Accutron

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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The Accutron enjoys a reputation as a one-of-a-kind in the watch world. The timepiece, manufactured by Bulova, was the first--and until recently the only--wrist watch to use a vibrating tuning fork in place of the usual springs and wheels. As the first model to use a bipolar transistor, the Accutron is regarded as the first electronic watch in history.

Since then, several other watchmakers have tried to imitate this design, but Bulova will always be regarded as its pioneer. And just what did this new engineering mean for Accutron-wearers? Among other things, the tuning fork mechanism gave the Accutron unmatched precision, courtesy of its 360Hz vibration, the first watch with a prime moving element capable of such speeds.

The Unique Accutron

In physics, it is a proven fact that accuracy depends critically on the high frequency of what's called the "initial reference." In the case of the Accutron watch, that reference was the electronically driven fork, which yielded a startling accuracy of two seconds per day, or one minute per month. No watch in history had even come close to such precision in the roughly 100 years until Bulova's breakthrough.

The Bulova Accutron watch has also earned a secure place in the history of space flight. Even if it was the Omega Speedmaster that won the title of official NASA timepiece, it was the Accutron that many of the original seven astronauts selected for their first foray into outer space. And it was an Accutron movement that NASA used in much of its equipment, including its instrument timers and clocks.


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