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The Worlds' First Electronic Timepiece

Accutron Makes History: 
Before Accutron, the method of keeping time mechanically had not changed since the invention of the balance  wheel and escapement, over 300 years ago. Suddenly, at the end of 1960, a timepiece that separated every second into 360 equal parts appeared in stores all across the USA and around the world soon after.

The new technology was inherently accurate and made the use of escapements and balance wheels unnecessary. Even more incredible is the fact that there are only 12 moving parts in an Accutron 214 movement. The very finest of today's chronometers can have hundreds of moving parts and yet, their balance wheels still can't break a second into more than 8 parts.


A Symbol of its Era:

In any serious discussion of 20th century technology, Accutron 214 timepieces are acknowledged as an American icon.  The 214 project was Introduced by Bulova at a time when America felt threatened by Russian advances in Spaceflight technology. At the helm was retired 4 star general Omar N. Bradley.

 The "Astronaut" model was worn by pilots of our experimental X-15 Rocket planes, and Accutron played a vital  part in every US Space mission during the 60's and70's.

Accutron 214 timing devices were essential to the operation of scientific instruments left on the Moon's Sea of Tranquility. The first was carried there in 1969 by the crew of Apollo 11.

The Accutron 214 was declared an American "Gift of State" by President Lyndon Johnson and for over a decade they were given to hundreds of visiting dignitaries.

 The 214 was made into panel mount clocks that were installed in ships and on aircraft including Air Force One.

 The 214 can reasonably be considered as the prototype for all modern quartz watches.

 No other timepiece has had a greater impact on the way that we keep time today.

Apollo LiftoffMany of us remember 1969 for the pride and the apprehension that we felt as that manned capsule, mounted atop a huge projectile was launched into space. For that event TVs were set up in store windows and at workplaces everywhere so that people could go about their business without missing the launch and we crowded around those early sets to witness the historic event at Cape Canaveral. On that July day in 1969 at 9:32am E.S.T, men from Earth began the first journey to set foot on the Moon.

America's "Moon Landing Program" actually began about eight months after Accutron first appeared in stores. President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech before a joint session of Congress in which he said that America would be the first nation to land a man on the Moon. That announcement opened an amazing period in American history. It lead to the creation of N.A.S.A. (National Aeronautics & Space Administration) and gave birth to the Astronaut Corps which was comprised of America's best comercial and military test pilots. That was more than a half century ago.


I have no doubt that all of the Accutron timer-controlled hardware that Apollo Astronauts left on the Moon will eventually be collected and brought back to Earth. I only hope that we get to them first. If so, they will surely be displayed in a moon artifact exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.

For those of you who have an Accutron 214 that belonged to a loved one, I hope that these paragraphs have shed some light on the reasons why many in our generation kept them in drawers long after Bulova stopped repairing them.

  Copyright  2002 by Martin Marcus. All rights reserved. These pages may not be copied without written consent.