If you're like me, you associate formal wear with big expenses. Whether you're buying shoes, belts, ties, or anything classy, you'd better be ready to shell out hundreds of dollars.
What if there was a way to look classy without breaking the bank? The Bulova 96b104 might be the solution to your problem if you're on a budget and want a professional-looking watch.
By buying this mighty little timepiece, you get elegance, accuracy, and sturdiness. What if I told you this could all be yours for less than $100? Is it too good to be true? Let's find out!
Weight (no strap)
The first thing that drew me towards the Bulova 96b104 is its small case size. At 37mm wide, this timepiece will look good on anyone with wrists above 6''. Even if you have thick wrists, a small dress watch will always look very classy.
Also, it's important to note that the lugs protrude quite a bit (as pictured above), so this makes the 96b104 wear a bit larger than other 37mm watches.
The next measurement I want to draw your attention to is the case thickness. With a thin 6mm profile, the Bulova 96b104 is a perfect watch to wear with long-sleeve dress shirts. This is one of my only watches that slide under my cuffs no matter how tight they are.
Finally, it's good to take note of the 20mm lug width, as you will most likely want to change the OEM strap (the watch is pictured above on a third-party strap).
You've probably guessed from the 6mm case thickness that the 96b104 is equipped with a quartz movement. Unfortunately, Bulova doesn't say exactly which model it uses, but it's a pretty standard caliber.
Like most quartz movements, you will get an accuracy of about +- 15 seconds/month. This is way more accurate than any mechanical caliber, but it lacks a bit in personality.
However, what I like the most about my 96b104 is that I don't need to wind it. This way, I can pick it up on Monday morning without needing to set the time or date. What it lacks in personality it makes up for in convenience.
At such a low price point, Bulova has no choice but to get affordable components. This translates into a flat mineral crystal that's leveled with the bezel.
While it won't be as scratch-resistant as sapphire, I've found that this crystal is more scratch-resistant than what I'm used to from mineral. After almost two years of ownership, I've yet to put a single noticeable scratch on the crystal, and I'm pretty rough with it.
This leads me to believe that the crystal is hardened in some sort of way, but there's no way to confirm this.
Water resistance isn't a feature that's usually a priority when shopping for a dress watch. For this reason, Bulova uses a push-pull crown and a "snap-on" case back which only allows for 30 meters of water resistance.
This low rating means you can't take your 96b104 for a swim, but it will withstand light splashes such as rain or dishwater. I'm perfectly fine with this since I never plan on swimming with a dress watch on.
To cut the costs down to a minimum and to stay true to its dressy styling, Bulova didn't apply luminous phosphorescent on the dial.
I'm perfectly fine with this decision because it's aligned with the minimalist design of the 96b104 and it allows for slimmer hands & indices. Also, lume on a dress watch can be a deterrent to many potential buyers.
To stay in tune with the dressy styling of the 96b104, Bulova uses a fixed stainless steel bezel with a polished finish. This looks amazing when you first get the watch, but a polished surface is almost always a scratch magnet.
As you can see above, you can't expect your 96b104's bezel to stay flawless throughout its ownership, but I do think that these scratches add a bit of character to the watch. If you're absolutely adamant about having an intact bezel, you can always repolish it every once in a while.
Dressy / Minimalist
316l Stainless Steel
The dial of the 96b104 is an absolute showstopper and it is the main reason why you should buy this timepiece. It has the best finishing I've ever seen on such a cheap watch; the pearly white dial has a sunburst texture that will change from white to silver under different lighting.
In my opinion, the 96B104 represents the essence of minimalism. The dial is truly uncluttered even though it has a date display. This date display is extremely small, so it adds functionality to the watch without taking away from the minimalist look.
I must admit that there's a slight downside to this neat-looking dial: legibility. With no minute marks, it can be very hard to read the time accurately. You will have to guesstimate what time it is based on the position of the minute hand, but you will most likely be a minute or so off.
This problem isn't a big deal to me since I wear dress watches as a fashion statement more than an actual timekeeper. Also, reading the time with a +- 1-minute accuracy is sufficient in most situations.
The only other element that you'll find on the 96b104's dial is the printed Bulova logo below the 12 o'clock index.
The pencil hands of this Bulova are simple yet elegant. They are shaped like normal baton hands, except for the tip which is pointy like a pencil. Those hands are very slim and understated, which contributes to the minimalist styling of the 96b104.
The hands are so small in fact, that you will almost need a microscope to notice the pencil tip since they look like regular baton hands to the naked eye. Finally, the second hand has an even slimmer needle shape.
The indices of the Bulova 96B104 are baton-shaped and super slim, which goes well with the near-identical hands. As you can see above, the stainless steel indices are applied to the dial, which is nice considering the low price of the watch. Usually, cheap watches will have painted-on indices.
The Bulova 96b104 comes from the factory with an alligator leather replica band. While it isn't uncomfortable per se, I did change it within the first week of ownership. The reason is quite simple: the OEM strap is extremely light and flimsy, which makes the watch feel much cheaper than it is.
Instead, I bought the aftermarket leather strap pictured above, which instantly made the 96b104 feel like a million bucks. Since you spend little money on the timepiece itself, I think it's 100% worth it to spend an extra $15-$20 on a quality leather band.
Unlike cheap watches that are usually equipped with chrome-plated brass cases, the 96b104's case is made of 316l stainless steel like most modern timepieces. This Bulova has polished lugs, bezel, and case sides.
This gives a classy vibe to the watch when you first get it, but the polished surface will get scratched quite easily as you can see from the pictures above. Nonetheless, the 96b104 is a very sturdy piece that is more durable than many other dress watches.
Indeed, I'm a very clumsy person so I've hit my Bulova on doorknobs, walls, desk corners, and everything in-between. The only wear & tear is the visible scratches on the case, but the watch itself still works perfectly fine.
As you can see above, the case back has a nice circular brushing finish, it is equally as minimalist as the rest of the watch.
The one complaint I have for the 96b104's case is that the lugs are a bit pointy. You won't feel them in most situations, but I can feel them digging a bit into my wrist if I wear my strap too tight. Then again, the stinging sensation only happens if I move my wrist around in a weird manner.
In conclusion, I think the Bulova 96b104 is an awesome watch that should be in everyone's collection. It's super affordable, it has timeless minimalist styling, and it's sturdy & reliable.
If you're still unsure about getting the watch, I invite you to look over at the pros & cons list below or at my Youtube review. If you're ready to add the 96b104 to your collection, here's the Amazon link.