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Details about  1938 Vintage BULOVA ‘AMERICAN CLIPPER’ RGP Gold Art Deco Watch — 76 years old

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1938 Vintage BULOVA ‘AMERICAN CLIPPER’ RGP Gold Art Deco Watch — 76 years old
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Item condition:

Excellent condition throughout. Case is superb for its 76 years – just the lightest of surface

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27 Apr, 2014 17:37:58 BST
Winning bid:
11 bids ]
£7.50 Express Delivery | See details
Item location:
Budleigh Salterton, Devon, United Kingdom


eBay item number:
Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing.
Last updated on  21 Apr, 2014 15:55:57 BST  View all revisions

Item specifics

Condition: Used : Split the cost with friends
An item that has been previously worn. See the seller’s listing for full details and description of any imperfections. See all condition definitions- opens in a new window or tab
Seller notes: Excellent condition throughout. Case is superb for its 76 years – just the lightest of surface scratches and a tiny amount of wear to the case-back corners. ORIGINAL dial is very good, showing an attractive, all-over even vintage patina. Movement has just been SERVICED, and is running well, keeping good time. PLEASE SEE DETAILED DESCRIPTION AND STUDY CLOSE-UP PHOTOGRAPHS.
Gender: Women's, Men's Movement: Mechanical: Hand-winding
Brand: Bulova Model: 1938 ‘AMERICAN CLIPPER’ 17 jewel Bulova 10AE
Watchband Material: Leather Age: Vintage (1920-1970)
Display Type: Analogue

Offered for sale is this beautiful 1938 Art Deco vintage BULOVA ‘AMERICAN CLIPPER’ gentleman’s wrist watch in stunning original condition throughout. Just SERVICED, CLEANED AND OILED, it is running strongly and keeping good time.

This 76 year-old authentic vintage timepiece has gorgeous Art Deco styling with a distinctive ‘sky-scraper’ stepped bezel and is very collectable. It represents a sound investment that can be worn and enjoyed for many more years to come.

The watch is triple-signed BULOVA — on the dial, movement, and inner case-back, confirming its authenticity.

Most people that wear vintage watches do so as a statement of individuality and a fascination of the mechanical prowess and history that these unique and beautifully designed timepieces have witnessed throughout their lifetimes. A vintage car is not necessarily going to be the most reliable car on the road, even if it has just been serviced, but there is still something very special about owning and driving one. A vintage watch should be considered in a similar way.

If you are new to vintage watches please note that gentlemen’s watches of this era were generally made smaller than watches of today and THIS MAY NOW BE CONSIDERED SMALL FOR A MAN’S WATCH — see detailed measurements below.


The two-part 10k RGP (rolled gold plate) case is a very striking, Art Deco hexagonal design with a ‘sky-scraper’ stepped bezel. It is in remarkable condition for its 76 years, with no noticeable signs of wear to the top, just the usual very light surface scratches that one might expect on any used watch.  

Turning it over, the back is also excellent with the only signs of wear being some tiny areas to the case-back corners. On plated cases of this age, we often see much more wear than is apparent on this watch, so it has obviously been well preserved over the years. It is signed B–10K ROLLED GOLD PLATE on the back, together with the case serial number starting with ‘8’ signifying, on a Bulova of this design and with this particular movement, a manufacture date of 1938. The inside is signed BULOVA FIFTH AVE NEW YORK. The back fits perfectly to the top, snapping on tightly with no gaps.

The case has been ultrasonically cleaned and has polished up very nicely.

The acrylic crystal is clean and clear.


The ORIGINAL cream dial presents beautifully, having taken on an attractive, even natural patina over the years. There are no stand-out marks that detract from its overall impact of being an exceptionally nice original dial that just shouts authentic vintage. The raised gilt markers are bright and shining and the printed minute chapter and sub-dial intact and in good shape.

Most watch collectors would agree that an ORIGINAL dial in this sort of fine condition will add notable value to an already very desirable vintage watch.

The watch is powered by an American-made BULOVA 10AE 17-jewel hand-wound mechanical movement. The 10AE features a Breguet hairspring, as fitted to some other high-end watches, including Rolex, and noted for aiding more consistent timekeeping throughout the duration of the wind. This calibre movement was made from 1929 to 1940 and interestingly it is stamped with two date codes — an arrow symbol for 1937 and a moon for 1938. We often see this with vintage Bulovas where certain components somehow found their way through the date stamping machine twice. Its 1938 date matches that of the case.

For further reassurance and added value, this movement has just been STRIPPED, CLEANED AND OILED, and is running strongly, keeping good time* (please see note about vintage watch timekeeping below). It winds and sets smoothly (the crown does need a firm pull to bring it out) and the movement springs to life from a standing start almost immediately on winding the crown. 

Mechanical watches require periodic servicing and this can cost anything up to £100 each time. As this work has just been carried out, please factor this in to the value of the watch when bidding.

Please note that this watch will require fully winding once a day if you intend wearing it and occasional winding (every week or two) is recommended when not being worn.

*A general note on timekeeping and reliability

Please do not expect quartz accuracy from any vintage mechanical watch. The accepted timekeeping tolerances for a brand new watch back in the 1940s and 50s was +/- 3 minutes a day. Several decades on, many of these old watches will still keep time to well within these parameters and others may be slightly further out over the same period, though often they can be regulated to improve timekeeping. Even if a watch has been serviced, there may still be some wear or other idiosyncrasies within the movement that cause it to run less reliably and accurate than you may have been used to with a battery-operated watch. 

Mechanical watches usually spring to life of their own accord whilst being wound, but some may need a shake or light tap to get things moving. If I state that a watch has been serviced, it means that the movement has been dismantled, cleaned, reassembled and oiled and therefore restored to the best condition it can be, bearing in mind its age and without extensively replacing parts. It does NOT indicate that the movement is in ‘as new’ condition and exempt from potential problems at any time in the future — these are very old watches.

PLEASE NOTE THAT GENTLEMEN’S VINTAGE WATCHES WERE MADE SMALLER THAN WATCHES OF TODAY. I cannot emphasise this enough and yet I still find customers surprised at just how small these watches are in comparison with what they may be used to wearing. Please check out the following measurements on a ruler to satisfy yourself that you understand the size of this watch before bidding. THIS IS A COMPARATIVELY SMALL WATCH BY MODERN STANDARDS, CERTAINLY FOR A MAN, and will therefore also suit a lady’s wrist.
The case measures approximately 25.5mm wide, excluding the crown, by 29.5mm (36.5mm lug to lug) and 10.5mm deep including the crystal. The face/crystal measures 17mm x 26mm. The watch is supplied with a brand new 14mm wide, dark brown smooth leather strap measuring 240mm buckle to tip. This may be be considered a very narrow strap for a man, so please ensure you are completely happy with all these sizes before bidding.

I normally prefer to let the auction run to its conclusion but may, subject to bidding at the time, be prepared to consider appropriate Buy It Now offers early in the auction prior to the reserve price being reached.  

Vintage watches are proving to be a great investment, especially striking, highly collectable examples in such good condition as this from the more famous brands. I have set a reserve well below the watch’s actual value, so good luck if you decide to bid. 


I REQUEST PLEASE THAT THE WINNING BIDDER MAKES CONTACT WITHIN 24 HOURS of the auction finishing to confirm payment arrangements. Due to a growing number of non-payers, if payment is not made within 48 hours and no contact has been made by the buyer, an automated non-payment notice will be raised by eBay, after which I reserve the right to cancel the transaction and offer the watch to the next highest bidder. 
Your watch will be very securely packaged and despatched to you no later than the next working day following receipt of cleared payment, unless otherwise agreed. Please note that in order to qualify for eBay’s Seller Protection, I can only ship to a buyer’s eBay or Paypal registered address and therefore I am unable to send to any other third-party address.

For your reassurance, and mine, I will only ship by one of the following insured and trackable means:

UK Addresses

For UK buyers, your watch will be sent by ROYAL MAIL SPECIAL DELIVERY GUARANTEED at a flat cost of £7.50, which insures the item up to £500 and guarantees next working day delivery. The package is also fully tracked so you can check delivery status online at any time. For multiple purchases, I will happily include within the same postage cost.

International Addresses

For overseas buyers, the watch will be sent by one of the following methods, depending on location and buyer’s preference. A flat rate charge of £13.95 includes insurance up to £250, which is the the maximum available. Multiple purchases up to £250 total value will be included for the same shipping cost.

1. ROYAL MAIL INTERNATIONAL TRACKED AND SIGNED. This service is available to 43 countries and fully tracks the item from posting to delivery. It also requires a signature on delivery. I will use this preferred method if it is available to the country of delivery, unless you state that no-one will be available to sign for the package.

2. ROYAL MAIL INTERNATIONAL TRACKED. This is available to 33 countries and fully tracks the item from posting to delivery. It does not require a signature on delivery and may be preferred if no-one is likely to be at home to receive the package.

3. ROYAL MAIL INTERNATIONAL SIGNED. This is available to 190 countries and is tracked to the point where it leaves the UK and then confirms when delivered. It requires a signature on delivery.

Please see the attached link for a list of countries to which each of the above services relate:

Please note that overseas buyers are responsible for any additional import or customs fees imposed by their own country. 
Your satisfaction and my reputation are very important to me. If there is a problem on receipt of the item, PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE NEGATIVE OR NEUTRAL FEEDBACK. I will always do my very best to help resolve any issue to your entire satisfaction, so please contact me immediately on receipt of the watch if there is anything you are unhappy with.



As a watch collector myself, I like to be able to see what I am buying. That is why I provide the most comprehensive and accurate description I can, including close-up photographs from all angles. If there is anything else you would like to know about this watch, or to see further specific photos, please let me know and I’ll be happy to get back to you just as quickly as I can.

If you are new to vintage watches, here are a few things to be aware of:

Vintage watches, especially gentlemen’s watches, were generally made smaller than today’s contemporary timepieces. Please satisfy yourself before bidding that you are happy with its size by checking the dimensions shown above on a ruler. Having pointed this out, I regret that I am unable to accept returns if having purchased the watch you then consider it to be too small. 

Please be aware that vintage mechanical watches do not keep as accurate time as modern quartz watches and can gain or lose a few minutes a day. Whilst it may not be possible to achieve timekeeping comparable with a quartz watch, a good watchmaker can often regulate and fine-tune a movement (subject to its age and condition) to suit a particular person’s style of wearing and the typical angles that the watch experiences whilst on the wrist. It is not a good idea to try regulating the watch yourself — I strongly recommend taking it in to your local watchmaker who can remove the back with the correct tools and without damaging the case. They also work in dust-free conditions and this is very important as the smallest particle of airborne dust or hair entering the movement can be enough to stop a watch working.

Vintage watches are generally NOT waterproof, so be sure to keep your watch well away from water, steam or damp conditions. If exposed to such conditions, corrosion can form inside the movement and stop it working. It’s always a good idea to remove your watch when washing your hands and NEVER swim, shower or bath whilst wearing your watch.

Manual-wind mechanical watches typically require winding once a day until fully wound, but you should stop as soon as any resistance is felt. This can be anything from 20 to 40 turns. Normally, the watch will spring to life during the wind, but often these old movements require a shake or tap with the finger to get things moving. To change the time, pull out the winding crown until it clicks. If it doesn’t move, wind it backwards half a turn or so to engage the cogs and try again. Then wind the hands in a clockwise direction. It is normally fine to make small adjustments backwards, but best practice to wind forwards as some movements can otherwise suffer damage. Be sure to push the crown back in again afterwards. Always remove your watch from your wrist before winding or adjusting the time as this can cause damage to the winding stem. If you are not using the watch for an extended period of time, winding it once a week or so will help keep the oils distributed.

Mechanical watches require servicing every few years and an indicator that this is due will be that either the watch will run intermittently or stop working completely. If you purchase a vintage watch that has no service history and intend wearing it regularly, a trip to your local watchmaker is to be recommended so that you know this work has been carried out. A mechanical watch service entails completely stripping the movement and carefully inspecting and cleaning each component to remove dirt and congealed oil. The movement is then reassembled and oiled at specific lubrication points before being regulated and tested. Most watchmakers also utrasonically clean and polish the case when servicing.

I have made every effort to describe this watch as accurately as possible and am not aware of any defects not mentioned in the description. This watch being offered for sale is many decades old and under close scrutiny will show minor surface scratches and signs of use. Please study the photographs carefully which are intended as part of the description. They are enlarged many times for clarity but bear in mind that to the naked eye many of these imperfections are hardly noticeable. Please be aware that due to their age vintage watches can develop faults unexpectedly, even if they have been serviced, and can run erratically or stop working if exposed to magnetism (i.e. TV sets, computer equipment, audio speakers or any electrical motor generating electro-magnetic fields). Exposure to water, moisture or dust can also have devastating effects, or if the watch is accidentally dropped damaging one of the pivots or jewels. As the above factors are out of my control once the watch has left me, I regret that I cannot provide any ongoing guarantee beyond that it will be as described and in working condition when you receive it (it may need winding!). 

If there is any problem on receipt please let me know straight away. I package my watches very securely to minimise the risk of any damage, but a sudden jolt in transit can on rare occasions cause the hairspring to catch or hook up on itself and then the watch will not work. Also, scanning equipment used by postal and courier services has been known to magnetise a watch, stopping it from working. These are usually easy fixes so if there is any problem on receipt of your watch, PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE NEUTRAL OR NEGATIVE FEEDBACK. Contact me immediately and we’ll work out a solution — I want you to be completely satisfied. Likewise, if I’ve missed something and you feel I have misdescribed the watch, I will offer a full, no-quibble refund including postage cost, on the watch’s safe return

Please note that due to eBay scams, I will not sign for a return package unless by prior arrangement, so contact me first if there is any problem. 


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