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Bulova Hack field watch review: a trusty timepiece with military credentials

A reissue of a classic design, the handsome Bulova Hack combines authentic wartime heritage with modern materials and a robust automatic movement

Bulova Hack
(Image: © Bulova)

Our Verdict

We’re big fans of the recent releases from Bulova’s Archive Series, and the Hack is no exception. This is a solid and practical little field watch with striking looks that is a compelling and much more affordable alternative to the Hamilton Khaki Field watch.

For

  • Small and wearable dimensions
  • Authentic field watch heritage
  • Robust automatic movement

Against

  • Fairly thick case
  • Limited water resistance
  • Mineral glass crystal

Bulova Hack: first impressions

In recent years, a number of major watch brands have raided their archives and rereleased classic or vintage designs, often to great acclaim. One such manufacturer is Bulova, whose Archive Series now includes everything from classic chronographs to retro-style dive watches. It also includes the Hack, a close replica of an authentic military-spec field watch that was originally issued to US soldiers back in World War Two.

Specifications

• RRP: $316 (US) / £289 (UK)
• Dimensions: 46mm (lug-to-lug) x 38mm (case diameter)
• Thickness: 13.3mm
• Weight: 67g / 2.36oz
• Movement: Japanese Miyota 82SO automatic
• Power reserve: 42 hours
• Water resistance: 30m / 100ft
• Materials & features: Stainless steel case with gunmetal PVD coating / Domed mineral crystal / Screw-down steel case back / Signed, knurled crown / Leather one-piece strap


Though the reissue retains the compact proportions and vintage looks of the original, it now has a modern automatic movement housed in a stainless steel case. This has a scratch-resistant gunmetal PVD finish that gives the watch a muted, tactical look. You get a solid caseback, an oversized knurled crown and a mineral glass crystal to protect the dial. This doesn’t offer the same scratch resistance as sapphire, but it’s still pretty tough. It also adds to the heritage military vibe of the watch, since the glass is a double-domed design that adds considerable vintage-style appeal.

The beating heart of the watch is a Japanese-made Miyota Caliber 82S0 movement. Although this is a basic automatic movement, it is famed for its reliability and has a 42-hour power reserve. Accuracy is typically within the range of -20/+40 seconds per day. Most importantly though, it hacks – hence the name of the watch. This means that when you pull the crown out, the seconds hand stops. In wartime, it was an essential prerequisite for a military issue field watch, since it enabled soldiers and officers to synchronize their watches – vital for coordinated infantry and artillery attacks. In the modern age, it enables quick and accurate setting of your wristwatch with, say, the digital clock on your phone.

But how did it fare when we put it to the test in the field for our best field watches buying guide? Read on…

Bulova Hack: in the field

Bulova Hack

You can drop it in the grass, no problem, just don‘t drop it in a lake – the water resistance ain’t great (Image credit: Matthew Jones)

Given its bona fide wartime heritage, it should come as no surprise that the Bulova Hack works pretty well as a modern field watch. That’s helped by the fact that Bulova have updated this classic watch with a modern automatic movement, now housed in an all-steel case. However, it retains the compact proportions of the original, as well as its simple, functional dial layout. 

Indeed, the uncomplicated format is one of this watch’s strengths. Two sets of numeral display 24-hour time, with the outer track from one to 12 given a splash of luminescent paint. In conjunction with the fully lumed handset and outer lume plots, this ensures decent nighttime readability. The high-contras, white-on-black dial delivers similar clarity in the bright light of day.

The Hack is a compact watch, with a relatively small 38mm case. This is faithful to the original sizing of mid 20th-century watches, which were typically much smaller than modern timepieces. It ensures that is feels unobtrusive on the wrist, and slides easily under cuffs. But at 13.45mm thick, the watch is still chunky enough to deliver good wrist presence. 

Bulova Hack

We were really impressed with the supple leather strap (Image credit: Bulova)

It’s a good-looking watch, aided by that gunmetal finished case. The strap supplied with the Hack is also a nice extra – it’s an olive green one-piece strap made from supple leather. It’s extremely comfortable, and though it’s not quite a true NATO-style pattern, it still ensures that if you manage to break a spring bar, the watch should stay attached to your wrist.

The Hack’s only real disadvantage as an outdoor watch is its modest water resistance. The crown doesn’t screw down, and the watch is only rated at 30m. That won’t be an issue for everyday wear, and even in heavy rain it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. It does restrict its use in or near the water, though, so this isn’t a timepiece to take swimming.

Still, that shortcoming aside, it’s a versatile daily wearer that combines great vintage styling with a reasonably robust case and movement. In that sense it has much of the same charm and character as the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical – but it has a self-winding automatic movement rather than a manual hand-winding movement, and is considerably cheaper too.

An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.