Bulova Corporate Center
Art Deco Building In Jackson Heights
Jackson Heights / Queens Buzz. We had occasion to visit the Bulova Corporate Building in Jackson Heights this spring. The building was once the Bulova Watch Company headquarters and manufacturing facility. The company vacated the building in the mid 1980’s at which time it was converted into an office complex. The renovation was done tastefully, as the renovation architects preserved many of the building details, and worked around its unique features and murals to create what is sure to become an architectural treasure of the 1950’s.
The Bulova Corporate Center
The Bulova Corporate Center was originally built in 1953 by the Bulova Watch Company. While the Bulova Watch Company no longer has a presence in the Bulova Corporate Center, they continue to maintain a presence at One Bulova Avenue in the Woodside neighborhood of Queens. The Bulova Watch Company is currently operating as a subsidiary of its Japanese parent, Citizen, the largest watchmaker in the world.
History Of The J. Bulova Watch Company
The J. Bulova Watch Company grew from a small Manhattan watch shop in 1875, into an independent global watchmaker in the mid 20th century. The company’s founder, Joseph Bulova, was a Bohemian immigrant who was an innovative craftsman and scientific businessman.
Bulova Watches – Innovative Technologies In Queens
During the early years of the Bulova Watch Company, Joseph adopted many new technologies, such as batteries and electricity, to power and create new timepieces that appealed to consumer tastes. In the early years, watches were very much a luxury item, and this luxury goods association continues to this day.
The Bulova Watch Company was also an innovator in timepiece accuracy. Its patented accutron technology gave birth to a high end line of watches that did not include a spring wheel, but rather a transistor chip that moved the hands by way of a tuning fork. The Accutron was such an improvement in timekeeping accuracy that Bulova guaranteed they would keep time within two seconds of each day. According to the Bulova website, the technology used in Accutron watches was eventually used aboard 47 space mission flights and in the 1960’s President Johnson declared the Accutron watch to be one of the official gifts of state.
Bulova Watch Company, Inc. – Innovative Marketers
Bulova also adapted to changing consumer preferences, such as moving from pocket watches to wristwatches in the early part of the 20th century; and creating one of the first clock radios in the late 1920’s. The Bulova Watch Company was also innovative in creating production efficiencies, by standardizing all of the pieces within its watches to make managing and replacing parts very efficient. Joseph Bulova, the company’s founder, died in 1935 leaving the company to his son Arde.
Bulova Watch Company In Queens – Innovative Advertisers
The Bulova Watch Company was also an innovative advertiser. Beginning in the 1920’s under the guidance of Arde, Bulova was one of the first companies to buy significant amounts of radio and television time to promote its products. By the mid 1950’s, Bulova was one of the most recognized brand names in America.
Bulova Corporate Center – Jackson Heights / Elmhurst
The Bulova Corporate Center was built in 1953 to house the growing fortunes of the Bulova Watch Company. The building was first designed to house the corporate offices and production facilities of the Bulova Watch Company. It’s central location near the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Grand Central Parkway made it easy to ship by land in any direction, as did its near proximity to both LaGuardia and JFK airports. Arde died in 1958 leaving the Bulova Watch Company to his son Henschel.
Henschel graduated from Brown and Harvard, but in spite of his stellar education, he missed adapting to some of the important changes in the watch making industry of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Under Henschel’s guidance it took Bulova five years to offer a digital watch and Bulova was also slow to adopt quartz crystals which replaced Accutron technology as the leading method for maintaining timepiece accuracy. In the 1970’s the company started losing money and thereafter was traded / sold several times – most recently in 2008 to the large Japanese watchmaking company: Citizen.
Bulova Watch Company Building Becomes Bulova Corporate Center
One of the interim owners sold the Bulova Corporate Center in Jackson Heights to a local real estate firm: the Blumenfeld Development Group [BDG]. In 1985 the Blumenfeld Development Group finished converting the three-story building into corporate offices, complete with an open atrium, waterfalls and natural lighting through various skylights. The renovation was done in an upscale manner as the facility also includes an auditorium, conference rooms, a gym, pool, racquetball courts, a restaurant, bank / ATM and some shopping amenities.
Bulova Corporate Center Renovations
The building renovation preserved a number of significant architectural details, many of which you can see in the photos included with this story. They include the art deco stairwells in the lobby of what was once the front of the building. Along those stairwells are murals depicting neo-classical Greco / Roman laborers working on the art and science of time keeping.
Bulova Corporate Center - Preservations
Further into the building there’s an unusual foyer, which resembles none other than the inside of a large clock. I don’t know its history or meaning, but when I do, I’ll include the information here.
The atrium provides an aesthetically interesting experience with skylights, the soothing sounds of water and Frank Lloyd Wright partitions of space. In places it can provide a momentary escape experience if you let go why you’re there [likely on business] and let the ambiance enjoin your senses.
Lastly, there’s the building exterior. The front of the building has an art deco façade. This sort of architecture I believe to be America’s classical period. Between the second and fifth decade of the 20th century, craftsmanship and technology were managed as one whole in the creation of symbols of an emerging power. It was a time when long term symbolism, enhanced by engaging aesthetics, outweighed the short term savings one could obtain by cutting corners. Hence the Bulova Corporate Center is an architectural work of art, built for one purpose and tastefully altered to suit another.
Directions To Queens Chamber Of Commerce – Bulova Corporate Center
The building is now home to a number of offices, including the Queens Chamber Of Commerce and American Airlines. It’s worth a visit, especially if you’re held over at LaGuardia airport because it’s literally minutes via the #60 bus [to / from Astoria] or from Jackson Heights by the #47 bus. Enjoy.
TBD – Click this link to view a map showing the location of the Bulova Corporate Center.
Jackson Heights Neighborhood - Related Links
Click this link to go to the Jackson Heights & Elmhurst Neighborhood News / Jackson Heights & Elmhurst Restaurants Guide & Map / Jackson Heights Business Directory / Elmhurst Business Directory / Jackson Heights & Elmhurst Shopping Center & Map.
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