Seiko vs Bulova: Which is better?

by Karlton Miko Tyack  |  in Watches

Seiko and Bulova practically grew up together. They were both founded in the late 1800s and they both started selling wristwatches around the early 1920s.

Watch historians recognize both brands as having made revolutionary contributions to the quartz world.

Today we’re comparing Seiko vs Bulova, so we can figure out which brand is right for you! 

This is more than a battle of Japanese efficiency vs American gumption though. After all, Citizen acquired Bulova in 2008. Both are backed by a history of disciplined watchmaking.

This should be interesting. Let’s get to it!

Is Seiko Better than Bulova?

Both Seiko and Bulova offer unique outside-of-the-box designs as well as classics. 

As we mentioned in our comparison to Orient though, Seiko focuses on traditionally high-quality timepieces at every price point. They take their role as a Japanese heritage brand seriously. Seiko’s innovations are based more in horological developments and less in aesthetics, for the most part. 

Bulova isn’t afraid to be irreverent with their modern designs, while their classics tend to be riffs on popular vintage models. Basically, they love playing their greatest hits, and they do it masterfully! The latter can be seen in their swanky Frank Sinatra tribute line, and the former in their arty Frank Lloyd Wright line.

Let’s do a quick overview of each brand, starting with Bulova.

Bulova Watches

Bulova is one of my favorite mid-tier watch brands, which is why we were able to round up 15 of our favorites so easily! They’re affordable so there’s room to have fun and take risks when adding to your collection, and they’re of decent-to-great quality depending on the model you go for.

We mentioned that Seiko’s design developments are more horologically-based, but that doesn’t mean Bulova hasn’t made advancements that changed the watch world too. 

Their 1960 electromechanical Accutron used a tuning fork instead of a balance wheel for timekeeping, which makes for greater precision. NASA even used this tuning fork technology in all of their timekeeping devices, including the spacecraft panel clocks aboard the 1969 moonwalk mission!

And of course, Bulova saved the day during the 1971 Apollo 15 mission when Commander Scott’s Omega broke. 

Keeping up with their tradition of accuracy, Bulova introduced the world to their NN50 calibre in 2014. This is their famous ultra high frequency (UHF) movement, which uses a tuning fork type quartz crystal for a vibrational frequency eight times more than regular quartz watches

So yes, today Bulova is a fun brand with cool experimental designs like the frenetic cut-out aesthetic of their Sutton 96A187 or the combination of sport and dress styles with their Marine Star. However, they still have a notable horological resume.

Seiko Watches

Bulova may have mastered the quartz movement, but Seiko invented it. In 1969, the Astron launched the quartz revolution, changing the watch industry forever. 

And when they aren’t leading the charge on new innovations, they’re trying their hand at each one as they come along, and eventually mastering them. This is undoubtedly Seiko’s biggest strength. They’re a brand that does everything.

That’s why they have so many sublines! On top of that, it’s safe to say that Seiko has the widest range of price points in the industry.

This also allows them to compete with high-end Swiss heritage brands, something Bulova simply doesn’t have the capacity for. Grand Seiko’s beautiful spring drive movements are incredibly unique, accurate, and sought after by upscale collectors.

And ever respectful, Seiko is known for mastering tried-and-true classic designs.

Comparing Seiko vs Bulova Models

Let’s compare some Seiko and Bulova models in the categories of budget, sport, dress, and luxury watches.

Budget Watches: Bulova Classic 96A153 vs Seiko 5 SNKE49K1

Bulova Classic 96A153

If you love nostalgic pieces but don’t want to look like a time traveler, go for this unique dress watch. The face features heavily outlined painted font, inspired by the indices of my favorite vintage tank Bulovas from the 1950s.

Bulova Dress Watch (Model: 96A153)

Classic brown leather strap watch with silver white dial.

Check Latest Price

Yet, it’s updated and repurposed onto a modern round 40mm case. It’s elegant and fun, making it appropriate as an everyday watch too, especially with its accurate quartz movement.

Seiko 5 SNKE49K1

As a Seiko 5, the SNKE49K1 is filled to the brim with functionalities for its price point. It runs on Seiko’s in-house 7S26 movement and features a day/date function. It’s definitely the better timepiece for budget-minded horology buffs.

Moreover, any guy can rock this handsome sport watch thanks to its classic stainless steel construction and 38mm case.

Seiko SNKE49K1

A beautiful timepiece featuring a stainless steel case and band, push-button release clasp.

Check Latest Price
02/14/2023 10:28 am GMT

When it comes to versatility and functionality, Seiko wins this round. We’ve explored the Seiko 5’s remarkable quality-to-price ratio on several occasions. At this price point though, it’s safe to choose a watch based fully on looks if that’s your preference, and the 96A153 is a distinctly Bulova-style combo of modern and vintage.

Sport Watches: Bulova Lunar Pilot vs Seiko 5 SRPD55K1

Bulova Lunar Pilot

This historical Moonwatch doesn’t just rest on its legendary laurels. It’s a high-functioning sport watch with a versatile and masculine aesthetic that looks great on a leather or stainless steel bracelet.

Bulova Men's Lunar Pilot Chronograph
$750.00 $562.50

This watch is arguably a Speedy competitor at a much lower price-point and is the closest to the Speedmaster when it comes to historical significance and heritage.

Shop Amazon Shop Jomashop
02/17/2023 11:23 am GMT

This quintessential chronograph boasts a sapphire crystal, 100m water resistance, and is powered by Bulova’s coveted UHF movement for unparalleled accuracy.

Seiko 5 SRPD55K1

The SRPD55K1 runs on Seiko’s 4R36 movement, which is an upgrade from the 7S26 that older Seiko 5s run on. It’s an in-house 24-jewel automatic movement that’s hand-winding and hackable. The SRPD dive watches are like the shiny, modern younger brothers of Seiko’s well-loved SKX divers and are equally as versatile. 

Seiko 5 SRPD55K1
$239.98 $203.99

This watch features a double-sided automatic lift (magic lever); plus has a power reserve of 41 hours.

Check Latest Price
02/14/2023 08:23 am GMT

Here, it’s truly a matter of preference. Overall, the Lunar Pilot is packed with premium features and historical importance to boot. It’s also much sleeker looking.

As far as the Seiko SRPD goes, mechanicals will often be more fascinating than quartz watches to the horologically-inclined. In this case though, we’re comparing a decent workhorse mechanical to the king of quartz movements.

Dress Watches: Bulova Frank Sinatra My Way 97A158 vs Seiko Presage Cocktail Time SSA343J1

Bulova Frank Sinatra My Way 97A158

The Classic 96A153 alludes to the antique yesteryear Bulovas, but the Sinatra My Way fully emulates them. This posh timepiece is part of the brand’s Sinatra-inspired line (the crooner was a big Bulova fan himself.

Bulova Dress Watch (Model: 97A158)

Incorporating vintage Bulova designs with the unmistakable elements of legendary performer, Frank Sinatra, the ‘My Way’ watch features a gold-tone stainless steel rectangular case with a silver white dial, gold-tone hands and markers. Frank Sinatra’s signature is displayed under the Bulova logo and his iconic Fedora hat is etched on the gold-tone crown, as well as on the caseback along with the name, ‘My Way’.

Check Latest Price
02/14/2023 09:08 am GMT

It features his signature under the logo, his fedora hat embossed on the crown, and it even comes in a beautiful display box designed to look like a vinyl album box set. It also has an elegant second-hand sub sweep and a curved sapphire crystal.

Seiko Presage Cocktail Time Sky Diving

The Presage line is Seiko’s dress watch counterpart to their Prospex line, worlds more affordable than Grand Seiko but much more upscale than their core line.

The sunburst dial is complemented by a pattern coming from the center of the face, for a sophisticated and interesting dial. The date wheel and the power reserve add a masculine and decorative touch to this fancy timepiece.

Seiko Presage Cocktail Time Sky Diving

The sunburst dial is complemented by a pattern coming from the center of the face, for a sophisticated and interesting dial. The date wheel and the power reserve add a masculine and decorative touch to this fancy timepiece.

Check Latest Price
02/14/2023 07:13 am GMT

Again, when it comes to watch-making functions, Seiko is characteristically generous here. However, Bulova serves up nostalgia with a heavy hand, as the My Way fully embodies a uniquely antique design, with updated, practical functions.

As a quartz watch, it’s definitely more accurate than the Seiko too. I don’t see why both of these can’t be in the same watch collection!

Luxury Watches: Bulova Accutron Gemini 63B159 vs Grand Seiko Sport GMT Sport SBGE201

Bulova Accutron Gemini 63B159

This creative and limited edition timepiece is designed to be adventurous looking, like the watch of an international superspy. It was developed in partnership with Sir Richard Branson and features a titanium case, a chronometer certification, and an individual number making each literally one-of-a-kind.

Bulova Accutron Gemini 63B159

This limited edition, individually numbered, chronometer certified Sir Richard Branson timepiece is truly one-of-a-kind. Its titanium case, black genuine leather strap, world timer addition, and automatic GMT movement makes this piece a must-have for your collection.

Check Latest Price

The Gemini piece will definitely turn heads and start conversations.

Grand Seiko Sport GMT Sport SBGE201

Another classy and timeless piece from Grand Seiko that will never go out of style. It runs on the upscale subline’s claim to fame, the gorgeous and accurate spring drive movement, which is powered by a mainspring just like a high-end Swiss watch.

Uniquely though, it also has a quartz oscillator for incomparable precision that only a brand that’s mastered mechanical and quartz constructions can build — AKA only Seiko! 

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT Sport Watch SBGE201

Equipped with a GMT hand, this watch features Grand Seiko’s unique Spring Drive caliber, which combines the motive force of a mainspring with the high precision of a quartz watch. The second hand movement over the black dial, further highlights a glide motion that reflects the natural and continuous flow of time itself. The high-quality sapphire glass on the surface of the ring provides a strong sense of transparency, breadth and depth.

Check Latest Price
02/14/2023 01:38 pm GMT

Bulova wins for distinct design, but Seiko wins when it comes to unique functionality. Since both are such considerable investments, choosing which is right for you is a matter of your priorities.

Of course, Grand Seiko’s aesthetic designs are exquisite, but what makes it especially unique lies beneath the face, while the Accutron’s novelty is the face itself.

The Final Verdict

Quality-wise, Seiko has a lot more to offer. As mentioned, they do everything, from solar to automatics, from cheap to wildly expensive. If you’re looking for a luxury watch, Bulova simply can’t compete with the Swiss overlords the way Seiko does. You just have to pay for it.

However, Bulova gives us an unrestricted range of designs, all affordable, most of excellent quality. It’s simply a fun, low-barrier brand to collect from.

For the horology buffs, Seiko definitely wins. For the nostalgic and irreverent, Bulova isn’t afraid to experiment. Each brand has something different to offer, so I believe comprehensive watch collections can easily have pieces from both!

We hope this was helpful. Which brand do you prefer? Let us know by hitting us up on Twitter or on Instagram!