Sharks are pretty specialised things
The sand tiger shark used to be called the sand shark. As if looking this thing in the eye and seeing all the protruding needle like teeth was not scary enough – aquariums decided to add the word ‘tiger’ to instill even more fear. Sand sharks can grow to 3 metres in length and weigh 160 kg. They are ruthless from conception – the largest two pups will have eaten their siblings for sustenance inside their mother’s uterine chambers, a kind of cannibalism unique to this species.
They work together in teams to corral potential prey, feeding mainly on small bony fishes, squid, rays, lobsters and other sharks. Strong but slow moving and relatively sluggish these grey giants spend most of their time near the sea bed looking for food. They are the only shark known to gulp air, swallow it and hold it within their stomach to create neutral buoyancy – this allows them to remain virtually motionless on the ocean floor.
The sand tiger shark is listed as endangered and they are a protected species in the United States, Australia and New Guinea. Their life span in the wild is unknown but captive animals can live up to 10 years. This means that there would unfortunately be no living examples that would have ever seen this on the wrist of a brave diver…
1970 Bulova Deep Sea Chronograph ‘A’
Just like the sand shark this is a pretty specialised thing and it too is happy to spend it’s time motionless on the sea floor. By 1970 Bulova were a dab hand at producing water resistant watches – we found that out in a previous article here.
Starting in 1963 with a 666 ft water resistant watch Bulova moved to making a water resistant chronograph in 1969 with the Deep Sea Chronograph. This was a twin register Valjoux 7733 with a blue dial and blue bezel. On the dial it simply read ‘Bulova’ – but just like the aquariums and the sand sharks it needed a little extra in the name to entice and thrill potential customers.
Dial It In
There have always been two dial variants for this period of Bulova chronograph models – the ‘solo’ dial and those that have the ‘666 feet’ printer under the manufacturer logo. It’s the devil diver calling card. It’s the ‘tiger’ in the sand shark, the extra fear inducing thrill.
This 1970 one year production run Bulova Deep Sea Chronograph ‘A’ features the famous surf board dial. Bulova were not the only manufacturing using this funky dial design – they can be found on Vulcain, Invicta, Wittnauer, Waltham and Breilting. This one seems to stick in people’s minds as it has the best combination of colour and components.
The tips of the minute and hour hand have been dipped in some of the most fluorescent orange seen on any watch. Running down the middle of these orange columns is a dash of lume. It makes reading the hands in both the strong sun and dim evening light a pleasure. They’re similar to bright white handled torches spinning a top the dark blue surfboard. The long triangle chronograph seconds hand is also drenched in this radiant tangerine glow standing out form the once white now creamy dial.
The dial itself is still as crisp and clean as when it was being wielded around in the 70s. The blue board in the middle encompassing the two registers in a single fluid shape. It has maintained a laminar colour across the face meaning an even and fair aging across the surface with minimal blemishing.
It has the most delicate font surrounding the dial for the tachymeter. Each second broken in to 5 tiny markings for precise timings – matching the frequency of the 5 Hz 18000 BPH movement. Just outside of the dial is the solid chapter ring holding the armoured crystal in place.
The running seconds and elapsed time register hands are simple but quite brutal paddle shapes. The Valjoux 7733 can feature a 30 or 45 minute elapsed time counter – on these Bulova it’s a thirty minute counter split into 5 minute sections.
There are two types of crown available for these models – a smaller Bulova signed item or this chunky monster that is a genuine pleasure to wind. The chronograph pushers are simple cylinder top pieces – engagement is is firm and precise with a pleasing spring back.
The case size with bezel is just shy of 38 mm. It is quite a tall watch measuring 44.5 mm from lug to lug. It features a dodecagon case back which is not typical of other Bulova watches – these case shapes are often used by other brands so was likely manufactured by a separate company. Inside the case back there is stamped ‘GG’. I can imagine this is the hallmark of the case manufacturer, I have delved deep and I cannot find any information – if you have any ideas please let me know!
The case is a chunky 14.2 mm thick – large enough to slip easily under a shirt cuff. But it’s not that sort of watch – it’s an adventure partner to take wherever you’re willing to go. The brushed finish on this piece is in great condition with razor sharp definition on all edges – this tool watch hasn’t seen much duty.
The once bright red and blue bezel has now faded to a relaxed pastel hue. I can only imagine that the strong Californian sun has beaten down on this watch and the solar rays have taken its toll. It’s not rare to see these Bulova chronograph models completely bleached of all original colour leaving behind a ghostly complexion. It’s a friction fit bezel and will spin both ways without any ratchet action.
The watch has acted like a time capsule on the 14EB movement. It’s in perfect working condition and currently gains about 5 seconds a day – fantastic for a 50 year old watch.
Either the waterproofing gaskets on the crown and case back have lived up to their deep diving abilities or this watch has never been subjected to the cold and briny sea.
This watch shows the indentations on the lugs of heavy bracelet use. These watches came with a flat link steel bracelet with case matched end links – a very rare item. It’s been a struggle to find a suitable replacement bracelet that really lives up to the legend it’s attached to.
I have tried NATO straps, Tropic bands, leather and jubilee style bracelets. They just don’t work as well as this ladder link dive bracelet. It’s similar to a Gay Freres, Certina or Elgin dive bracelet. It’s possibly the most comfortable bracelet I own and has huge ability to adjust. The one mark against this bracelet are the spring loaded end pieces – makes it look a tad cheap.
The brushed finish of the split pieces matches the case perfectly and has a shark cage feel about it. I can almost imagine this on an Alsta Nautoscaph. It’s a rugged strap that works well in hot weather and can take a beating.
Any Man’s Watch
Bulova understood this was a watch for any man – you didn’t have to be Jacques Cousteau to get the most out of this watch. Read the advert below – it mentions using the timer for gourmet cooking and to keep an eye on your parking meter. I find myself using this beauty for timing the BBQ.
So – just like the sand shark these chronograph models are an endangered species. When looking for these models look out for mongrels – mismatching components and non-Bulova movements.
They are out here – but just like swimming with sharks, it might cost you an arm and a leg.