A Symbol of Its Era:
In any serious discussion of 20th century technology, Accutron 214 timepieces are acknowledged as an American icon.
For at least 300 years before Accutron,
wind-up clocks and watches were driven by a spring-loaded mechanism called an escapement.
In October of 1960, Accutron made those "Tick-Tock" movements obsolete. The finest mechanical chronometers available today can only
tick nine times per second. Accutrons' ingenious tuning fork mechanism splits each second into 360 parts.
The sweep hand on mechanical movements jumps from second to second. The Accutron sweep moves continuously, and if you put a 214
to your ear you will hear the unique sound of the Accutron Tuning Fork. No other timepiece has had a greater impact on the way
that we keep time. At the end of 214 production (1960 to 1977), Accutrons served as high-quality prototypes for the inexpensive
quartz watches that followed in them.
Birth of an Icon:
The 214 project was introduced at a time when America was awakened to the potential threat of Russian advances in space technology.
At the helm was retired 5-Star general Omar N. Bradley,
the quiet hero of WW2 and the man after whom the Bradley Fighting Vehicle was named. That connection helped Bulova design a tool
that would be of interest to every branch of the US military and that tool was the Accutron Astronaut.
In November of 1960, Bulova created an advertising campaign to introduce a new line of watches.
The brand was named Accutron, and although they looked very ordinary, there was a revolutionary new movement inside.
To inform the public, Bulova launched an advertising campaign with full-page magazine ads, and provided its dealers
with skeletonized display watches that were to be set up on countertops and in store windows.
*Bulova had not planned to sell converted models, but customers were asking to buy the display watches and Bulova dealers
were happy to convert any of the new models that could be fitted with the reverse-printed Accutron crystal.
The company expected the initial sales-bump to settle down eventually, but the demand only got greater, so Bulova decided
to add converted models to their 1961 lineup. The new skelitonized "Chapter Ring" watches collectively came to be known as "Spaceview" models. See more at:
Accutron Spaceview History
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.
*There are several scientific instruments with built-in Accutron 214 timing devices on the Moon's "Sea of Tranquility". They were carried there by the crew of Apollo Eleven.
*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.
*Accutron panel clocks were installed in ships and aircraft, and Accutron battery-powered timing switches were quickly adopted by private sector engineers.
Fly Me to the Moon:
The Moon Landing Project 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 must be the first nation to land a man on the Moon.
That challenge opened an amazing period in American history. It led 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 commercial and military test pilots.
America's astronauts were young men who regularly flew the fastest and most sophisticated aircraft in existence at that time. They were mostly military test pilots
so it should come as no surprise that they loved speed on land as well as in the air.
The Corvette Connection:
Enter another American icon, the Chevrolet Corvette. Although the many documented exploits by astronauts with their "Vette's" were kept under wraps
by NASA, and product endorsements were taboo for astronauts, General Motors, sensing an opportunity for free advertising, leased Corvettes to our
astronauts for one dollar a year, so during the years that followed, wherever the astronauts went as a group, there were bound to be Corvette's in
the parking lot, and Accutrons on their wrists.
I like to think that sometime in this decade, the fifty plus year old instruments on the moon will be brought back and displayed at the Smithsonian
Air & Space Museum. I only hope that we get to them first.
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 long after Bulova stopped accepting repairs.