Closer Look at That Bulova Watch in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

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Closer Look at That Bulova Watch in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’

Postby PinkDiamond » Tue Jan 12, 2021 8:20 pm

Did any of you ever own one of these Bulova watches when you were young? If so, here's a bit of nostalgia for you. :)

Closer Look at That Bulova Watch in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’
January 5, 2021 by Amy Elliott

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"One is more likely to come away from watching Netflix’s superb and hugely popular TV miniseries The Queen’s Gambit with a newfound interest in the game of chess than an appreciation for a certain 1950s-era ladies watch, but at least one viewer (me) finished the series with a lingering curiosity about the Bulova that appears like a tiny, tinkling bell in the fourth episode.

In the show, Anya Taylor-Joy plays Beth Harmon, a teenage American chess prodigy who rises to acclaim in the late 1950s and flourishes in the 1960s (reveling in the fashions of the day as she ascends to glory).

In a brief, not particularly plot-critical scene, she receives a Bulova American Girl watch from her adoptive mother (Marielle Heller, pictured with Taylor-Joy, below) as a graduation gift. It is presented in an embossed box of a pretty blue hue and is engraved with the phrase “With Love From Mother.” The intimate exchange is fittingly accompanied by a champagne toast, and the watch itself is dainty and gold, with a faceted metal bracelet. It’s a feminine, elegant novelty that’s also a “precision timepiece” (actual marketing copy, see below)—a metaphor, perhaps, for how the male-dominated chess world initially regards Harmon’s tactical prowess on the chess board.

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Bulova spotting on actress Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen’s Gambit (bottom photo: Phil Bray/Netflix, all production stills courtesy of Netflix © 2020)

It’s also a pitch-perfect period detail for the series, which is set in 1950s–1960s suburban Kentucky, in a variety of glamorous hotels all over the world, and at least one dingy New York City apartment.

According to Bulova’s archives department, Harmon’s watch is an American Girl K from 1957. Models bearing the American Girl name have been used throughout Bulova’s history; the first instance occurs in 1933, and the watch, in a variety of design iterations, enjoyed a heyday between 1957 and 1960, when it was heavily promoted in advertising.

An ad from that era prices the American Girl K at $59.50 (about $551 today).

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Bulova American Girl ephemera, from left: “The tiniest watch in Bulova history” (1962 ad); “one glamorous ensemble” (1950s display); an American Girl from 1955 (images courtesy of Bulova)

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Contemporary Bulova watches with an American Girl flavor, $225–$275 each

Interesting to know is that the ... "
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