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Bulova Marine Star 97B121 Review

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Ah, copper. It’s a material that surrounds us (just think about all the miles of wiring in your home and office), yet it’s something we rarely see. Which I think is a shame. Sure, you might see a brand new shiny penny, but that’s the exception. While today’s watch from Bulova is labeled as a rose gold tone piece, I think it might be more accurate to call the finish copper colored. Why am I so enamored with this particular finish?

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I’d trace it back to when I worked in a die casting shop, and we would have to do some work on the pieces in between the various stages of plating. Seeing a small flash of copper is one thing. Seeing the 4-foot bumper insert for an old Chevy is a whole different story. Seeing those, I often wished they’d just clear coat the piece (to prevent oxidation), as it’s a totally unique look – much warmer than with chrome or polished metal.

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In this Marine Star model (ref. 97B121), Bulova keeps things warm, pairing a black and brown dial to the case. All together, this is not a color combination that you’re likely to see all that often, and it really did gather quite a few remarks and compliments while I was reviewing the piece. While there’s plenty of varied texture to the dial itself, the main surfaces are in a matte finish. This then helps the polished (and lume filled) indices and hands to stand out that much more.

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Being a Bulova, it’s not surprising to find a chronograph function in the watch, expanding on their quartz accuracy lineage. Sure, it’s not an Precisionist, but it’s still plenty precise. Along with the chrono seconds (the large red hand in the center of the piece), you get one register (a 60-minute one) over at 9 o’clock. I think this is more than enough time for anything you’d be timing on your wrist. I also appreciate how they marked this one out, with a white circle around the edge. It’s easy to align that with the image of the chrono seconds sweeping, so you know which register to pick up.

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If you don’t feel like kicking off the chronograph, you’d also have the choice of timing things with the 120-click unidirectional bezel (which unfortunately has fake fastener heads on it). This is another place where the copper tone really does the watch some favors (the alternating brushed and polished finishes help as well). On a watch that has a single-piece bezel (ie, no insert), it can often feel a little flat, or tacked on after the fact, when in steel. Here, the finishing not only makes it look nice, it really does feel like an extra bit of functionality was added just for your benefit.

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Down at 6 o’clock, you’ve got your small seconds register, and over at 3 you’ve got a 24-hour register. This is set in lock with the main time display. While I generally like having a 24-hour time display, I find it more handy when you have a mechanical watch that’s run down, and you’re getting things set back. With a quartz that keeps on churning, though, it’s less of a useful piece (unless you’re in the land of the midnight sun, I suppose), especially given that you can’t set it independently (aka a GMT complication). Still, it keeps the dial layout balance, so it’s not like it hurts anything to be there.

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The last bit of data you can pick up from the watch dial would be the date display, and this one’s a bit of a miss for me. Given the overall color scheme, I really would have preferred to see a black (or maybe dark brown) background to the dial; the white dial just makes it a bit too jarring. Then again, this is something that’s become a bit of a personal sticking point for me – so do with that particular critique what you will.

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Overall, this is very much a dressy chronograph, though it can handle some light “sport” leanings with it’s 100m WR rating (good thing, being as it carries the Marine Star name). The solid link bracelet is easily adjustable for a good fit, and surprisingly contains a butterfly-style divers extension in the clasp as well. On the wrist, the 154g Marine Star is fairly lightweight and slim, slipping easily under a cuff. This particular Marine Star model is available now at a price of $499. bulova.com

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Review Summary
  • Brand & Model: Bulova Marine Star (ref 97B121)
  • Price: $499
  • Who’s it for?: The buddy looking for a flashier piece for the office
  • Would I wear it?: Yes, but I might consider swapping the bracelet for a leather strap
  • What I’d change: The faux screwheads on the bezel are an unnecessary distraction, and could be removed
  • The best thing about it:  The overall utility (functions and lume) combined with the copper color 
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