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The 7 Best Affordable New Bullhead Watches - A Buyers Guide

Posted on November 27 2020

Affordable Bullhead Watches

 

What is a Bullhead Watch?


Bullhead is a nickname given to chronograph watches that have their pushers and crown on the top of the watch case. The two pushers resemble the horns of a bull. This style is retro and sporty, with the cases often being quite chunky. It’s a bold aesthetic that originated in the 1960s and is still available now, albeit without ever gaining a popular appeal.

I’m a fan of the style and want to take you through a brief introduction to this type of watch - what constitutes a Bullhead - and then present you with what I believe are the best current affordable examples. It’s a fun niche and an inexpensive way to get an eye-catching timepiece.

The History of Bullhead Watches


A typical Bullhead watch looks like it was designed in the late 1960s or 1970s. The slightly odd style is of its time, and like an iconic military watch, its appeal lies in the authenticity. In the watch as a reminder of an earlier era.

The original concept for the Bullhead did originate in the 1960s and appears to be a variation on the racing chronographs that were popular at the time. I’m assuming that the repositioning of the chronograph pushers and crown had an ergonomic function as they do feel quite comfortably positioned.

The brands initially releasing Bullhead models included Breitling, Bulova, Tissot, and most famously, Omega. Bullheads from these brands, particularly the Swiss, were high-quality pieces with in-house mechanical chronograph movements.

Other manufacturers did more affordable models, with both Japanese giants, Seiko and Citizen, releasing more modestly priced models. The Citizen featured in this posts graphics was a watch of mine. As you can see, it looks like a cross between a stop-watch and a racing chronograph. It has an in-house hand-winding movement and Brad Pitt wears a similar Citizen model in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Citizen Bullhead Watch


What becomes apparent when studying this Citizen and other Bullheads is that the pushers are just a part of the overall design. The second distinctive design point is the case shape. As you’ll notice, very few Bullheads have a uniform case. They have an unbalanced style. Normally they will be wider at the top and then taper off towards the bottom.

I’d also expect to see a relatively busy dial - often colourful - and a racing strap.

Although never a popular design, there has been a small resurgence of the style in recent years. Omega, for example, has recreated their Bullhead as a part of the Seamaster Heritage line. Given the price of vintage examples - they were originally built in small numbers - this is a relatively affordable option.

However, there have also been a number of releases from genuinely affordable brands and those are the ones that I’d like to present here. Inexpensive watches that you can buy now.

 

Citizen Tsuno Racer Watch

 

I want to jump straight in with another Citizen watch. But first, a little background about the company, and importantly, the movement inside the watch.

Originally created in Switzerland in 1930, the aim of Citizen from its inception was to sell watches to the Japanese market. After an initial transfer of technology from Switzerland, the company then took over existing watchmaking facilities in Japan.

The company has been at the forefront of technological advancement in watchmaking. Specifically, the transition from mechanical to battery-powered quartz movements. From there Citizen has created a number of innovative watches, with the Eco-Drive collection now being central to their brand. This Bullhead is another example of an Eco-Drive powered watch, so it’s worth just having a reminder about what this actually means.

The concept of Eco-Drive watches is simple. The watch movements are designed to convert both natural and artificial light into energy to power the watch. Initially developed in the 1970s, this technology has allowed Citizen to produce watches that never need a battery change. This environmentally friendly technology has proven popular and has won the brand environmental protection awards.

By default, it’s the movement of choice in Citizen watches, although I did look at their automatic line here.

The Tsuno Racer is Citizen’s modern take on the Bullhead and the name certainly references the motorsports heritage - more about Motorsports and watches here. The design is a little less sporty than my vintage piece, but depending on the model, it’s more colourful. However, at 45mm it is significantly larger.

It’s a very busy watch, with the date having been crammed in between 1 and 2 - a bit unconventional - but you’re probably browsing for Bullhead watches because you don’t want conventional.

As you can see from the photo’s of my bullhead, it came with a bracelet which I swapped out for a racing strap. I’d be tempted to do the same with this model.

This is probably my favourite affordable bullhead chronograph.

Citizen Tsuno Racer AV0070-57L

  • 45mm Diameter
  • 15.5mm Thick
  • Stainless Steel
  • Eco-Drive movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 



Stuhrling Torero Bullhead Watch

 

I’ve featured Stuhrling watches in a couple of posts now (more here). When I’ve been looking at alternatives to a piece from a Swiss luxury brand there’s regularly been a similar styled Stuhrling model. I’ve also kept them on my radar and spotted a few more interesting pieces.

In an industry where companies like Citizen can sometimes boast of over a hundred years of history, Stuhrling is a new face. They’re less than twenty years old and claim to have sold over fifteen million watches in that time.

Founder Chaim Fischer is based in New York, but the watches are proudly manufactured in Shenzhen, China. I say proudly because the website features articles detailing the reasons for choosing China, including videos of the watch manufacturing process.

I’m sure you’re aware that Torero is the Spanish word for Bullfighter. I get more of the motorsports vibe than bloodsports, but it’s nonetheless a nice watch.

There’s less going on with the Stuhrling, compared to the Citizen, but it is still a complex design. I find with Bullheads that they just about manage to stay on the right side of the line in terms of being over-complicated and over-whelming.

The Torero is a little like this. The prominent white sub-dial, tachymeter and bold numbering all attract attention - almost stopping you taking in the watch as a whole. But when I do, I see a well balanced, retro-styled sports watch. It’s smaller than the citizen and has a quartz-powered chronograph movement.

Stuhrling Torero 894.02

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 12.5mm Thick
  • 12mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 



Mondia Bolide Watch

 

Mondia is an Italian based brand that has a Swiss heritage. Initially founded in the 1930s, the company was based in Le Locle, Switzerland, and was eventually taken over by Zenith. They are now distributed by Mondia Italia as a subsidiary of Sordi Spa - an Italian watchmaker based in Milan.

The Bolide looks like a stopwatch, giving the impression of being a functional timer, rather than a wristwatch. The pushers are very prominent, as are the hands. Despite all of the different design elements, the watch still retains a utilitarian look. I particularly like the plain black bezel.

It’s another reasonably large watch - 45mm wide and 13.5mm thick. And once again, it’s powered by a Japanese quartz movement.

Even for a Bullhead, this watch has quite a bold appearance. Where the Citizen would wear well with smart casual dress, I’m not so sure about the Mondia. It’s firmly in the sports niche, having a strong and unique appearance.

Mondia Bolide MI769-4CP

  • 45mm Diameter
  • 13.5mm Thick
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Elysee Rally Time Watch

 

Like the Tsuno Racer, the Rally Timer’s name gives away the design inspiration. It’s another Motorsports watch, although the design is restrained compared to some of the others on my list. It’s specifically created in tribute to German racing driver Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips.

Elysee is a German company that, like Mondia, was previously a Swiss brand. It has been run as a German business since the early 1990s and can now boast that their watches are Made in Germany.

One of the things that appealed to me about this watch, was the practical nature of the design. The pushers and crown are moderately sized and the case doesn’t have the larger top half of many Bullhead’s. That makes for a watch that, whilst missing some of the distinguishing features of the style, is a good everyday wear.

The colour palette is also fairly basic, although they do have a number of other colour options. But the general feel is the same. A bullhead chronograph that emphasises the chronograph more than the Bullhead.

The specs are decent and include a Miyota movement and sapphire crystal. There’s 100M water resistance and the leather strap is 22mm wide.

Elysee Rally Timer 80522

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 15mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Detroit Mint Mach Bullhead Watch

 

Detriot Mint is a quirky little business that seems to have started as a small ebay seller customising watches. From there, the business began to assemble watches in the USA.

The Mach is a tidy Bullhead design in a case that almost looks like a cushion case. There are gold and silver coloured versions, with the silver available in both polished and brushed variations.

At 40mm it’s among the smallest on the list, much nearer the size of my vintage Citizen model. Indeed, this reminds me of the Citizen, having a very similar dial and colour scheme. It has a silver dial, with three black sub-dials and the orange accents. All the same as the Citizen.

Of all the watches on my list, this is the one that authentically recreates the mid-sized, vintage Bullhead watch - the one that first whet my appetite for the style.

Detroit Mint Mach

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 13mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Sorna Bullhead Watch

 

Yet again, we have a heritage brand that has been revived by new owners. Sorna is now German-owned and produces very affordable automatic watches. Interestingly, Bullhead designs are at the core of the brand’s range.

This model is such an out-dated design that it is achingly cool. It’s chunky to the point of being uncomfortable, as well as colourful and distinctive. It’s also inexpensive - it’s an automatic that is cheaper than the quartz models on the list.

Where some of the other watches have a subtly, the Sorna doesn’t. It benefits from that, and really itches the scratch for a retro watch. It’s a fun piece that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
I'm not sure all of the shapes used in the design have names. How do you describe the case shape or the sub-dials? There's none of the symmetry that I normally like. But taken as a whole, it works.

And it’s cheap.

Sorna Automatic Bullhead

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 13mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal

 



Viceroy Heat Bullhead Watch

 

The Viceroy Heat is a contrast. It’s a well thought out, controlled design that uses the Bullhead template to produce a contemporary looking watch. There are hints of vintage in the design, the strap and the pushers for example, but the dial and text is modern.

Viceroy isn’t a company that I’m particularly familiar with, being a Spanish owned fashion brand. From the little that I do know, the Heat seems to be one of the best watches that the brand has produced.

It ticks a lot of boxes. At 43mm, it’s mid-sized. It’s colourful, without being garish. And the sporty aesthetic doesn’t stop it being a smart-looking piece. Like the Sorna, the price plays a big part in the appeal. It’s a little over £100, making it a very accessible watch.

This would be a great place to start to see if a Bullhead watch is for you.

Viceroy Heat 46763-24

  • 43mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


Conclusion


Bullhead style watches aren’t a popular watch design, but they have been marketed since the 1960s. They’re sporty, instantly recognisable and produced by both luxury and affordable brands. There’s a spectrum of styles that ranges from the smart to the outrageous.

My list includes what I believe are the seven best affordable examples. Watches that provide the Bullhead DNA at a realistic price. With many of my lists, I have to filter out a lot of good watches to come up with a succinct post. In this case, there wasn’t a lot to choose from - most brands don't have a Bullhead model the way that they may have a diver or an aviation piece.

If you’ve others to add, let me know below.


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1 comment

  • Sam Chapman: January 06, 2021

    The main reason I’m interested in the Bullhead layout because you then don’t get the winder and buttons digging into your wrist on flexing your hand. Ergonomically, reaching across to where the wristband is, rather than the sides of the watch, is also more convenient, if you are also flexing your wrist.

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