Accutron Watch

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Bulova's release of the first Accutron watch in 1960 coincided with a watershed era for electronics. As an "industry," electronics was just taking its first inchoate steps. Communications had advanced far enough to enable space exploration. And the first digital computers were just coming into use. All these trends converged to help spur a technological revolution.

Against that backdrop, the Accutron enjoyed--suitably enough--a perfectly timed introduction. Through most of the 1950s, the fastest prime moving elements in any watch typically hovered around 2Hz, or two beats each second. By the time Bulova brought its Accutron watch into wide distribution, the company's labs in Switzerland had successfully engineered a tuning fork mechanism that vibrated at an unheard-of 360Hz. At that rate, the Bulova Accutron could keep time at an accuracy of two seconds per day.

More Characteristics of the Accutron Watch

The tuning fork operation gave Accutron still another advantage over its competition--a fluid "sweep" seconds hand. Such precision made the model a logical choice for incorporation into the American space program, and in 1962 astronaut Scott Carpenter made the cover of Paris Match brandishing the now-famous Accutron. The partnership between NASA and Bulova continued as the space agency began to use the manufacturer's timing mechanisms in more and more of its equipment.

Today, there are watch manufacturers who lay claim to that original tuning fork design. But generally these companies are capitalizing on the phenomenon of public amnesia--or at least revisionist history--in staking such dubious claims. Any true watch connoisseur knows that this one-of-a-kind engineering feat was the contribution of Bulova, which is largely why the Accutron remains so popular today, even if it no longer uses its original design.


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