Adam Victor is a watch collector that brought the MIL-SHIPS-M-2181 to the attention of Bulova.
"The watch was really well-received by NEDU," Victor says. "NEDU loved everything Bulova did. After a few rounds of revisions, essentially what they told Bulova was, 'Make this watch and we're good.' The U.S. Navy even started talking about the watch publicly."
In December 1959, a full page was devoted to Bulova's submitted watch in the Bureau of Ships Journal, describing it as the new specialized dive watch for the military. "They were fully on-board, ready to place orders for the watch," Victor says. "It was really everything they wanted."
But suddenly, Bulova dropped it. They never produced the watch other than the prototypes. There are a number of conjectured reasons why, none confirmed. If you look at the timing for Bulova, the company had an even bigger watch release around the corner. The first Accutron watch would be launched in 1960. It makes sense that, gearing up for the introduction of a new type of watch that would change horological history, Bulova decided to focus all of its efforts on setting Accutron up for success.
Victor has his own theory about what might have happened.
"If I'm Omar Bradley, and I'm connected to the military, I might have gotten word that the orders for this Bulova might not actually be such a huge contract," Victor speculates. “ If you fast-forward a couple years and look at the Tornek Rayville, which replaced the Bulova, the order was only for 1,000 watches. I know that Allen Tornek didn't know that at first, and when he found out, it made him very unhappy. My sense is that Omar Bradley might have had access to that information, which influenced his decision. I have no proof of that, but it's my hunch that makes a lot of sense."
I've long held that for a Swiss Made dive watch - 1 of the first 2 available for consumer purchase at BaselFest (prior to the Baselworld name change) in 1953 along with Blancpain with their Fifty-Fathoms, an in-house movement with available Chronometers, wonderful & very accommodating dimensions, and in a number of color ways & bracelet/strap options, $900 to $1.2k (or $1.5k Chronometer) pricing, dollar for dollar Zodiac (Super) Sea Wolf will prevail.