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Accutron Astronaut Variant Guide
Bulova released numerous cosmetic variants of the Accutron Astronaut, and it seems that each variant is designated with a single letter. Historically, collectors have struggled to fit their strange-looking Astronaut into the confusing and woefully incomplete reference provided by the Complete Price Guide to Watches, the most well-known watch guide in the world. The guide lists three letter designations: Astronaut A, B and C, and list multiple cosmetic variations under each designation. This is dramatically different from the designation scheme seen in actual Bulova ads, which confirm the existence of an Astronaut C, H, L, N, O and T, all of which are cosmetically unique. In the case of the Astronaut O and T, the only difference between the two variants is dial color. No other letter designations have yet been confirmed by official Bulova documentation.
Assembled here is a complete list of all known factory Astronaut variants, based on 12 years of research. Instead of adhering to Bulova's fragmented system, we present here an alternate classification, based on bezel and dial types. If your Astronaut does not look exactly like a variant described here, it is likely that it is not completely original. Bulova did occasionally issue odd cosmetic variants of some watches, but such variants are rare and difficult to authenticate.
Under this classification system, all Astronaut variants fall under one of four families, hence referred to as Type 1, 2, 3 and 4. Type 1 includes all standard Astronaut variants, with standard painted dial and standard bare-metal bezel. Type 2 includes all Astronaut variants with an enhanced (applied markers) dial and a standard bare-metal bezel. Type 3 includes the models with a day/night bezel, and Type 4 includes the Swiss models with black bezel.
There is a good bit of mix-and-match among Type 1 Astronaut variants. It is possible that other factory-produced dial/hand combinations exist within the range of known Type 1 variants. However, variants of Type 2, 3 and 4 are completely monolithic. If you have an Astronaut with any unspecified mix of features, such as a Type 3 bezel and a Type 4 dial, or Type 2, 3 or 4 Astronaut with arrow-style hands or a luminous seconds hand, the watch is not factory original.
Take special note that hand color and applied marker color must always match case color.
Standard: Bare metal with engraved black numerals and half-hour indices; available in stainless steel, solid 14K gold and solid 18K gold.
Day/Night: Fully enameled bezel face with 12 hours of white and 12 hours of black; stainless steel only; used only on Type 3 variants.
Swiss: Fully enameled black bezel face; stainless steel only; used only on Type 4 variants.
Stainless Steel: Standard lugs, used with all stainless steel Astronaut variants.
14K Filled: Covered lugs, used with most gold Astronaut variants.
14K Solid: Covered lugs, used only with the Solid Enhanced variant.
18K: Standard lugs, used only with the Ultra Enhanced variant.
Standard: Triangular luminous painted hour markers, luminous painted dots at the half-hour markers; may say 'Accutron' or 'Bulova Accutron'; available in black and silver.
Simple: Nearly identical to the standard dial, but with no luminous dots at the half-hour markers; available in silver, factory black variation unconfirmed.
Enhanced: Applied trapezoidal markers at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11; available in black, silver and gold; applied markers match case color.
Ultra: Applied diamond-shaped markers at 3, 6, 9; available in gold only, used only on Ultra Enhanced variant.
Day/Night: Applied arrow markers at all hour positions, applied Accutron lettering; available in black, silver; used only on Type 3 variants.
Swiss: Painted Accutron logo at 12, applied rectangular hour markers at all other positions; available in black, cream; used only on Type 4 variants.
Arrow: Luminous hour and minute hands are non-tapering, with an arrow tip; used only on certain Type 1 variants.
Taper: Luminous hour and minute hands are wide and tapered, with an arrow tip; used on some Type 1 variants, and all Type 2 and 3 variants.
Rectangular: Luminous hour and minute hands are wide and non-tapering, with a flat tip. Rectangular hands are only available on Type 4 variants.
Luminous Seconds: Certain variants of Type 1 Astronaut include a luminous seconds hand. Luminous seconds is not available on Type 2, 3 or 4.
Broadhead Hour: Certain variants of Type 1 Astronaut with arrow hands include a rare broadhead arrow hour hand. Broadhead hour is not available on Type 2, 3 or 4.
Only two bracelet styles are confirmed to have been used on the Astronaut: the Champion 'bullet' bracelet, and the Kreisler 'coffin-link' bracelet. Bracelet must match case material and have a signed clasp with the Accutron logo. It is currently unknown whether or not bracelet type was a distinguishing factor in Bulova's original designation system.
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