The Bulova Accutron was the world’s very first electronic watch, manufactured and released 1960. Pretty immediately, it became the watch chosen by some of NASA’s astronauts to accompany them into space, although it was never “flight qualified”; that accolade went to the Speedmaster, as most people will already know. The Accutron is also a “hummer” – a tuning fork watch featuring a sweep second hand and a claimed accuracy of about one minute per month. It was designed by a Bulova engineer called Max Hetzel, and he managed to achieve a frequency of 360Hz (which was quite something at the time); in fact, Accutrons were used as time references in many satellites and also to control some of the Apollo moon experiments and became something of a horological milestone in the process. Some interesting facts…
> The index wheel boasts 320 teeth each of which is ten microns in depth
> For a thirty year old watch this means that over 2.8 E+11 teeth have have moved under the pawl jewel
> The Accutron was used to correctly dimension Greenland for the first time
> Each coil boasts 8000 turns of wire, the diameter of which is 15 microns
> The Bulova Accutron was the first wristwatch to utilize a Bipolar Transistor
The watch that’s presently on my wrist dates from 1965, although it was originally sold by Garrard & Co Ltd in 1968 (more on that in a minute). It’s an Astronaut model, and there were so many variations of this watch that it’s quite hard to pin down the correct designations. However, this guide suggests that it’s a Type 1 and what seems to be an Astronaut A (that is, black dial and straight/pointed hands with a non-luminous second hand). The GMT hand is coupled to the main hour and minute hands, and the second time zone is set with the bi-directional bezel, precisely as you’d do with a Rolex 1675.
All in all, I love it as a watch in terms of both looks and heritage; however, this one is even more special as a consequence of the package it came with. It has the original coffin-link bracelet, the outer box, the inner box, the original Garrard guarantee certificate dated 22nd January 1968, the instruction book, the battery changing instructions, a Garrard warranty repair receipt dated 10th July 1968 and the little tool for opening the battery cover. On top of all that, it’s recently been serviced at electric-watches.co.uk so is, basically, as good as it gets for one of these.
You may be able to detect a hint of glee… in any event, here are a few photos!