Accutron214.com (circa 2001) is currently under reconstruction. Please check back periodically.
The Accutron Paradigm Shift
The Worlds' First Electronic Timepiece
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 technology. At the helm was retired
general Omar N.
Bradley, the quiet hero ofWW2, and the man after whom the Bradley
Fighting Vehiclewas named. 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. To this day, there
are several Accutron 214 timing devices sitting on the Moon's Sea
of Tranquility. The first was carried there in 1969 by the crew of
Apollo 11, the first mission to land men on the moon. 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 AirForce 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.
Symbol of its Era
Many of us still remember the liftoff of Apollo 11 in 1969. We remember the pride and the apprehension that we felt as a tiny capsule, mounted atop a gigantic projectile, was launched into space. For that event TVs were set up in store windows and at workplaces 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 the Kennedy Space Center on that July day, at 9:32am EST, men from Earth began a journey to the Moon.
America's "Moon Landing Program" actually
began about eight months after Accutron first appeared in stores.
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.
During the next few years, with our X-15 rocket planes setting new speed and altitude records regularly, and our satellites multiplying in orbit, I wanted a piece of it to call my own, so at the end of November in 1963 just a few days after president Kennedys' assassination, in need of something to lift my spirits, I bought a gleaming stainless steel Accutron Chapter Ring Spaceview at the then fairly high price of $150.
"Fly me to the Moon"
Move over Sinatra. Make way for instant celebrities. During the 60's, Americas' Astronauts were constantly on TV or in the newspapers. They became living action-figures who flew the fastest and most sophisticated aircraft in existence at that time so it should come as no surprise that they loved speed on land as well as in the air.
Enter another American icon, the Chevrolet Corvette Although the astronauts many documented exploits were kept under wraps by NASA, and product endorsements were taboo, General Motors, sensing an opportunity for free advertising, leased Corvettes to the astronauts for $1.00 a year and wherever the astronauts went as a group, there were bound to be Accutrons on their wrists, and Corvette's in the parking lot.
I have no doubt that the Accutron timer controlled hardware that Apollo Astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin Aldrin left on the Moon during the first landing, and the scientific instruments left by those succeeding them 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.