No discussion about a tuning fork men’s watch can be complete without mentioning the Bulova Accutron. US-based Bulova introduced the world’s first tuning fork watch back in 1960, and it quickly became the quintessential American watch. Max Hetzel was the engineer tasked with managing the Accutron project, which focused on developing an electric watch which could offer better precision than electronic or mechanical watches.
Guide to the Bulova Accutron
The Accutron Spaceview
The very first exhibition models that were sent to retailers were dubbed Accutron “Spaceview” since they didn’t have dials. The Spaceview remains one of the most sought after models by vintage Accutron collectors. When the watch went on sale, the company advertised its 99.9977% precision. This vintage Bulova Accutron was offered in steel, gold, and gold-plated finishes. The early Bulova Accutron models also stood out because the crown wasn’t placed at the side of the watch. This allowed the watch to have a perfectly smooth shape which was a very pleasing design attribute for many customers. This was also a deliberate move by Bulova as it wanted to showcase that the Accutron was so precise that it didn’t need to be set. So it hid the crown at the back right beside the battery port.
The original models had a 14k yellow gold case, but the later models were fashioned out of stainless steel and a gold-filled bezel instead. Thus the Bulova Accutron gold is without a doubt a highly sought after collectible Accutron. It was back in 1962 when the Bulova Accutron railroad captured the world’s attention. The Accutron was certified as the first watch for American railroads; it was used by rail workers to synchronize trains.
Accutron Astronaut & NASA
Bulova’s Accutron watches soon became a hit with the Accutron Astronaut being its second model. This watch was developed for NASA’s spatial program and followed up by the Astronaut Mark II model. Bulova stopped production in 1977 but brought back the Accutron Astronaut in 2007 for a limited edition run of 1,000 pieces with an ETA mechanical movement. Tuning forks are no longer used, and the Accutron brand later became associated with quartz and mechanical watches after Citizen took over in 2008.
Limited Edition Accuton Spaceview
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Accutron in 2010, Bulova released a 1,000 limited edition and numbered range of the Spaceview. The watch was a replica of the original model released in 1960 in that it didn’t have a dial and was equipped with a tuning fork movement. Such was the demand for this model that despite its $5,000 price tag, all 1,000 models were sold before they even went into production.
Bulova Accutron II & The Precisionist Movement
The Bulova Accutron II was later introduced in 2014 at BaselWorld as a revival vintage that took inspiration from the original model. It doesn’t have a dial as well, but the in-house quartz Precisionist movement replaced the tuning fork caliber 214. It’s over six times more precise than a conventional quartz caliber.
Finding a Vintage Watch
There’s always a certain degree of care required when hunting for a vintage watch. The market is littered with fakes that are made to look like the real deal. It’s possible to find a vintage Bulova Accutron through second-hand dealers and on websites like eBay. However, you must be very careful when deciding to buy one, particularly the Spaceview. There are a lot of fakes circulating out there.
The Real from the Fakes
Counterfeit Accutron watches are widely being sold to unsuspecting buyers, with knock offs being passed off as Bulova Accutron 10K gold-filled authentic timepieces. There are still many units out there because more than 5 million pieces were sold between 1960 to 1977 when the watch was being produced. So, finding one shouldn’t take that big of an effort. They’re not exorbitantly priced as well, with a Vintage Accutron in excellent condition with an original box costing less than $2,000.
A Marvelous Technological Achievement
It’s understandable why a true watch enthusiast would want to have a vintage Bulova Accutron in their collection. It represents a marvelous technological achievement by a watch manufacturer that remained unrivaled for many years. The emergence of quartz and the resurgence of mechanical watches may have eliminated the need for tuning fork watches, but the Accutron will always be the personification of this idea. For those who value the sentiment, it also representative of American watchmaking history, a reminder that Bulova had an imaginative and innovative answer to some of the world’s biggest watch manufacturers.
So it goes without saying that the original Spaceview model continues to be the collectors’ favorite. It commands the highest prices of all vintage Accutron models, with the gold finishes fetching higher prices by being the more expensive metal. Many have been kept in pristine condition, so it’s entirely possible to get your hands on a unit that hasn’t taken a beating over time.