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Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On

Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Bulova saw more strong new watch offerings for Baselworld 2015 – with attractive designs and strong values. What I love about the “Bulova of today” is that in addition to its mainstream offerings, there are more and more products specifically designed for the watch aficionado, such as this limited edition version of the new Bulova Sea King – which feels like a less expensive alternative to the Omega Seamaster Ploprof watch. So let’s check out this circa $1,500 mechanical 1000-meter diver new from Bulova for 2015.

Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The reference 96B226 tops out the revitalized Bulova Sea King watch collection which is based on a classic marine-themed family of watches Bulova produced over half a century ago. The Bulova Sea King watch collection will exist as Bulova’s “serious” dive watch family, with ISO 6425 ratings and deep water resistances of 300 meters or more. While most other Bulova Sea King watches contain Bulova Accutron II UHF quartz movements (very high accuracy and sweeping seconds hands), this limited edition Bulova Sea King 96B226 contains a mechanical automatic movement.

Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Inside the watch is a Japanese Miyota automatic movement which isn’t fancy but should serve as a decent workhorse movement for sport purposes. The movement is a “customized” Miyota caliber 8215 automatic that apparently has some additional anti-shock proprieties. I am not exactly sure why Bulova did not opt for the newer 9000 family of mechanical movements from Miyota – which feel like a natural fit for the Bulova Sea King Automatic. The 8215 movement offers the time with date, and the dial is painted with a lot of lume on the applied hour markers and large hands. Bulova created a legible, sporty, and high-end looking dial for the Bulova Sea King collection which should satisfy most diving enthusiasts as well desk divers. There is also a modern design to the Bulova Sea King dial and case that I enjoy in addition to all the retro divers out there.

Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Bulova also offers the Accutron II Scuba and Lobster watches which contain UHF movements and are their “diving-style” watches with retro designs. The Lobster is a handsome piece which is also new for 2015. With that said, I like the large, aggressive stance of the Bulova Sea King which is especially pronounced with the Bulova Sea King Automatic limited edition model. At 50mm wide in a grade 2 titanium case, the Bulova Sea King Automatic is the only model of the bunch to have a unique rotating bezel locking system.

Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On

When pressing both the top and bottom pushers on the locking mechanism protruding from the left-side of the case, the middle part of the mechanism shoots out, unlocking the bezel which can then be turned in one direction. Press the middle section back in and it clicks into place, locking the bezel. Its a fun little system and adds enthusiast flavor the Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 watch. The case also has an automatic helium release valve.


A video posted by aBlogtoWatch (@ablogtowatch) on

Speaking with Bulova’s CEO Greg Thumm about the Bulova Sea King Automatic limited edition, it was clear that producing the watch was a labor of love by one dive watch lover for other dive watch lovers. Clearly, very few people actually have use for a helium release valve or a locking mechanism for their rotating bezel. Today, diving enthusiasts who do wear dive watches do so for an added sense of fun and enjoyment when underwater but they mostly rely on diving computers to get the information that they need. Nevertheless, a lot of watch lovers continue to be captivated by what diving watches represent and their important position in the larger world of sport watches.

Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Despite its large size the Bulova Sea King Automatic isn’t too heavy, given the titanium case, and it wears comfortable on the strap. Bulova includes an extension strap making it easy to put the watch over a diving suit. The case uses an AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial which helps a lot with legibility. The timepiece very much looks as though it is ready and eager to submerge to depths of 1000 meters, even though anyone taking one down that deep is unlikely, to say the least. Though, I will say that the best diving watches are those which look to be perpetually ready for action.

Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 Limited Edition Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Bulova will continue to release limited edition or limited production sport and enthusiast watches for collectors in addition to their larger collections – something which really does add a lot to the brand’s persona with serious timepiece fans. I think this is what happens when you have a brand run by a real watch guy versus someone who enters the watch industry from another business and is mostly concerned about numbers and growth.

The Bulova Sea King Automatic 96B226 watch will be produced as a limited edition of 500 pieces with a very fair price of $1,595.

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  • Strange. And very polarizing to say the least.
    Personally, I don’t find it as ugly as the Proplof (which is in its own league of hideousness) but I certainly find it pretty ugly. I wonder how much better it would present on a matching bracelet.

  • Grinnie Jax

    Funny to say, but for me it actually looks better than Proplof. I can imagine myself wearing this piece, while Proplof is made for droids, not humans. I believe that price should drop below 1k, then it would become interesting. At 1.6k I would better get this:

  • bnabod

    Thugly is the first word that comes to mind. Also find the Proplof seriously lacking in the looks department. Going to pass on these two specimens.

  • DangerussArt

    My Bulova perception is that they make big, cheap overstyled watches. This isn’t help dispel that notion at all. Can you unlock and rotate the bezel on the wrist, or do I need to grow a third arm, or enlist the aid of the dive master?

  • notech47

    The Orient is a gem. The odd and apparently superfluous hex like screws on the bezel of the Bulova are a big negative in my eyes.

  • I_G

    DangerussArt You need to grow a brain then it’s easy to use the bezel.

  • AndreBraz

    Very intersting lock system and classic design.

  • DangerussArt

    I_G DangerussArt nice…
    a penny for your thought seems a little pricey.

  • ScubaPro

    Both this and the Proplof have something in common: They are clearly aimed at people that don’t dive. They are amazingly oversized and impractical, and the bezel locking mechanisms are a major pain to use with gloves on and show a profound lack of usable design.  DangerussArt points this out perfectly. So if these watches are bad dive watches, what the hell are they for? Maybe you can balance a bowl of soup on them during crowded lunch breaks.

  • I’m a fan of the rugged look and I actually think these a quite nice. If the bezel screws are simply superfluous though, it kinda ruins it for me.

  • Jimxxx

    FAIL,… Bulova desperately needs a good designer.

  • shinytoys

    Bulova is swinging hard, making major attempts to regain its market share.  I’m not crazy about the switch box on the left hand side of the unit. I would have to try that out under water to see if that makes sense. This unit has a solid motor, but nothing we haven’t seen before. The price kills it for me. As a package, the value isn’t there, and as a new piece, it’s yet to be proven underwater. Keep at it Bulova, I’d love to see you succeed!

  • shinytoys

    Grinnie Jax Love my Star Diver…

  • Ulysses31

    It’s a big lump.  The superfluous bolts are something Bulova loves but I hate, and they should get rid of them ASAP.  The bezel locking system is bulky but I guess it fits with the theme of this watch.  They must be hiring former Invicta designers, but one thing they forgot to apply was the massive discount that is a necessity for something as ugly as this.  Hopefully $1600 is just the RRP lol.  I feel like they planned to insert a quartz module, then decided to shove in an automatic and jacked up the price by $800.

  • CG

    This proves it… Citizen and Bulova are the same company!

  • NWP

    Small engine begets date creep towards center of dial, fail.

  • bichondaddy

    Yeah…..I like most of Bulova’s stuff…but this one leaves me shaking my head wondering what were they thinking about when they designed this one?  There are lots of other watches out there with similar WR…and some just as ugly…if not more so…and many don’t cost nearly that much either.  
    The Orient Star Diver is very nice looking….as is the Deep Blue Master Explorer…..and neither would cause you to throw up a little in your mouth when looking at them!

  • bichondaddy

    Oh…a question for Ariel…why was there a need to matrix out the back side of the watch???  Was their something obscene written there that we should have seen?   Just wondering!

  • thornwood36

    Meh. nothing special.

  • bichondaddy Bulova asked us not to include the information on the back of the case which as I understand it was internal data that they did not want shared. Though I can make up a fun story about there being erotic art back there if you like.

  • shinytoys The Sea King watches with UHF movements don’t have the bezel lock systems on the side of the case and should prove a bit more mainstream. We will cover those soon. I really like them.

  • bichondaddy

    aBlogtoWatch  Yeah…a shot taken at a nude beach of some movie starlet….something more interesting…ya know!!   LOL

  • GBD

    I really like what Bulova is putting down these days, but this one doesn’t work for me. An 8215 for $1600 is crazy. And I do think Bulova could work on their marketing a bit – they’ve got Bulovas for $100-1600, some quartz and some mechanical, and some with the de-tuned 262 precisionist movement, then Accutron II that has the precionist movement but falls in the $300-600 range, and then the Accu-Swiss line, with mechanical movements and up to $40,000. I wish they would better delineate their various model lines. But they are really putting out some good stuff, and I’m looking forward to their future offerings.

  • egznyc

    I don’t know that this is a reason to be dissatisfied with the design. It does allow a lume strip at 9:00, which wouldn’t have been possible if the date had appeared closer to the edge of the dial. Nonetheless, while an interesting concept, I don’t find this very attractive.

  • egznyc

    Again we are melding two separate worlds, that of watch porn and regular porn. To each one’s own, I suppose. 😉

  • egznyc

    Sweet, simple diver. I have an Orient diver too — keeps excellent time and basically indestructible — but not nearly as nice as this beast.

  • egznyc

    Oops. I had a brain hiccup. I got caught up in another commenter’s image of the Orient Star diver. That’s what I was picturing with regard to the location of the date window.

  • TowelieFan

    I can see the citizen influence on this piece. 

    And nice jew fro Ariel it’s funny seeing what you actually look like after watching so many of your youtube vids. You look like you’re trying to do a blue steel face haha.

  • bichondaddy

    egznyc Uhhhhh…you do know I was just joking around…..right????

  • egznyc

    bichondaddy egznyc Yes, I realized you were joking about there being something not-quite-G-rated on the case back.  Even though there is a centuries-old tradition of erotic art hidden within select watches, I did not think you were suggesting that this Bulova diver was carrying on in this tradition.  I was just joking around, too, as porn — whether it be watches, women, or whatever — might be something that is both taken quite seriously but also not very seriously.  In other words, some of us (myself included) are still immature enough to enjoy a joking reference to porn, though apparently I have company.  Avenue Q did sell a lot of tickets, after all.

  • VasilisAnagnostopulos

    Hi Ariel, I so wish this was the 9000 series movt, were you able to see or can you comment on the 8215 movt on this watch, was it gittery etc… I do love this watch, sweet, wish I could get one, I know wait & let the price come down 🙂 plus the movt on it might be a deal killer at this price the 9000 series would have been the best!

  • Mat

    Hi Ariel & Co., I have a noobie question. I am considering buying this watch. I am a Bulova fan, the prices on this model have dropped and I’d love to own a diver. I am a complete ignoramus when it comes to mechanical watches. Apart from an old Orient SK, which I love but not care if it gets banged up, it being so cheap, I don’t own other mechanical watches. I own a few quartz watches, a couple Bulovas, Casio G-Shocks and such – inexpensive but they make me happy. My question is the following; I am a long-distance swimmer. Not a competitor or world-class in any way, but I do regularly put in sessions of 3 hours and more of free-style swimming, aka continuous circular arm movement. I know mechanical watches shouldn’t be banged and dropped, that’s a given, however, can this watch with its Myiota movement take being constantly moved like that for long periods at the time? So far my G-Shocks have been looking after me in the water, and no problems there, but I am dreaming of doing longer swims in the future (the Channel, that averages at around 13 hours) and I’d like to do it wearing a watch worth passing onto my soon. My dad used to be a professional diver and he used a Bulova diver back in the early 80s (the piece long gone, unfortunately), and i dabble in scuba diving from time to time, hence my affinity for the Bulova brand and its divers. It runs in the family. Any ideas or advice you or the knowledgeable readers could offer would be very welcome. Thanks, Mat

    • Mason Delpino

      It would be fine to swim with this watch- if the watch and movement can withstand 1000m of pressure from water and still be fine, it will hold up to you swimming with it a lot. Enjoy the watch 🙂

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