- 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 of mixed metal as detailed below. 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 variations of arguably the most common 214 asymmetric model. Their cases are stainless steel and sport bezel embellishments made of solid 14K gold. The most desirable of the bunch are the front row models built with what are known affectionately as "railroad track" dials. The nickname comes from the segmented outer seconds track. A black color variation is even rarer. Note the end links on the extremely scarce bracelet: they are asymmetric, too, made to match the lug/case combination.
More common asymmetric 214s. The gold florentine bezel on the back row/left example is 14K gold filled. As with the sample above, the assymetric end links fit into the lug space perfectly. It also indicates the bracelet is original to the model. The back row/right example is a later 218 release with a single "diamond" stud applied below the tuning fork logo. This is not an especially rare or valued model, it just has a mondo cool case shape and looks great on the wrist.
Here are a few interesting shapes housing 218 movements. The back row/left model is a later production, warm gold electroplated example. The other two are 14K gold filled with a high shoulder shield case design. One has a smooth case, the other is machine grooved
Though not too fancy, this is my favorite combo: a machined bezel and dial that is the epitome of atomic design with it's criss-cross rules and satellite hour markers. The appearance of discoloring is the dial's sun ray texture.
Close up of a model displayed in the first grouping above. It offers a solid 14K gold bezel and dress diamond dial. The appearance of discoloring is the dial's sun ray texture.
The stainless steel asymmetric that always shows great collector interest is the above 218 model, the "D", nicknamed for its overall case shape. At the time, it kind of looked like a spaceport communication device on the wrist. This one offers it's original bracelet which luckily for me (and any other future collector), fits my near 8 inch wrist. Finding an attached, original, full length and intact bracelet is very rare. I have seen this same design aped by modern watch companies including Android with the Dominatore model. I would say Wing knows his watch history well.
-- 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 Lyndon 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.