The Spaceview Reborn: The Accutron II Alpha


IMG_6621This 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.

AlphaThe 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.

IMG_5319The 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.

IMG_3626Here 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.

IMG_3628There 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.

IMG_3625The 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.

IMG_5316From 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.

Bulova Unveils the Accutron II


AlphaThe original Bulova Accutron, introduced in 1960 with a revolutionary tuning fork-driven movement was the first truly electronic wristwatch, eclipsing Hamilton’s 1957 electromechanical wristwatch and setting the bar for true accuracy several years before the quartz watch would make the technology obsolete.

Quartz watches, which are more accurate and much less costly to produce, came to dominate the market, resulting in the Accutron brand dropping the tuning fork movement around 1977 and jumping on the quartz bandwagon. All this did was dilute the brand equity of the Accutron name, which wandered on without a true sense of identity for the next few decades. Once the unique movement was dropped, there just wasn’t anything to differentiate a quartz-powered Accutron from the scores of other quartz watches on the market and the Accutron name became little more than just that.

Bulova made a genuine attempt at reintroducing the line in the 1980’s as a high quality, Swiss-made arm of the Bulova family, featuring quartz watches in superbly crafted cases and these enjoyed some success. When mechanical watches became associated again with luxury, Accutron added Swiss automatic and manual winding movements, creating fine watches to be sure, but the irony of having such a movement in a watch whose name first signaled a break from the traditional was not lost on watch collectors at all. Accutron originally stood for “Accuracy through Electronics”, meant as the watch to replace the mechanical movement watch.

In 2010, Bulova introduced the Precisionist line of wristwatches, featuring a new kind of quartz movement that was far more accurate than the traditional kind and which featured, for the first time, a smoothly sweeping second-hand. It harkened back to the appeal of the original Accutron with its unique movement beating so fast that the second-hand appeared to glide like a satellite in orbit, but in the end, it wasn’t called “Accutron”.

Many purists like myself felt all along that Bulova should have used this new movement to reintroduce the Accutron line of watches rather than forge ahead with building a new line from the ground up but in hindsight, I’m kind of glad they didn’t. Instead of the classic good looks of the original Accutron watches, Precisionist buyers were met with a mostly-odd assortment of overwrought, oversized case designs, which turned many buyers off. Additionally, in the nearly four years since the Precisionist was introduced, only a handful of new models have come out, limiting choices. Apparently Bulova management decided to make some changes and while not killing the Precisionist line, Bulova has instead decided to take a new approach and has made some restructuring changes in their upper lineup of watches.

Bulova-Accutron-II-Alpha-Watch-4First of all, the top-of-the-line Bulova, previously known as the Accutron, which is now the Swiss-made arm of Bulova, has changed its name to Bulova AccuSwiss. Ok, so it sounds like a hybrid of a Swiss acupuncturist and it’s not exactly a game changing name that engages the chronometric hormones of watch envy or anything but it does free the Accutron name from being affixed only to a Swiss-made watch and allows Bulova to do other things with it….like maybe pop a modified Precisionist movement (which is made by parent company Citizen in Japan) into a vintage-inspired, successful design of the past and call it the Accutron II. That is just what they did and suddenly Accutron is back again.

Bulova has made some other changes across its line as well such as a new font and the apparent removal of the Accutron tuning fork logo from it’s other watch lines. This puts the logo back in it’s rightful place…on the true successor to the original Accutron. In a recent news release, Bulova stated the following:

You may have noticed that we recently updated our logo, refreshing our graphics and changing our use of the tuning fork symbol to emphasize its proper place in our history. This renowned corporate icon will be featured on the dials of our new Bulova Accutron II exclusively, and will no longer appear on Bulova or Bulova Accu•Swiss dials.

A proud symbol of Bulova’s leadership in technology, the tuning fork initially signified the revolutionary tuning fork movement of Accutron, the world’s first fully electronic watch. Our new Bulova Accutron II brand, like the original Accutron, is powered by a highly accurate electronic breakthrough, the Precisionist-class quartz movement, and features a continuously sweeping floating second hand. As the logical successor to the Accutron tradition, only Bulova Accutron II will include a tuning fork on its dial, emphasizing the meaning of the symbol itself. 

To continue honoring this important symbol of the Bulova story, the tuning fork will continue to function as a corporate icon, appearing on Bulova and Bulova Accu•Swiss crowns, buckles and casebacks, unless the design makes it impractical. 

The new Bulova Accutron II was introduced this past week at BaselWorld, the annual watch and jewelry fair held in Basel, Switzerland. Drawing from the first Accutron introduced in 1960, the case design, known as the “Alpha” (maybe because it was first?) very closely follows the characteristics of the original with its shield-shaped case and lugs. Where it differs though is that this one looks much more like the limited edition Accutron that Bulova built for the watch’s 50th anniversary. You know, the one that had a real tuning fork movement and cost between $4000 and $5000 USD? Way out of most people’s price range for a Bulova, no matter how limited the run.

Bulova-Accutron-II-Alpha-Watch-16Such is not the case with this new Accutron watch. The new model, which I mentioned is driven by a modified Precisionist movement, is intended to retail for between $399 and $599 and comes in a variety of metal colors and straps. One that is sure to be a hit is the stainless steel “Alpha”, which features a “Spaceview” dial that allows the wearer to see the movement. Admittedly, the new movement is not nearly as detailed looking as the original tuning fork movement was but anyone that knows watches will know this for what it is: a Spaceview, reborn for the 21st. century.

The watch features a recessed and hidden crown for setting the watch, which is also in keeping with the original, although the crown is on the side of the new one instead of the back like the original.  That’s quite OK, as the original was known to have problems with water leaking in the area where the setting crown connected with the back of the watch case. The new Alpha also appears to have a generous amount of luminous material on the hands and dial, hands which look identical to those found on many original Spaceviews. A black leather strap embossed with an alligator pattern completes the package.

Bulova-Accutron-II-Alpha-Watch-5Other configurations include a gold-plated model with a brown leather strap, a rose gold-plated model with a white leather strap and a black PVD cased model with a black mesh bracelet. The black metal model is anticipated to be the priciest version at a few hundred dollars more.

All in all, the new Bulova Accutron II promises many things. It has the vintage appeal of the 1960’s era Accutron coupled with the most modern quartz movement available. While it may not be a tuning fork Accutron, the modified Precisionist movement is the legitimate genetic successor to the original movement and promises a smoothly sweeping second-hand that glides effortlessly. It may not hum with the vibration of the tuning fork but those with good ears will likely be able to listen in a quiet room as the little stepping motor purrs rather than ticks. More than this, the reliability factor will be increased considerably. According to sources, the modifications that were required will make this movement slightly less accurate than a Precisionist but still six times more accurate than a conventional quartz watch. That is still far more accuracy than can be attained with any mechanical watch.

Bulova-Accutron-II-Alpha-Watch-3While there are many original Accutron watches still out there working every day, they are getting harder and harder to fix when damaged, as parts become increasingly scarce and Accutron expert repairers become fewer. Those who still wear them have to take extra care and precaution that the tiny transistorized electrical movement is not damaged from the rigors of day-to-day wear. For those who love their original Accutron watches, the new Accutron II promises to be a much more robust watch that is more suitable for everyday wear. Plus, they are just plain cool.

Look for them in stores around June 2014.