This past Christmas, my wife and son thoughtfully gave me a new timepiece that I have actually wanted for some time now but kept allowing other watches to get in the way. Sometimes a gift is the only way to get something that you keep putting off yourself and I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful new Bulova Accutron II “Alpha” watch waiting for me under the tree. Bulova should be pretty happy with me as this is the third Accutron II watch to come into my hands since they hit the market late last summer.
I’ve reviewed the first two that I purchased myself here on Measure of Time in recent months, beginning with the Moonview, an homage to the old Accutron Astronaut and the Snorkel, which is a dead ringer for the original Accutron diving watch. In both cases, however, my review came only after a day or so of use, just long enough for me to get a good feeling for them and to write something credible to evaluate them. This time around, I decided to wait until after I had worn the watch for a while before writing a review and I’m glad I did. This Accutron II has become my favorite of the three and indeed has become a favorite in my collection.
The Alpha is based on one of the original Accutron watch designs from late 1960, when the revolutionary tuning fork watch was first introduced to the public for sale. The 1960 version of the Alpha was a halo model for the new brand, available only in white or yellow gold. Some came with dials, others went without, earning the “Spaceview” designation and it is that particular watch that this new one is based upon. The updated Alpha incorporates a very close approximation of the styling and shape of the original model, resembling a rounded shield design with 60’s looking lugs on the bottom that conform nicely to the shape of the case.
Coming in at a modern 42mm, the size is more in keeping with today’s watch trends without being overly large and unwieldy like some designs have become. The stainless steel case features a variety of sculpted surfaces that work harmoniously together, both polished and brushed. The upper case surrounding the crystal features a brushed finish that radiates outward in a sunburst pattern, a vintage touch not usually found on today’s watches, while the sides feature both a beveled polished finish and a brushed flat side. The variety of surfaces, polishes and angles make for a watch that photography has a hard time capturing the beauty of, yet in person it is quite striking and different from anything that is run of the mill.
The overall construction of the case is unique as well because it is formed of two separate pieces, upper and lower. The lower piece comprises both the back and the lugs as one solid piece while the upper piece forms the sides and top of the case and holds the crystal. The movement is sandwiched between these two pieces and held together by four screws on the back. It feels very solid and substantial and the crown at the 3 O’Clock position tucks neatly into the side of the case, virtually hidden from view.
Original Alpha 214 models featured the crown on the back of the case, further highlighting the difference between an Accutron and conventional wristwatches that required frequent winding and time correction. The case is water-resistant to 30 meters which means if you accidentally submerge the watch it should be fine. Just don’t swim in it.
Here also is a picture of the inside of the case back. Note the construction, stainless steel, and the lugs which are part of the case back. This forms the composite watch with the movement and top shown above.
A raised and domed K1 hardened mineral crystal is seated tightly into the case, allowing one not only to read the time but to get a glimpse of the exposed electronic movement that recalls the original Accutron Spaceview. Imprinted on the underside of the crystal are the words “Bulova Accutron II” in white. While some may wish for sapphire glass, I have found the mineral crystal to be substantial enough and clear. There is some refraction at extreme angles but it adds to beauty of the dial, or lack of dial if you prefer.
There are no exposed tuning forks in this modern version but you do get to see the copper wire coil and the movement is seated in green plastic similar to the original Spaceview. Covering the movement is a gold metallic plate that highlights various apertures for seeing jeweled pinions in place. The plate features a radiating sunburst pattern that plays nicely with the finish of the case. A solid anodized aluminum chapter ring, rendered in a deep and beautiful shade of green, features the minutes in white hash marks with a round marker set at each hour. The Accutron tuning fork logo is featured at the 12 O’Clock position and all hours markers are filled with luminous material. The chapter ring, along with the white pointed hands make it very easy to read the time. The hands are identical to those used on original Spaceview models and they are filled with luminous material as well. The second-hand features the Accutron logo as a counterpoint and this is what brings out the best aspect of the movement.
The watch is fitted with a BA101.10 movement (this is engraved on the gold plate, along with the tuning fork logo) that is the latest movement to spring from the Bulova Precisionist technology introduced in 2010. To create the Accutron II line and keep the watch size within reason, Bulova needed to have a smaller movement while retaining a battery lifespan of 2-3 years. This new movement lowers the operating frequency down to help the smaller battery achieve that. While this had the effect of decreasing the Precisionist’s accuracy somewhat, the Accutron II is still considered to be an ultra high frequency watch that is considerably more accurate than a standard quartz movement, up to six times more accurate to be, well…accurate.
This class of movement features a proprietary quartz torsional resonator that uses a three prong quartz crystal and not the usual two and beats 16 times per second, resulting in a second-hand that sweeps in a fluidic, continuous motion, the hallmark of an Accutron watch. The name, which originally meant “Accuracy through Electronics” has once again been realized.
The watch features a black leather strap, embossed in an alligator pattern which is both padded, yet pliable. While it is a bit long, it is easy to customize the size via the adjustable butterfly deployant clasp, a pleasant surprise at this price point. I will admit that I wasn’t a big fan of this clasp at first and immediately wanted to put a traditional buckle on it but I didn’t have one that worked so I decided to wear it with the included clasp. Having worn the watch for four weeks now, I’ve grown to appreciate it a lot more and have gotten used to how it works with the leather strap. I like them on metal bracelets but it takes a little getting used to when dealing with leather. The clasp itself is nice and features a polished tuning fork logo raised in a surrounding circle of bead blasted finish.
Speaking of the tuning fork logo, it is featured no less than six times on the watch: chapter ring, dial-plate, counterpoint, crown, clasp and back. Bulova has discontinued the use of the tuning fork logo on its other lines of watches for the most part, bringing the logo back for use exclusively in the Accutron II line, a decision I agree with. That logo was once what set an Accutron apart from any other kind of timepiece and it is now back where it belongs.
So what are my thoughts on this new Alpha? Simply put, I love the entire package. It is well crafted, substantial and unique in design. The fit and finish are superb, especially in a watch that retails for under $500.00 USD. The movement has not lost nor gained a second in four weeks of daily wear and the strap is well made, comfortable and adjustable. Like the other watches in the Accutron II portfolio, it looks like an Accutron that recalls the 1960’s in a package designed for 21st century. Plus it’s mesmerizing to look at. The combination of polishes and finishes, the rare look at a quartz based movement, the beautiful green and gold tones of the movement, the smooth second-hand and the interesting design of the case all work well together.
From what I have been able to determine, the watch features a Swiss made case and is assembled in Switzerland while the movement is crafted in Japan. This would explain why the case is so well made with such excellent fit and finish. This picture shows the case back inside.
Fans of the original Accutron should be very pleased with this new version of an iconic watch design. All of the Accutron II watches I have seen and reviewed indicate that Bulova is headed in the right direction with this series and I look forward to seeing what else they come out with. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy this beautiful homage to a historic line of watches that literally changed timekeeping over 50 years ago.
Note: I should have included a word about the accuracy of the Alpha. After one month of wear, I found no deviation of time from the atomic clock signal I used to set it initially. I’m sure there will be some differences among Accutron II owners due to different types of wear, exposure to magnetic fields, etc. but overall, the accuracy if the watch is dead on the money for me.
Follow Up: Ten Months
I have to say that the most surprising thing about the Accutron II Alpha after ten months of ownership is the surprising amount of wrist time it gets. Quite often, I’ll get a new watch, wear it for several weeks and then begin to lose interest in it. Other watches beg to be worn and eventually the once-coveted timepiece ends up in a drawer where the battery will eventually die. Such has not been the case with the Alpha.
While my initial enthusiasm for the watch has diminished somewhat, I would prefer to think that it has mainly just leveled off. The Alpha generally gets some amount of wrist time every week. I’ll open the box, look through the collection and that green dial and sweeping hand always gets my attention. Unlike most Bulova watches, this one is definitely a unique look and it stands out. More often that not, I’ll leave home with it on my wrist for the day.
Having worn it a lot over the past ten months, I’ve been impressed with the accuracy of the watch. Despite what they may claim, the Accutron II Alpha might gain one second every four months. That’s it. It set it on Christmas Day, I reset it when the time changed in March and as I write this just days before the fall time change, the watch is exactly 1.5 seconds faster than my atomic clock signalized digital clock. That is impressive for any watch and certainly for one that is under $500.00.
A few things I don’t like about the watch or rather, I would change if I could.
- I still wish the watch was just a little bit smaller. It’s still vastly right-sized when compared to the Precisionist models and their Incredible Hulk sized cases but I wish it was about 40mm and it would be perfect.
- I have come to wish that it did have a sapphire crystal, even if it drove the cost up. The clarity of sapphire is just so much better than any mineral crystal. Make the crystal sapphire, remove the Bulova name from the crystal and increase the font a bit on the Accutron II. Call it what it is, just like the originals.
- With a slightly reduced case size, decrease the lug width to 20mm. With a 21mm lug width, you are going to have considerably less choice out there in aftermarket straps and bracelets. Most of them are sized in even-numbered sizes, which means for a really nice leather strap, you are going to have to force a 22mm strap to fit or go with a 20mm strap which leaves the spring bars visible. Same with a mesh or metal strap-there are very few 21mm metal bracelets out there and with metal, your only real choice is to go down a size to 20, which means it will fit loosely. The Accutron II Moonview I have has a 20 mm lug width and gives me a wide array of choices. Changing bands and bracelets is like changing neckties and can bring a whole new look to a watch.
Having said all that, I’m still very impressed with what Bulova has done and I really hope they will consider doing a few more Spaceview homages of other models in the future.