUS, and can be found with a quick search. For example, here are two threads:

http://forums.watchuseek.com/f9/bulova-precisionist-timekeeping-not-standard-quoted-664261.html

http://forums.watchuseek.com/f9/bulova-precisionist-aging-601895-3.html

There are also threads on the Precisionists performance at varying temperature which show its sensitivity to temperature, as expected from a non-TC quartz. The main problem with Bulova's claim, is they do not define any wear requirements. If they said it must be worn 12 hours a day to meet specs, like Seiko did for its non-TC 8F series movements, then more Precisionists would probably it live up to their claim.

Clueless2
Clueless2

@Fraser Petrick @Clueless2

It seems you missed the entire point of my post, which I thought I summarized pretty well in the first sentence: "Not everyone has the same tastes as you though."

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