Bulova Marine Star 98A227 Automatic watch review

I’m a sucker for sporty yet fashionable wrist watches, so seeing Bulova release a new variant of its Marine Star range, I simply could not resist getting my hands on one. This stunning automatic timepiece expands the conservative design of Bulova’s diving watch line with an open aperture and some vivid colours, especially if you go with the reference reviewed here. While not a true diving watch in that it lacks a rotating bezel with minute marker – a handy feature for scuba divers – the Marine Star’s visuals closely mimic a nautical design theme. Though with a clever choice of colour contrast and exceptional detail of the dial in the price range, Bulova made this watch to be just as fashionable with a business suit as it is with casual outfits.

Disclaimer: discussion on visuals concerns the reference model in question: 98A227 with rose gold/blue color combination. I will refer to this specific model simply as “reference” in the review below.

The reference Marine Star is by far the most impressive in the current range, packing stellar design aesthetic with a Japanese Myota 21 jewel automatic movement. Its open aperture design stands well apart from the traditional chronographs the product line offers, and seconds are nicely delegated to a small sub-dial to provide clean visuals. The movement here, of course, is displayed through a clear case back, though one won’t find exceptional levels of detail within the back of the mechanism. As it sits on top of the range, the reference 98A227 will also set you back the most funds, hovering within a premium of $150-200 over its siblings. That said, it is well worth the investment, as one of the few watches at the $500+ mark that you’ll immediately want once you see one on display. Bulova over the years has done a great job fleshing out its Marine Star line with a variety of designs, and 2019’s release is certainly far from disappointment.

The watch’s design captivates your attention thanks in large to the rose gold plating chosen for the case, which sits exceptionally well  against the overall aesthetic of its strap and dial. Most of the case is plated rose gold, aside from a thin blue ring around the bezel, and the former color’s large presence makes this Marine Star one of the brand’s most fashionable watches you could get your hands on. The flow of compliments hasn’t stopped since I’ve acquired this watch, and its striking visuals often make the onlookers think it costs more than its value would suggest. I further like Bulova’s choice of roman numerals for hour markers in this product range, which despite being a minor design element works exceptionally well here. At 45 mm wide, the reference Marine Star is far in size from subtle, yet consistently never feels oversized or uncomfortably hefty, which is a necessity I look for in sport watches where most can be on the rather thick side of case builds.

Bulova doesn’t slack when it comes to dial designs of its collections, and with the reference Marine Star, I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The extensive detail is immediately noticeable on the face, from the striking open aperture down to the striped ring around the hour markers. At the same time, the face of the watch remains very clean and legible thanks to a simplistic style of its movement. Only the hour and minute hands occupy the main dial, with running seconds displayed in a subdial at 5 o’clock. It looked weird at first how it shares some of the dial space with the open aperture, losing a part of the seconds ring where the two overlap, yet again designers at Bulova nailed the excellent visual contrast. A small rose gold ring runs around the subdial to highlight its presence on the watch’s face, and the bright red chosen for running seconds hand further augments the legibility. There’s a generous application of super-luminova paint on the hour and minute hands for legibility in the dark. On the other hand, I frankly wish for a date window here to fully complete the excellent package on offer, though at the same time it’s hard to see it integrate with the dial’s design. Simplicity often wins though, and prospective buyers won’t be disappointed by the clean visuals and legibility here.

The reference Marine Star comes on a two-tone silicone strap, which wears exceptionally comfortably on the wrist. On the outside, its color is set to match the dial, and the inner in this case perfectly contrasts the rest with a deep red. I find silicone straps to suit everyday wearability quite well, as they wear noticeably looser than rubber straps and it becomes a huge plus in the summer when you need some breathing room between the watch and your skin. As someone who’s worn rubber straps quite consistently, I find huge advantage in silicone straps, as wearing a hefty watch suddenly doesn’t hurt after a long day. In case with this Bulova watch, the silicone strap is exceptionally well-made, and offers a stylish alternative to leather straps. If it wasn’t for the slightly bulky size of the Marine Star range, it’d be easy to mistake this for a dressy wristwatch, as its elegant style can easily go along with most suit colours. As one would also expect, the strap is fully adjustable to fit most wrist sizes. I have fairly small wrists, and there was no issue in the fit, and more room remaining to tighten. Expect to encounter minimal problems in getting this watch to fit a variety of wrist sizes, and provide considerable comfort during everyday wear.

Bulova’s Marine Star line presents an attractive option for everyday wear, although I wouldn’t go as far as saying you’d want to wear it as a beater watch. This particular reference is especially spectacular in its design and craftsmanship, so it’d be a waste to subject it to any levels of abuse. In my experience, the Marine Star can easily sustain minor bumps and surface touches, though I’d avoid wearing it throughout much physical labor. The reference watch is simply too nice in style to be subjected to rough conditions, though outside that one would love the attention this watch gets from those around you. Of course, at this price point the Bulova doesn’t offer anything especially outstanding to captivate true watch connoisseurs, though to most enthusiasts, there’s plenty of value to be found here. The exceptional combination of style, comfort and durability makes the reference Marine Star a very attractive sport timepiece you’d both enjoy wearing everyday, and won’t regret sending your hard-earned money.

Within the reference Marine Star is a Japanese Miyota 8215 21-jewel automatic movement, widely regarded for its inexpensive construction yet fairly extensive longevity. It’s a simple 3-hand movement, which in this case displays running seconds through a sub-dial that shares the lower dial portion with an open aperture. That aperture works as a subtle way to showcase parts of the movement without going over the top with a skeletonized dial, thus little detail is lost on the overall face of the watch. From the back, one can observe the Miyota movement through a transparent mineral crystal that takes up the rear of the case. The movement is shown in good detail, and the craftsmanship would be well worth paying double the current retail price of the Marine Star. To shield the mechanism from impacts and water, Bulova enclosed it in a sturdy stainless steel case, which despite its noticeable thickness wears much thinner compared to a few sport watches I’ve purchased before it. The case further offers water resistance up to 200m, with a screw-down crown ensuring the movement is shielded from liquids. Although you can’t fully use the Marine Star as a true diver’s watch, you won’t be afraid to take it out on a swim either.

The Miyota 21-jewel movement holds a power reserve of roughly 36 hours, though wearing it regularly naturally eliminates concerns of keeping an eye on when it’s time to wind the Marine Star. Automatics continue to operate through regular wrist movement, which extends the running time of the manually wound spring. Though if you’re like me and have 3-5 watches, sometimes it’s easy to forget the Miyota 8215 needs to be wound fairly regularly. 

Affordability is something Bulova is very good at, as most of their watch collections showcase well-executed designs, which are then paired with highly reliable quartz or automatic movements. The reference Marine Star is no exception, and in my opinion, offers some of the best aesthetics among all Bulova wristwatches in general. It certainly grabs attention with its rose gold case plating, and no matter what you wear it with, it combines the comfort of sport watches with looks of dressy styles so effectively, getting compliments on it won’t be a rare occurrence. At its retail price point of $600-750 depending on where you buy, the reference Marine Star offers fantastic specs that are well-worth the investment. It’s one of the nicest looking dive watches out there, and despite lacking the full functionality of its market category, offers a fashionable design that’s especially great to wear in the summer.

With the reference Marine Star, Bulova has created a fine combination of sporty looks and dressy style, resulting in a stylish watch you could wear with almost everything. The striking face of the dial captivates attention with a fantastic contrast between its shade of blue and the rose gold of the case, which go exceptionally well in combination. Remaining fairly slim compared to many other diving watch options, this Marine Star offers lighter wearability, which results in huge gains in daily comfort that augments the excellent silicone strap. Particularly compared with rubber straps commonly used in sport watches at similar prices, Bulova wins significantly by offering you one of the best options right out of the box. The reference Marine Star is well worth your investment, getting you much quality for the attractive price range this watch sits in, and overall presents a good daily wearer for fashion-driven enthusiasts that desire a relatively good quality movement as well.

Available through retailers: Hudson’s Bay, Amazon


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