Harry Bulova Henshel Dies at 88

Harry Bulova Henshel, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Bulova Watch Corp., died June 29 in Scarsdale, N.Y, after a long illness. He was 88.

Henshel was the last family member to head the company founded in 1875 in New York City by his grandfather Joseph Bulova, who at the time was a 23-year-old immigrant from Bohemia. Bulova Corp.—still American owned and operated—became a subsidiary of Loews Corp. in 1979, though Henshel kept an office at its Woodside, N.Y., headquarters until his death.

He was born in New York in 1919. He earned degrees from Brown University and Harvard School of Business and served in World War II, rising to captain. Afterward, he joined the family business, headed then by an uncle, Ardé Bulova. Henshel also was involved in founding the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking, begun and funded by family members in 1945 to train disabled war veterans. (It closed in the late 1990s.)

Under Ardé Bulova’s tutelage, Henshel learned the business from the ground up, serving in various capacities including traveling salesman. On his uncle’s death in 1958, he became president. He became chairman of the board in 1974 when General Omar Bradley retired.

During his tenure, Henshel streamlined marketing and added the popular-price Caravelle and upscale Accutron, a battery-powered watch that increased accuracy by replacing the mainspring and balance with an electronic tuning fork. The lines, updated for the 21st century, remain part of Bulova’s offerings.

Henshel also led the company to new revenue heights. In the late 1960s, the Bulova brand claimed 55 percent of the U.S. market, while Caravelle and Accutron dollar sales topped those of competitors Elgin and Hamilton.

In 1948 Henshel developed the Bulova Phototimer, the first automatic sports timing device. He was also active in jewelry industry charities and other humanitarian, educational, medical, and cultural causes.