The history of watchmaking changed for good on October 25, 1960. That was the date the storied New York watchmaker Bulova introduced a new kind of wristwatch at the Baselworld fair in Switzerland, one powered by high-tech electronics that emitted an audible hum to the tune of F-sharp and offered unprecedented levels of accuracy. It was called ACCUTRON, and it was an immediate sensation.
Sixty years after its debut, ACCUTRON returns, and it now stands alone as its own brand. The next generation of ACCUTRON once again introduces a new type of watchmaking technology for the wrist, this time courtesy of a first-of-its-kind, proprietary electrostatic drive system. First teased last year at Baselworld, and officially announced earlier this year, we’re thrilled to introduce the ACCUTRON brand into the HODINKEE Shop today, in the form of a limited-edition box set.
Available now with delivery slated for October 2020, this deluxe edition is limited to 300 pieces and comes with an exclusive new take on the famous ACCUTRON Spaceview. The watch is delivered inside special packaging that includes a new hardcopy book from Assouline called ACCUTRON: From The Space Age To The Digital Age, which is written – and, as part of the box sets sold in the HODINKEE Shop, signed – by HODINKEE Editor-in-Chief Jack Forster. You can purchase yours right here, or read on to learn more about the history of ACCUTRON and how the new-for-2020 ACCUTRON has transformed the former watchmaking revelation for the 21st century.
A Brief History Of ACCUTRON
The ACCUTRON name – which stands for “accuracy through electronics” – is one of the most recognized in all of watch history. Although the original ACCUTRON timepieces were only produced for a short 17 years, the watches became a cultural touchstone for many, synonymous with 1960s design and technology. It influenced the inside-out appearance of the Centre Pompidou in Paris; it appeared in an episode of the award-winning 2010s television series Mad Men, as a representative of a certain epoch in advertising; and it has served as an object of fascination for watch collectors for 60 years.
Some of the most famous men of the 1960s and ’70s era wore ACCUTRON watches – Elvis Presley, Joe DiMaggio, George Foreman, among many more. ACCUTRON technology made it to the Moon, and the wristwatches were a favorite of the U.S. Army’s most recent five-star General. The ACCUTRON Astronaut model was even the wristwatch chosen by the CIA for use by the pilots of the A-12 spy plane in the 1960s, still the fastest plane ever made. One of the first wristwatches approved for use on the U.S. railroads was indeed an ACCUTRON (pocket watches were considered the only timepieces accurate enough to be “railroad-grade” at that point in time). ACCUTRON even made it all the way to the White House. President Lyndon B. Johnson made ACCUTRON wristwatches the official state gift for visiting dignitaries in 1964, and soon after, ACCUTRON clocks were officially installed on Air Force One.
What was it that made ACCUTRON timepieces so significant during their lifetime that the curiosity surrounding them has lasted until today? First, there was the groundbreaking electromagnetic movement inside, which utilized a tuning fork-shaped oscillator that hummed at a remarkable 360Hz and made the ACCUTRON one of the most accurate timepieces on the planet – with a stated deviation of less than one minute per month – and ensured an unprecedented smooth sweep of the central seconds hand.
There was also the remarkable appearance of the ACCUTRON Spaceview, which opened up the watch’s dial for a full view of the electromagnetic mechanism inside, equipped with a memorable green baseplate, dual copper wire drive coils, and, of course, the essential tuning fork transistor. For a world of watch wearers used to conventional, balance wheel-equipped mechanics and overly sober dressy designs, the ACCUTRON was a deliberate shock to the system that changed how people lived with and wore their timepieces. Very few watches can say they impacted people’s relationship with timekeeping in as much of a substantial manner as the original ACCUTRON.
There had been clocks and watches that utilized electronic components before ACCUTRON (notably, the Hamilton Electric in the 1950s). There had even been timepieces that experimented with the potential of a tuning fork-based oscillator (a patent was granted to a descendant of Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1866, believe it or not). But the difference between those and ACCUTRON was simple. Not only did ACCUTRON work extremely well with a high level of quality control, but it could also be mass-produced to reach consumer demand. It’s said that it took Bulova nearly a decade of research and development before the ACCUTRON was ready to be brought to market, largely thanks to the work of two engineers, one Swiss and one American, named Max Hetzel and William O. Bennett.
Their approach was focused on the miniaturization of the tuning fork, and the components surrounding it, to where it could be applicable inside of a wristwatch. Hetzel and Bennett eventually succeeded by developing an innovative system that attached a pawl and a jewel to the end of one of the tuning fork arms, which would then push the teeth of an index wheel forward, powering the watch as a whole. This was all the result of micro-engineering on a nearly incomprehensible scale; in fact, a number of ACCUTRON components were invisible to the naked eye.
The Bulova ACCUTRON was released commercially in 1960, and it was a nearly instantaneous success – but it wasn’t until after the initial announcement that the famous Spaceview variant would be officially released. Officially being the operative word here, as the Spaceview was originally intended as a display sample for retailers to illustrate how the ACCUTRON technology worked for potential buyers. Those customers promptly took to the exposed display, and Bulova acquiesced to the public demand, placing the Spaceview into immediate production. Today, the Spaceview is the best-known and most desired example of ACCUTRON technology, which is why, when Bulova was acquired by Japan’s Citizen Watch Co. in 2008, the Spaceview formed the foundation of the organization’s future plans for the ACCUTRON name.
The ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 Limited Edition
The original ACCUTRON has become a collectors’ item not only for watch lovers, but also for anyone that is susceptible to 1960s nostalgia. However, there are a few key factors that have kept those interested in vintage ACCUTRON watches from acquiring them – most significantly, the upkeep required to maintain the former electromagnetic technology. Spare parts – not to mention the knowledge needed to repair a vintage ACCUTRON movement – are hard to come by. There simply aren’t enough watchmakers with the ability to restore these early ACCUTRON examples, which makes owning one a generally time-consuming and expensive proposition. The ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 allows a new generation of watch enthusiasts the chance to experience and appreciate ACCUTRON’s unique approach to watchmaking, however, there are a number of details that differentiate today’s ACCUTRON with the one of the past.
For one thing, the ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 features a brand-new type of movement that was developed over a decade, that incorporates elements of quartz and automatic timekeeping through a new electrostatic drive system. Just like the original ACCUTRON, today’s watch does away with the mainspring and gear train of a mechanical timepiece, and it doesn’t feature a battery cell like a quartz watch either. Instead, it utilizes a set of twin induction turbines in the lower half of the dial that form an electrostatic drive system that acts as a generator.
Much like a self-winding mechanical watch, the turbines rotate as a result of movement from the watch’s wearer. However, they differ from your conventional automatic watch in that the turbines are connected to a pair of integrated electrode conductors fixed to the movement that generate energy through static electricity that is stored in an accumulator. The accumulator then disperses the stored energy to two separate motors: an electrostatic one that controls the central seconds hand (which sweeps in a seamless fashion, just like the original ACCUTRON), and a stepper motor similar to a conventional quartz movement that engages the hour and minute hands. Although you cannot wind the new-generation model by hand, ACCUTRON does guarantee precision up to +/- five seconds per month – a figure significantly more accurate than any mechanical watch, and more accurate than most conventional quartz-powered timepieces.
The ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 also features a unique power-saving mode. After five minutes of rest, the red seconds hand will stop at 12 o’clock, while the hour and minute hands continue to indicate the passing time. After 10 days of zero motion, the hands stop completely, and the watch enters an energy conservation period that can be interrupted by simply putting the watch back on your wrist; your gradual motion will restart the electrostatic drive system. This is a watch meant to be worn and appreciated, just like the original ACCUTRON watches of the 1960s.
The new ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 Limited Edition has an appearance that clearly mirrors the design panache of its 1960s predecessor – with a chapter ring and baseplate in an identical shade of green, familiar copper wiring that is connected to the stepper motor, and a bold visual language. Just like it did in the 1960s, the ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 feels very much like an avant-garde approach to industrial design – everything that is necessary is here, nothing inessential is present (including the dial), but its appearance feels experimental and unlike any other new watch available today. The case profile has changed over time, though, as the new ACCUTRON has a fully polished round profile in 316L stainless steel with straight lugs and prominent dimensions of 43.5mm in diameter and a thickness of 15.41mm. The domed crystal is made of sapphire, while the caseback is closed and decorated with the ACCUTRON tuning fork logo in relief.
Only 300 pieces of the ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 Limited Edition will be produced, and we’ve secured a small allocation for HODINKEE Shop customers. Each of the 300 pieces is individually numbered and comes on a leather strap with green stitching that matches the green accents on the dial. The ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 Limited Edition is delivered as part of a commemorative box set, with a wooden carrying case and a copy of ACCUTRON: From The Space Age To The Digital Age, a brand-new coffee table book from Assouline written by HODINKEE Editor-in-Chief Jack Forster, with a foreword by the industrial designer Carl Gustav Magnusson.
Jack has been kind enough to sign the copies of all books included in the limited-edition sets available through the HODINKEE Shop. The ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 Limited Edition Deluxe Box Set is available now for $ 4,000, with delivery next month, October 2020. It comes with a five-year warranty from ACCUTRON, plus an additional year from the HODINKEE Shop, for a total of six years of coverage.
Additional unsigned copies of ACCUTRON: From The Space Age To The Digital Age can also be purchased today for $ 75 right here, with immediate delivery.
Discover The New ACCUTRON Spaceview In The HODINKEE Shop
It’s a fair assumption that most watch enthusiasts have, at one time in their collecting journey, marveled at the history and technology behind ACCUTRON. The original models were a revelation for the watch-wearing public in 1960, thanks to their blend of new-age technology and space-age aesthetics. And, in 2020, 60 years after it first debuted, ACCUTRON has made a triumphant return, with a new approach that carries its signature, innovative attributes into the 21st century.
You can learn more about the new ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 and purchase yours right here.