As the longest-running American watch company in the world, Bulova has a pretty huge catalogue of diverse, high-quality timepieces sold at different price points. While it is currently owned by Citizen Watch Co., this 146-year-old brand has been making remarkable watches, as seen in the Hack and the Computron collections, since way before that.
One remarkable achievement under Bulova’s belt that we will be looking at today is its invention of the Bulova Accutron watch. The Bulova Accutron watch stands out for being the first electrostatic timepiece ever made. All of the watches in this series feature interesting elements, such as humming sounds instead of the usual ticking. They are also equipped with innovative electrostatic movements, making them modern marvels with vintage aesthetics. Read on to find out more about the Bulova Accutron, including its history, the impact it has had on the watchmaking world, and the best Bulova Accutron watches available.
All About Bulova Accutron
The Bulova Accutron watch collection was first introduced in 1952, thanks to Arde Bulova and Max Hetzel. With the growing popularity of battery-powered quartz watches, Bulova and Hetzel both wanted to try out something different, so they created their own path. This led them to research and develop electrostatic watches, which ultimately resulted in the creation of the Accutron.
The first Bulova Accutron watch, called the Bulova Accutron Spaceview, was officially released in 1960 in several different variants. Each Bulova Accutron watch was equipped with a tuning fork fixed between two electromagnetic coils and transistors, which acted as a power source for the tuning fork oscillator. This gave the Bulova Accutron Spaceview a frequency of 360 Hz and an incredible accuracy rate of +/-2 seconds a day.
The Bulova Accutron’s exceptional accuracy led to a collaboration between the brand and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The USA space agency sought to utilize the Bulova Accutron watch for 46 of their space expeditions, including the first moonwalk in 1969 and the Vanguard mission. Aside from NASA, Bulova also worked hand-in-hand with American railroad companies. The Bulova Accutron was used to measure the precise time of train arrivals and departures, preventing any collisions.
Several years later, the brand developed a new Bulova Accutron watch model, the Accutron Astronaut. This watch was specially intended for professional use, specifically NASA’s space expeditions and the American Air Force. The Accutron Astronaut came with a 24-hour rotating bezel and a special hand indicator, which enabled the watch’s GMT function. It was also equipped with an upgraded Caliber 214HN, which came with a mechanical hacking feature.
The Modern Bulova Accutron
With an increasing demand for modern technology, the brand eventually stopped producing Bulova Accutron watches with tuning fork mechanisms. Instead, during Citizen’s acquisition of Bulova in 2008, the Accutron was relaunched and classified into different collections such as the Gemini, Massela, Mirador, Curacao, Saleya, etc. All of these new Bulova Accutron watches were powered by either quartz or mechanical movements. In other words, the 2008 series of Accutron models essentially lost their electrostatic watch status.
In 2010, Bulova released special editions of the Accutron watches in celebration of its 50th anniversary. For this event, Bulova brought back the electrostatic movement, while also revolutionizing Accutron’s design and capabilities. In the next section, we will be reviewing the 2010 Bulova Accutron watch and everything it is capable of.
Most Bulova Accutron watches come in a bulky 45.1mm case size with a thickness of 15.6mm. However, the women’s Bulova Accutron Legacy models come in smaller case sizes with 32.8mm diameters. Regardless of the size, the cases of the Bulova Accutron watches are all made of 316L stainless steel, with different variations in tones and finishes. Some come in an exquisitely polished gold tone, while some come in a combination of rose gold tones with a sleek brushed finish.
The round Bulova Accutron watches, especially those with green, red, and orange colourways, strongly recall the vintage 1960s Bulova timepieces. On the other hand, the Bulova Accutron Alpha watches stand out with their unique shield-shaped cases and hooded lugs. Lastly, we have the Legacy models, which boast striking diamond-shaped cases that are asymmetrical to the wrist.
The cases of all Bulova Accutron watches also come with applied, smooth sunray finishes, with no harsh edges. They play with the light gorgeously, giving the Bulova Accutron watches a lustrous glamor from every angle. Each Bulova Accutron watch also has a large embellished crown at 3 or 4 o’clock, depending on the model you are looking at. These crowns are designed with grooved edges for an easier grip. On the Bulova Accutron Alpha watches, these crowns are unusually hidden under the case, with just the top of the crown peeking out from behind.
The dial of the modern Bulova Accutron watches resembles the vintage Accutron models. They come with skeletonized dials that fully show their electrostatic movements. This open dial design allows wearers to admire these unusual movements at work.
The Bulova Accutron dials also come in various colorways. Some models come in darker gunmetal shades, while others feature a mix of silver and gold, green and gold hues, and more. Typically, the motors, bridges, hands, and turbine generators comprise the sections of the movement which you can see on the dial. Some Bulova Accutron pieces also possess a visible jeweled centre ring that spins parts of the generator.
On the outer rim of the Bulova Accutron’s dial, you can find applied hour indices that are coated in luminous pigment to ensure a clear time display even in low light conditions. These hour markers come in a variety of shapes and are sometimes printed in white to better contrast against the dial. At the centre of each Accutron dial is a set of slender dauphine hands in shades of gold or silver. Even with their sophisticated skeletonized faces, you will not be confused by the Accutron’s dial, since Bulova made sure that each Accutron model follows a straightforward and highly legible time display.
Protecting the intricate Accutron dial is a domed mineral crystal. This kind of material works well in protecting the watch face from any scratches or impacts. It might not be as strong as sapphire crystal, but mineral glass is much more scratch-resistant than acrylic or Plexiglass.
As mentioned, the vintage Bulova Accutron was the first watch to ever use an electrostatic movement. Although Bulova swapped to regular quartz and mechanical movements for the 2008 release of the Accutron, the new 2010 Accutron models have returned to electrostatic movements, albeit with some upgrades and innovations. These modern versions of the Bulova Accutron utilize a Miyota Caliber NS30. Held together by 28 jewels, this is an incredible self-winding electrostatic movement.
One of the changes that have been made from the vintage Accutron models is that instead of using a tuning fork, the Caliber NS30 comes with two small generators found at the bottom of the dial instead. These turbine-like generators spin automatically when there is wrist movement, creating positive and negative electric charges. A larger generator, also known as an electrostatic motor, also turns continuously to run the seconds hand. By using the attraction and repulsion of positive and negative electric charges produced by the two smaller generators, this electrostatic motor generates electrical current and mechanical energy.
This caliber also comes with a handy power-saving function. The electrostatic motor will stop spinning after five minutes of inactivity, causing the seconds hand to automatically stop too. As a result, the seconds hand will stop at exactly 12 o’clock, while the minute and hour hands continue to track the time. To wind it back, you just have to move your arm for three to five seconds to get the self-winding caliber working again.
The Bulova Accutron is offered with two different straps. You can pick between a leather strap or an integrated rubber bracelet. Both of these strap options are thick and wide, equipped with double-press deployant closures. Because the leather and integrated rubber materials are both relatively lightweight, you do not have to worry about these straps being too heavy on the wrist. In fact, you can easily wear them throughout the day without them feeling too hefty.
That said, some Accutron models do not give you the option of swapping your watch strap, as it is integrated into the entire watch. As such, be sure to pick your strap carefully when making your purchase.
Top 5 Bulova Accutron Watch Models
1. Accutron Spaceview 2020 2ES6A001
The new Bulova Accutron Spaceview is the most popular watch in this collection, in large part because it boasts a design most reminiscent of the vintage Accutron models. This watch comes in a 43.5mm round stainless steel case paired with a classic black leather strap and protruding, angular lugs. Protecting the watch face is a strong, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with a transparent outer ring.
The dial of this watch shows off the Accutron’s familiar complex skeletal design. Its NS30 electrostatic energy movement is highlighted with the signature metallic green accents that could also be found on the 1960s Accutron Spaceview watches. It does away with the old Accutron Spaceview’s copper coil, instead of using a more durable drive coil for the stepper motor. A single bright orange seconds hand serves to add a pop of quirky personality to this watch face. This movement is also equipped with power-save hacking functions.
This new Accutron Spaceview 2020 2ES6A001 sells at around $3,450 USD.
2. Accutron DNA 2020 2ES8A001
The Bulova Accutron DNA series has always perfectly complemented the Accutron Spaceview in terms of its design and features. One significant difference, however, is that this Accutron DNA 2020 2ES8A001 has a sleeker, more circular build. This is largely thanks to its unique integrated lugs, which have a curved metal surface connecting to the strap. This Bulova Accutron watch is presented in a bulky 45.1mm stainless steel case with a smooth black leather strap.
Like the Accutron Spaceview, the Accutron DNA also has a sophisticated-looking skeletal dial furnished with striking green highlights. Instead of peppering the green accents all over the dial, however, the Accutron DNA showcases a metallic green hour and minute track on the rim of the dial. This stylish design is reminiscent of the professional Rolex Milgauss Ref. 116400 GV Black. The electronic components towards the center of the dial show off silver and black finishes, giving them a very robust, industrial look. This dial is also adorned with polished dauphine hands coated in luminescent material.
You can get your hands on this watch for around $3,300 USD.
3. Bulova Accutron II 97A110 Alpha
Looking for something that really breaks from tradition? Check out the Bulova Accutron II 97A110 Alpha. This watch utilizes a bold and unusual 42mm shield-shaped case, with a well-brushed golden finish that enhances its sleek look. This is coupled with polished hooded lugs and a handsome leather strap in brown.
Like the aforementioned Bulova Accutron watches, this Accutron Alpha piece shows off a complicated open heart design embedded in a green anodized aluminum dial. The rim of the dial contains stick indices for the minute track and white circular hour markers that have been filled with lume. The 12 o’clock marker is also replaced with the brand’s signature tuning fork logo. The movement of this timepiece bears a brushed gold finish that radiates outwards, complementing its brushed gold-tone case.
This Accutron Alpha watch also stands out for not having an electrostatic movement. As one of the 2008 Bulova Accutron releases, this timepiece is driven by a quartz UHF caliber. This movement possesses a frequency of 262 kHz and an impressive battery life of two years.
If you do not mind having an Accutron timepiece without an electrostatic movement, you can buy the Bulova Accutron II 97A110 Alpha for just $370 USD.
4. Accutron II 96A155 Alpha
Another popular Accutron choice for men is the Accutron II 96A155 Alpha. If you want an Accutron Alpha timepiece with more quintessential colors, then this is the watch for you. It is housed in a 43mm stainless steel case with a brushed finish, along with polished hooded lugs and a classic alligator leather strap in black.
The dial of this watch is quite similar to that of the previous Accutron Alpha model. It boasts a green anodized aluminum surface, as a callback to the green highlights found on the dials of older Accutron models. It also follows a skeleton layout, giving wearers an up-close view of the gold-plated, brushed movement inside the watch. This watch also comprises a simple minute track, white circular hour indices, and luminous silver dauphine hands. The seconds hands of this watch is thin as a needle, with a tail tip that holds the brand’s iconic tuning fork logo.
As an Accutron model released in 2008, this watch is equipped with a quartz UHF movement. This caliber has a beat frequency of 262 kHz and a solid 30-meter depth rating.
Since this is a quartz piece, the Accutron II 96A155 Alpha has a much more affordable price tag compared to most other Bulova Accutron watches. This watch sells at an estimated price of just $300 USD, making it one of the most budget-friendly watches in the Accutron collection.
5. Accutron Legacy 2SW7A001
Finally, we have the Bulova Accutron Legacy 2SW7A00, which caters to women looking for a sophisticated and elegant timepiece. This watch utilizes a slender 32.8mm gold-plated stainless steel case in an asymmetrical diamond shape. It flaunts a gorgeous polished finish, giving the watch an exquisite lustre that plays with the light well. A brown lizard-embossed leather strap with subtle details completes the classy look of this watch.
The dial of this Accutron Legacy watch also differs from other Accutron pieces. Instead of a skeleton dial, this watch bears a more traditional, exquisite pearl sunray finish. It is decorated with gold-plated hour indices, bevelled dauphine hands, and dot indices for the understated minute track. This is also the only Accutron model that uses a Swiss-made automatic movement. It is powered by a Sellita SW200 caliber, which is held together by 26 jewels and has a 38-hour power supply.
The Bulova Accutron Legacy 2SW7A00 is priced at approximately $1,450 USD.
The Bulova Accutron watches are not the ordinary pieces you see in the market. On top of their iconic status as the first electrostatic watches, these timepieces also show off rich histories and ingenious engineering. The Bulova Accutron is a true technological marvel and a testament to Bulova’s constant innovation and creativity. On top of that, the Bulova Accutron watches all come at relatively affordable prices, with excellent quality that will surely fulfill all your desires.
Photo Credits: Images are from Bulova’s website unless stated.
Want to see more Bulova watches? Check out our review of the vintage Bulova Royal Oak!