When it comes to watches, I’m willing to let a piece prove itself to me, regardless of the movement tucked away inside. Quartz movements are capable and accurate, and generally come in at a lower price point than their mechanical brethren. It’s a trade-off, however, as you lose that magic that mechanical movements have. So, for me, if I’m looking at a quartz watch, I want it to be able to do something that a mechanical watch simply cannot do, or cannot do at anywhere near the pricepoint the quartz is available at. Today’s Bulova is a perfect example of what I mean.
I’ve reviewed a handful of Bulova watches in my time, and they’ve all presented themselves as capable and accurate watches, regardless of if it was a chronograph or not. When it comes to the chronographs, they’ve been quite competent, giving us a good bit of accuracy, down to the second, or perhaps even 1/10th of a second. That’s good – but Bulova has an even more precise chronograph, and that’s what we’ll be taking a look at today.
This is very likely the most accurate watch I’ve had on my wrist. This is courtesy of the unique setup Bulova has gone with. While most quartz watches will have a two-prong quartz crystal, they’ve instead gone with a three-prong crystal. Additionally, the crystal is vibrating 262,144 times per second. Which, aside from being just an impressive number, the frequency is eight times higher than your normal quartz movement. Much as we see with mechanical movements, where higher beat rates mean greater accuracy, the very high frequency here enables the Precisionist to maintain an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds per year.
Let’s let that sink in for a minute. This means, over the course of a year, this movement will gain or lose less than a second per month, on average (an average quartz is good for +/- 15 seconds per month). I’m not sure you’re going to get anything more accurate without an automatic sync to, say, an atomic clock signal. The accuracy of the movement also extends to the chronograph function, which can time up to a 12 hour period – down to 1/1000th of a second. Yes, that’s right – .001 of a second. While many of us probably don’t require that sort of accuracy, it’s a testament to the movement inside that you will know precisely how long your steak was on the grill.
Bulova also went with an interesting configuration when it comes to how they’re registering the time, both normal and chronograph. Let’s start with the regular time telling. Normally on a chronograph, we’ll have a sub-seconds readout somewhere. This Bulova Precisionist Champlain model stands out as actually having a sweep seconds hand so you can see the watch is running. But don’t worry, you won’t have to worry about reading one of the four subdials to read the chrono seconds.
No, see that pusher over at 8 o’clock? Press that, and you’ll flip the watch over into timing mode, with the seconds hand setting itself to zero. And then the dial will really come to life. Kicking off the chronograph sets the second hand back into motion, as well as the register at 12 o’clock. This is where the 1/10th and 1/100th of a second time is recorded (yes, there are two hands there, with the red hand used for the .01 time). What about the 1/1000th register down at 6 o’clock? That actually springs to position when you stop the chronograph, marking that decimal point.
This, I think, is a practical consideration. After seeing how fast the 1/100 hand has to move, I can’t imagine it would be practical to have the 1/1000 hand try to revolve around a dial. Instead, they’ve got a retrograde register (even though it looks like a subdial; this was done to preserve symmetry) with the hand noting that data point when the timing is stopped.
Rounding out the other two registers you have the chronograph minutes over at 9 o’clock, and the 12-hour register appears at 3 o’clock. It’s this layout that really shows you that this Bulova Precisionist Champlain watch is meant to be timing things. Everything that’s on the Bulova Precisionist Champlain dial (well, aside from the date display) is dedicated to getting you the information from the chronograph. While this sort of purpose-driven design could have been boring, Bulova really did put together a nice design here.