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The Bulova Chronograph A, more commonly referred to by its nickname, the “Surfboard,” has been charming chronograph lovers since the early 70s. With a distinctive dial design that subconsciously makes you think of fun in the sun, it has achieved something of a cult following over the last 50 years, and was recently reissued to commemorate its initial release, and to give new watch fans a chance to experience the Chronograph A first hand. While the times have certainly changed since the Surfboard first came on the scene, the watch definitely retains the key design elements that have always left such a positive impression.
The first surfboard was released in 1970 as a specialty chronograph designed specifically for divers. While many chronos of the day were still geared toward auto enthusiasts, the Chronograph A was fitted with a rotating dive bezel that made it useful for recreational divers. The case construction also found itself in dive territory, borrowing much from the compact and lightweight “skin diver” cases that were popular at the time, with prominent and thick straight lugs that gave the watch a boxy shape. Later iterations of the Chronograph A were developed with a softer, cushion style case, which was every bit as much a product of its time.
Without a doubt, the defining characteristic of the Surfboard is the dial. After all, it’s the reason for the memorable nickname for the watch – not something Bulova planned on, but a turn of events that they’ve certainly embraced. On the vintage Chronograph A, a silver dial is accented with a long blue oval running through the mid-portion of the watch’s face, with sub-registers at 3:00 and 6:00, opposite ends of this oblong surfboard. While the dial arrangement certainly trains the eye to find the chronograph subdials within the surfboard, this unusual accent seems conceived purely for the impact of its style. Combined with orange-tipped “cigarette” hands, a bright orange chrono seconds hand, and a bezel incorporating blue and red, the impression of the original Surfboards was fun, breezy, and casual.
The new iterations of the Chronograph A pay loving tribute to the original in different ways. Bulova has taken an interesting approach here in relaunching the watch that we don’t see too frequently during a period when vintage reissues are the norm in the watch world. Rather than releasing just one watch to collectors which would inevitably be full of compromises, Bulova is offering two versions of the Chronograph A. One is essentially a one-for-one tribute to the original, and a true collector’s piece. The other is a much more accessible quartz version of the watch, which offers some variety in terms of color options, and all the easy-wearing charm the original would have had fifty years ago.
The Chronograph A Surfboard Limited Edition is a thoughtful boxed set that seeks to recreate the 1970 version of the Chronograph A using modern manufacturing techniques, in a package that is geared toward true fans. Here we have a recreation of the original blue and silver colorway, with those same orange accents, on a watch powered by a Sellita SW-510 BH b, a modern, automatic chronograph movement. The limited version of the Surfboard is mounted to a stainless steel bracelet that mimics the original, optional bracelet, and the whole thing is packaged in an attractive wooden box with a floral motif – truly an artifact of 1970s surf culture. The watch itself, and its presentation, are very much a time capsule.
If you’re a more casual fan of the Surfboard, or just a want a watch that’s fit to put through its paces, and maybe actually surf with, Bulova has also made available three brand new Chronograph A variants that have been mated to quartz movements, and been given a slight upsizing. The battery-powered versions of the Surfboard come in at 40.5mm, a great modern size for a sports watch where legibility is prized. The quartz Chronograph A is available in three colorways: black and red, orange and blue, or blue and red. There’s plenty of variety here, and each option is sporty in its own way, and very much true to the spirit of the original, even if the size and details have shifted slightly. The non-limited Surfboards are available on vintage style rubber straps that match their accent colors, which is a great detail, and true to the original version of the watch, which was often sold with a black rubber strap as standard equipment.
Regardless of the Bulova Chronograph A you choose, you’ll have an iconic watch on your wrist that screams summer fun. True design icons are rare, and with the recently released Surfboards, Bulova is presenting a rare opportunity to make a part of watch history your own. Bulova