How Accutron went from measuring time at NASA to connecting with watch collectors across generations
Even by name, Accutron– which means “ACCUracy through elecTROnics” – is more than the sum of its parts. Introduced 61 years ago by manufacturer Bulova as the world’s first electronic timepiece and relaunched in 2020 as a stand-alone brand, it has had a pioneering impact that goes far beyond watches. And that says a lot, considering that Accutron invented the world’s most precise timing mechanism in 1960.
Working with a tuning fork – a device until then mainly used in music, breaking every second into 360 components and producing a buzz instead of a tick – its technology has played a key role in the US space program. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Accutron accompanied 46 NASA missions; Apollo’s astronauts even placed his timers on the moon.
Back on Earth, the company created the first certified watch for North American railroad workers in 1962 (its precision ensured on-time trains). But his styles have not only helped propel American industry, they are also a reflection of American culture. Good to know: In the early 1970s, as televisions became ubiquitous in living rooms across the country, Accutron’s “TV watches” became as coveted as the hits that shaped them.
Today, Accutron and culture at large are in renaissance mode. In the midst of the current golden age of television, the brand reintroduced its retro “TV watches”, which are now unisex, with exaggerated domed sapphire crystals.
They are part of a new Legacy collection that modernizes old styles, all selected by Accutron collectors, in limited editions. Updated with Accutron’s Swiss-made 26 jewel movement, much of the collection is customizable, with straps ranging from orange calfskin to periwinkle alligator grain.
Other revived styles include the RR-0, inspired by the aforementioned railroad watch (with the original red second hand for precise monitoring). Meanwhile, the Spaceview 2020 is a unique riff on its namesake from 1960.
An avant-garde masterpiece with a deconstructed, open-ended design that puts the tuning fork in full screen, the Spaceview was and still is the brand’s most iconic style. (It also seems particularly appropriate at a time when space travel has become the last frontier of luxury.)
While the new edition has the same green accents as the original, it is powered in an unprecedented way: with electrostatic energy created by twin turbines that spin through human movement. This is another world first, the result of a decade of research and development.
“The brand was founded on innovation,” says Jeffrey Cohen, president of Citizen Watch America (CWA), the company that oversaw the relaunch of Accutron. “The vision was to stay true to this DNA, but not just from a design and technology perspective. Nowadays, no one needs a watch to tell the time, they have it on their smartphone. It’s more than that.
Born a year after Accutron was founded, Cohen has been collecting watches since graduating from high school and regularly sports a pre-production Spaceview 2020 model. “People ask me all the time: what? -what it is ? He said. “I have managed many watch companies [and have] a lot of watches, but Accutron is something unique in the industry.
He noted his avant-garde advertisements, such as a 1974 Accutron advertisement for its men’s watches and new women’s watches that declared “Equal pay, equal times.” Most recently, Don Draper launched a slogan for the company in an episode of Mad Men– “Accutron is not a timepiece, it is a topic of conversation. As Cohen notes, “We didn’t pay for it. It was organic.
Under Bulova’s umbrella, Accutron was a name that if you knew, you knew. It was a favorite of pop stars, sports stars, and astronauts (even those off duty). According to the Artnet pricing database, 139 of the brand’s watches have been auctioned off over the years, including baseball legend Joe DiMaggio’s circa 1970 model sold for $ 20,625 in 2013.
Today, on its own and at a more affordable price than CWA’s other luxury brands (such as Alpina, Frédérique Constant, Ateliers de Monaco), whose watches cost up to half a million dollars, Accutron is also attracting new attention. generation of collectors who know it from their elders (and also, perhaps, from the new Accutron Show podcast – another watch first).
“We see so many new things that have branding and cute events and influencer marketing, aestheticized to the point. [of being] watered down, ”says Brynn Wallner, creator of the popular Dime blog and author of a Harper’s Bazaar column that explores the watch collection from his perspective as a pop culture-savvy Millennial. “With Accutron, what’s interesting is the history and the fact that he’s been around for so long and broke the mold. When I am introduced to a brand as old as my parents, with a real heritage, I want to know more.
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