- Master of Time
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Welcome to the space age...literally.
On the heels of Hamilton's introduction of the first mass produced battery operated watch movement in 1957, the fragile caliber 500, it was a matter of time before a more robust movement would enter the market. And that would be the November 1960 Bulova Accutron caliber 214. Most reading this post understand the inner workings of this humming movement, so I will dispense with the details other than to note its electronic (not electrified as with Hamilton), non-moving parts tuning fork design was a big advancement over Hamilton's fussy juiced balance wheel for trouble-free wear. It was as true an innovation as anything in horological history.
The 214 was produced until 1977 where it remained the most accurate production timepiece of the time. Additional tuning fork movements, the caliber 218 for one, were designed with new complications including day and date, and saw the unusual hand adjustment crown move from the case back to a more traditional case side position.
The below examples are all solid 14K gold. The earliest models owe much of their unique design cues to the atomic space-age design themes of the era (think kidney-shaped coffee tables, car fins, printed atomic patterns on cloth and Formica) and the wild offerings established by the Hamilton Electric line. It was in vogue for most products to offer a to the future and beyond appearance.
The Accurton found its accurate ways into many facets of industry and commerce including most famously, the NASA program.
Included in this grouping are both 214 and 218 movement models. The back row 218s are among my favorite of that movement line. You will note the case/bezel finishes differ between the two examples: one has a basket weave pattern, the other, vertical brushing. The front row offers Accutron's arguably most common asymmetric case design complete with an engine turned bezel and to it's right, a white gold model affectionately referred to as the "football" for it's skewed case tips.
Along with the Alpha model, the above "TV" model is one of the more sought after vintage Accutrons. It received it's collector nickname from the square dial and surrounding bezel. This model's case back is engraved with "MO", indicating it was one of the first Accutrons to come off the production line.
Below are close-ups of the models displayed above. The hearty tuning fork movements produce a hum that can be heard when you place one to your ear. It's the tuning fork creating the perfect frequency for the ultimate in keeping ACCU-rate time.
Here is a back side. Even the battery hatch is solid gold. Placing the adjustment crown on the back made for a clean case design that added to the watch's uniqueness by visually screaming: I do NOT need winding! I doubt it was the first time a crown had been placed on a case back (JL cricket models?), but surely it was one of the very few, if the only, "watch for the masses" to do so. It must been a mind-blower for watch buyers of the time.
-- In 1960 NASA asks Bulova to incorporate Accutron technology into its equipment for the space program. The CEO of Bulova at the time was Omar Bradley, 5 Star General, US Army, Retired. During those early years Accutron timing mechanisms were used in 46 US space program missions. An Accutron watch movement sits on the moon's Sea of Tranquility today, in an instrument placed there in 1969 by Apollo 11 astronauts, the first men on the moon.
-- In 1962 the Accutron 214 becomes the first wristwatch certified for use by railroad personnel. Previously, engineers used pocket watches which had to be frequently calibrated in order to "run the railroads on time".
-- Accutron wristwatches were given to world leaders as a presidential gift and in 1964 President Lynden Johnson declares Accutron to be the official "Gift of State".
-- By 1967 Accutron clocks were the only clocks aboard Air Force One and many instrument panel Accutrons were used in military ships and aircraft.