Review: ACCUTRON II "Alpha"
Like its predecessor, its operation was based on a vibrating tuning fork and accompanying electronics to tell time. However, at $5000. USD a copy, it was not much of a seller, despite the inclusion of an extensive, well-built glass presentation/display case with engraved steel nomenclature plaque. (Indeed, a good friend of mine who actually owned one of these 2010 marvels told me that it ate through batteries every bit as quickly as its 1960’s & 70’s counterparts.) Some comparison photos:
Circa 2014, Circa 1966
Please accept my sincerest apologies for this oversight on my part.
Rancho Santa Fe, CA
It’s here! At long last, and after months and years of anticipation, Mort’s new Accutron II Spaceview has arrived!
Okay, Mort; deeeep breaths…that’s it, deeeep breaths. There, that’s better…
It’s but one model in a recently released series of remakes/homages/whatever’s that’re built to commemorate Accutron’s way-cool, futuristic watches, like the original Spaceview, the Snorkel and the Astronaut, to name just a few, all released in the early-to-mid 1960's. They were of an era just before the so-called “Quartz Revolution,” where the tuning fork was – oh-so-briefly – the king of horological accuracy. Oh, and did I mention that they were way cool and futuristic?
Please humor an old guy for a second with a couple of glances at his vintage (1966) Accutron Spaceview:
Okay, so that was one more than ‘a couple.’ What can I say? I like those original little critters… And here’s a few snaps of the newest addition to the Spaceview family, under the Accutron II nameplate:
And a few [admittedly gratuitous] quick family portraits:
Series: Accutron II
Model #: 96A155
Case material: Stainless steel
Case diameter: 42mm
Case Thickness: 12.30mm
Band Material: Leather with croc design
Band length: Men's Standard
Band width: 21mm
Band Color: Black
Band Clasp: Signed dual-deployant
Dial color: Green w/gold-colored “circuit board” design
Bezel material: Stainless steel
Weight: 189 grams
Movement: Japanese quartz (modified Precisionist / Citizen P102)
Water resist: 30 Meters
Warranty type: 1-yr. manufacturer
Price Range (Avg.): $325-$450; Lowest price seen: $285 (Amazon)
As far as homages go, this is a very nice one, offering a relatively clean ‘semi-imitation’ of the original shield-shaped case and featuring a dial that was, basically, an early solid state circuit board, conveniently shaped for easy placement in a watch case. This new Spaceview features a gold-toned plate that is both cut and drilled to resemble an etched circuit board, with areas cut away to enhance this look; tiny screws hold the plate in place over the beautiful (and faithful to the original) blue/green-colored under-dial. The only ‘homage’ dial feature that is actually functional is a medium-sized copper-wound coil, running between the ten and 12 o’clock positions in the upper-left quadrant of the dial. There is nothing else that even suggests a functioning component, but I see this as a positive thing. I mean, think about it for a minute; had they put in a grouping of small-but-obviously-fake painted-up resistors, capacitors and diodes, it would end up as clownish, at best, or a mockery of the original, at worst. I personally think it would have been downright silly.
The clean, simple ‘circuit board’ look that the designers of the Accutron II dial went with shows a deep respect for the original design without “tarting it up” too much. This respect and simplicity of design was carried to the solid case back, as well, where they made no attempt to imitate the unique setting wheel and battery case cover of the original.
Even something as simple as engraving circles on the case back as an “homage” to the original battery access and crown assembly would have been a bit too ‘kitschy,’ in my not-so-humble opinion. The case does, however, feature a hidden screw-down crown at 3 o’clock, so it does maintain the smooth lines of the original “shield case” Spaceview. The 42mm case width is an obvious departure from the original design, and the narrow bezel gives it an even larger appearance, but even this isn’t a down-check as the larger size is a reflection of the average wearer’s size preference in today’s market. I will say that, as a collector of vintage watches with average case-widths of 35mm or so, the Accutron II still feels and looks great on the wrist.
The signature element of this watch, from an engineering standpoint, is its use of a modified Bulova Precisionist/Citizen P102 movement. According to the blog, Measure of Time, which was among the first to report on the development of this watch back in March 2014, the modifications that were required to make this movement slightly less accurate than the original 8-jewel P102, still allow this Accutron II to be six times more accurate than a conventional quartz watch.*
Of course, I haven’t taken up the task of seeing if this claim is actually true, but heck, if you can’t trust a watch manufacturer, who can you trust? Oh, wait...
All kidding aside, in the world of quartz, where we talk about thousandths and even millionths of seconds of accuracy, the claim that this watch is six times more accurate than a ‘conventional’ quartz piece seems a bit on the hyperbolic side. (I get this image of a group of nuns exhorting the virtues of virginity and bragging about their celibacy to each other, but I’d never go so far as mentioning such a thing here…)
*I’ve been unable to locate a listing or description of what, exactly, Bulova did to modify the Precisionist movement, but such information is almost certainly proprietary.
I’m never too sure just where to put the whole “lume thing” in the body of a review; should it be under the Appearance section or the Engineering portion? Or should it just be mentioned in passing in the “misc” line of the Technical Info section? Ultimately, it got its own layout here because I managed to get some pretty decent lume shots when taking the photos for this write-up. I hope you’ll agree with me:
It’s pretty obvious that Accutron isn’t stingy with the Superluminova. I especially like the lumed ‘tuning fork’ logo at 12 o’clock.* As a whole, the lume is excellent, and the strong light lasts a good seven or eight minutes, with about 90 minutes illumination overall. It easily passes both the Conjurer Quick-Glance-in-a-Darkened-Car Test ™ and the Mortuus Quick-Glance-in-a-Closed-Casket Test. ™
*Interestingly, Measure of Time reports that, in future, only Accutron II watches will prominently feature this classic, even iconic trademark, meaning that it will not appear on Bulova watches, save for a small version on the caseback.
Conclusion & Summary
This is really a pretty cool watch, and I think a good number of the people I know who have (or have had) an original Spaceview will agree with me. Of course, there are those purists out there who strongly believe that this watch is not worthy of the Accutron name, much less the Spaceview cognomen. The idea that “if it’s not a 214 or a 218, it’s not an Accutron and not worth a @#$%” seems rather parochial to me – and trust me; as someone who went to both Catholic and Talmud schools, I know parochial when I see it – but to each his own. I think it’s a worthy successor, especially from the practical standpoint, as parts for the originals get more and more scarce and repair costs get higher and higher.
Need an example? Okay, how about this'n:
Not too long ago, I added a vintage bracelet version Spaceview to my collection. It was listed as “not working,” but I went ahead and got it for $145, anyway. Subsequently (that's "soon afterward," for you folks in Rio Lindo), the cheapest estimate for restoration I could find was $795. The highest topped out at more than $1200. (So now I have a rather expensive display piece…perhaps I’ll put it in a horological shadowbox, or something, to remind myself not to make such a rookie mistake like that again.) In the end, the sale price I paid for the Accutron II ($285 on Amazon) seems a far better investment than the sad little vintage trinket that is destined never to operate again.
One final expense to report: I have certainly mentioned in the past that I’m not a fan of faux croc straps with my watches. While the quality of this particular faux croc in black was certainly not run-of-the-mil, and even featured a signed dual-deployant clasp, it just didn’t have the right look to it. So I went back to my original Spaceview and took a look.
While my vintage Spaceview originally came with a signed fake (we didn’t use words like “faux” back then) croc strap in green, it was too short for my 7.5-inch wrist, so I put an XL green Teju lizard on it which, IMNSHO, looks great. So I went shopping for green lizard straps, and found a beautiful Teju that fits the ‘new Spaceview’ perfectly; even the padding is perfectly placed. Let’s see what you think:
So there you have it, Mort’s take on the Accutron II Spaceview. Is it for everybody? No more than any other watch is, I suppose. Are the “scholars & purists” going to like it? I seriously doubt it, but that’s okay; each of us has our own “Ewww meter,” and we always listen to it. However, for someone who has a fine sense of horology’s rich past and traditions, likes the looks of the originals but would rather not go bankrupt feeding one, and has around $285-$375 to spend, it’s a good buy. Trust me; I’m dead.
As always, please allow me to say thanks yet again for your patience in slogging through what the “word counter” tells me is more than 1500 words. It is certainly much appreciated.