Bulova A-15 Pilot

Review and photos by Mike Razak

The Bulova A-15 Pilot has been out for long enough that almost every major watch outlet already has a hands-on review. So what are you doing here? Maybe, like me, you looked at those reviews and felt that they forgot the part of the review where they are supposed to actually critique the watch in a meaningful way. Maybe you love my writing. Maybe The Time Bum makes you feel cozy and fills that void in your life. Whatever the reason, I’m happy to oblige.

Bulova A-15 Pilot

The Bulova A-15 is a reissue of a World War II watch ordered by the US military. Only 500 were ordered and they are exceptionally rare, so a reissue makes quite a bit of sense. Obviously, the proportions were modernized. The watch as offered is 43mm, though with its expansive dial and internal bezels, appears larger on the wrist. A prominent, polished fixed bezel holds in place the sapphire crystal, and the crowns are matched in their finishes. All of the crowns are easily grippable and operate without issue. The rest of the watch is brushed with crisp edges.

Bulova A-15 Pilot

The 20mm lugs seem a bit narrow on the 43mm case. I don’t often argue for 22mm lugs, but I think they would have been aesthetically more appropriate here. There’s a pinched appearance that just doesn’t work. I do like the slenderness of the lugs themselves, and their dramatically curved profile, which reminds me of the lugs on the Longines BigEye (and many other vintage pieces). Overall, the watch wears better than I’d expect but larger than I prefer. I’ve got 7-inch wrists, so if you’re bigger, you may have better luck.

Bulova A-15 Pilot

The dial of the A-15 is perhaps the watch’s most intriguing and troublesome feature. As is plain to see, it has quite a bit going on. All in white, starkly printed on the matte black dial, you have a rotating minute bezel, rotating hour bezel, chapter ring, and large Arabic numerals. Then in a pop of yellow, classic field-style numerals counting to 24 hours. It’s balanced, but in the same way, a crowded room is balanced because no one can move anywhere.

Bulova A-15 Pilot

The main dial itself is actually quite small. I didn’t measure it because disassembling sample watches is frowned upon, or so I’ve been told. But because of the two internal bezels, there’s this illusion of size that creates an issue. The hands, while perfectly proportioned to the main dial, are made to look far too small as they sit against the entirety of the watch under the crystal. Add to that the fact that they are another splotch of white amongst an already crowded dial, which makes at a glance reading just a touch more difficult than it should be.

Bulova A-15 Pilot lume

The lume on the dial is adequate. It's not stellar, but it does light up after a brief walk to the mailbox, and enough to be seen for a bit in a dimly lit room. As this watch isn’t intended for any tool purposes in the dark, all that is lumed is the hands and the Arabic numerals. I would have preferred the bezel triangles to be lumed, but here we are. Credit where credit is due: I like that the counterweight of the seconds hand matches the end of the hour hand.

Bulova A-15 Pilot

The Bulova A-15 features the Miyota 82S6 movement, part of their 8000 series. Interestingly, the 82S6 is an open-heart movement, typically used in movements with cutout dials to show the regulator mechanism at work. Not so here (that would be awful), making it an odd choice. The watch has standard accuracy of +20/-40 seconds per day, which is fine. If you’re not aware, Citizen owns Bulova and Miyota, so it makes sense that they’d pick from their own stable; I just would have preferred a 9000 series to amp up the specs.

Bulova A-15 Pilot

In a strange turn of events, I did not swap the strap at all on the A-15. The included brown leather strap is long (Bulova aims for mass market appeal, so the strap has to accommodate all wrist sizes), and features some distressing. I quite like the look and it pairs well with the vintage watch design.

Bulova A-15 Pilot strap

I couldn’t find any pictures of the original upon which the Bulova A-15 is based. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s a very accurate reissue. And that would make sense: a lot of vintage watches built for a specific function (in this case air navigation) were quite busy in the dial. It’s not a look I ever liked, so I’m not surprised to be overwhelmed a bit by this watch. Some people are going to think it’s just smashing, super cool. Especially if their WWII nuts with large wrists. Boy, this is gonna sell like hotcakes with that niche!

Bulova A-15 Pilot

Much like the rest of the industry, Bulova has been on a tear with resissues. The Computron, the Hack, the Surfboard. They do them quite well, if sometimes too large. This watch is no different. It’s a relatively faithful recreation that will tickle enthusiasts without upsetting the rest. MSRP is $695, but the watch is now available for $545, which I'd say is where it should be. The Bulova A-15 Pilot is well-built and captures the vintage airman aesthetic. This one is simply a matter of preference. I don’t prefer it. But you may. It’s available now on the Bulova website.

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