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 Accutron II “Snorkel” Review


B7A8CF4C-FD66-4794-93DF-19D0706A5CB4_zpsxwuw0zicThis week, I’m reviewing another great watch recently released by the Bulova Watch Company under their new Accutron II line of watches. Just to recount some previously covered ground, Bulova ceased producing watches under the Accutron name earlier this year and reintroduced that line as “Bulova AccuSwiss” to denote their high-end line of Swiss-made watches. Doing this accomplished two things. It righted a wrong in the minds of many purists who just could not connect the dots between the original Accutron tuning fork watch of the 1960’s/1970’s and the present day Swiss automatic watches that have now carried the Accutron name for many years. To many, it seemed that the watch that pioneered ACCUracy through elecTRONics had nothing to do with a mechanical wristwatch. It also freed up the Accutron name for use on something more befitting it’s heritage, which was the introduction of the Accutron II line in the Bulova portfolio.

Accutron II, the name of which implies a totally new generation of Accutron wristwatches, blends what is old with what is new. The line, which appears to be positioned between the standard Bulova line and the Precisionist line, is comprised of five distinct versions in a variety of styles, all of which are drawn from the original Accutron archives and updated to appeal to a modern audience. This particular review will cover one of the most interesting versions, the Accutron II Snorkel which, in the 96B208 version is a pure homage to the original in almost every way.

The Snorkel line is the only line of Accutron II watches that are rated to a 200 meter water resistance level. At this rating, the watch is acceptably designed for swimming and light diving. The original Snorkel was rated to a depth of 666 feet or roughly 200 meters so Bulova stayed the course with the updated version. More on that later.

Original Accutron Snorkel

Original Accutron Snorkel

First, the case of the watch is crafted in stainless steel, shaped to resemble the original. It has a distinctive 1960’s/1970’s style that was popular at the time but which went out as quartz watches and their new thin designs became prevalent. This funky retro, colorful watch style has come back in recent years, especially in brands such as Zodiac and Bulova has perfectly captured the design of the original while upsizing the case to 43mm to conform with the larger styles of the 21st century. The original was about 38mm, which at the time was considered to be a large watch.

0f91d29b-2632-45e4-addd-ce8cc5714dfe_zpsa834638aThe surface of the case is mostly rendered in a light brush finish with polished highlights such as the thin bezel ring around the crystal and a polished chamfer that runs up both sides of the case. The right side features two crowns like the original, the lower one used for setting the time and date while the upper one rotates an internal elapsed time bezel that surrounds the main dial. Oddly, the lower crown is  screw-down style while the upper crown is not. The lower crown also features the Accutron tuning fork logo introduced on the original Accutrons in 1960.

The back of the watch is a screw-in type back, which is not surprising given the watch’s 200m water resistance. It is simple, brushed with polished accents and is signed with the serial number as well as the year production code (B4 for 2014). So is it a serious diver’s watch? I don’t think it is but at 200m, it should be fine swimming, snorkeling and light diving.

The dial is black with thin chrome indices filled with luminous material. It is a stark and simple dial with the slightest hint of a sunburst pattern and is signed “Bulova Accutron II” with the Accutron logo above it. The bezel ring, in orange and white, surrounds the dial and rotates in either direction you turn it. The hour and minute hands are white with luminous materials while the second hand is bright orange and stands out noticeable against the black dial.

Protecting the dial is a K1 mineral crystal. According to various watch sources, K1 mineral is a type of watch crystal that is hardened, more shatter-resistant than sapphire crystal, and more scratch-resistant than regular mineral crystal. This will not deter those that won’t consider a watch unless it has a sapphire crystal but I suppose that Bulova was trying to keep the price as reasonable as possible. On this example, the crystal is slightly raised and domed, which adds to the vintage appeal of the watch in a way that a flat mineral crystal could not.

The movement of this watch is one of the defining factors that makes this a unique timepiece. To get the size it wanted from the new Accutron II watches, Bulova built a new movement based on the Precisionist model, but smaller and thinner. To accomplish this and use a smaller battery, they had to make some modifications that lowered the accuracy rating from that of a Precisionist (accurate to within 10 seconds a year) but is still up to six times more accurate than that of a standard quartz type wristwatch. The torsional resonator movement beats at a rate of 16 beats per second, which gives the second hand the appearance of a completely smooth sweeping action, a hallmark of the original Accutron.

photo copy 31This particular model is only available with a mesh bracelet, which works well for this design. There are other versions of the Snorkel with different dial configurations and these feature a 60’s style coffin-link bracelet. The mesh bracelet, while attractive and vintage appropriate, fits oddly on my wrist. Rather than use a conventional clasp, Bulova elected to use a butterfly clasp and the bracelet is a combination of solid mesh with several removable bar links on either side of the clasp. Removing more than 6 links (the bracelet is quite large) resulted in difficulty closing the clasp as the bar links do not bend to conform to the shape of it. I decided to remove the bracelet and replace it with a period appropriate rally strap which I think goes well with the watch.

Overall, I think that Bulova has developed a credible vehicle from which to launch a reimagined Accutron watch line. The combination of proven designs from the 1960’s, accuracy much higher than probably 98% of the watches made today from a unique movement, a good price point ($450 to $650 USD), quality construction and a company with a storied history makes for a watch that should be a home run for Bulova.

Tudor Heritage Ranger Announced at Baselworld


photo.PNG copyIntroduced at Baselworld 2014 is a totally new Tudor, yet not quite so new to longtime fans of the brand. Tudor’s original Ranger, their version of the Rolex Explorer, featured the aesthetic values and look of the Explorer without the heftier price tag and the new Heritage Ranger appears to follow in that lead.

Crafted in stainless steel  with a completely brushed finish, 41mm case, the Heritage Ranger is first and foremost a tool watch and definitely looks the part. It is larger by 2mm than the current version of the Explorer and features a matte black dial nearly identical to that of the original. The Ranger features the ETA 2824 movement, heavily decorated and meticulously regulated by Tudor in their Geneva factories.

The hands are in a white gold finish and the pear-shaped hour hand is an homage to the original Ranger, which also featured a similar hand. A sapphire crystal, domed to resemble the vintage models, protects the dial which is also domed while a screw-down crown, emblazoned with the vintage Tudor rose logo, protects the movement to a depth of 150 meters.

photo 2The Heritage Ranger is available on a variety of leather straps, as well as a stainless steel Oyster-style bracelet with vintage-inspired straight end pieces. All versions feature an additional nylon strap in a camouflage colored material.

Prices have not yet been announced but if the pricing strategy follows that of Rolex, the Tudor Heritage Ranger should come in near the entry point of the Tudor brand of watches. Tudor’s focus of bringing back the vintage models reflecting the history of both its own company and that of its older sister Rolex seems to have hit a positive note with watch aficionados everywhere, especially with Tudor now retailing in the United States once again.

The new watch is a great way to break into the Tudor line of watches. It features a robust, time-tested design made modern for today’s market as well as the vintage aspects that have made these watches, quite literally, stand the test of time.

photo 1

The Value in a Good Authorized Dealer


A recent promotion gave me the latest excuse I needed to go and buy yet another watch and to enjoy the shopping experience that goes along with it….at least for me. Putting the watch aside for a separate review, I want to stress what an advantage I think it is to cultivate a good relationship with a reputable jeweler and in the case of my authorized Rolex dealer, I have done just that.

For years, I had done business with one of the only authorized dealers left in Atlanta and though they were knowledgeable and polite, they were always a bit pretentious and they never made me as a customer feel special. If I bought a Rolex from them, I always left with the impression that they were doing me a favor in selling the watch to me and that they really didn’t care whether they ever saw me again. The purchase of a high-end watch should always feel like a special occasion and not like a trip to the dentist.

Last year, I visited an authorized dealer in another city and the difference was like night and day. Not only was the saleswoman outgoing and very unpretentious, she spent a lot of time showing me what was available and letting me try on anything I wanted. I found one that I liked a lot but wasn’t ready to commit just yet and I told her I would think about it. Even though I am sure they hear that a lot from people, she was completely understanding and told me if I had any questions to call the store. When I decided to purchase it, I went back but she wasn’t there. A salesman assisted me instead and I got the same treatment from him. I only found out after the new two-tone Submariner went home with me that he was the general manager of the store.

Since then, I have visited them many times and have gotten to know most of the sales staff and they all know me. I like to drop by a couple of times a month and see what has come in and they are always glad to see me and to show me what is new. Usually the store manager assists me but if he is not there, the other sales associates are always glad to spend time with me as I look at what they have in the case. You might think they are this way to me because I am a loyal customer but I have noticed that they treat everyone with the same courtesy and respect. It says a lot in my book.

Sometimes I might buy something like a small piece of jewelry for my wife; other times I might not buy anything at all or, like I did a few weeks ago, I bought a new Explorer and have yet to suffer any “buyer’s regret”. I look at it as a good investment but more than that, I enjoy the relationship with the store and the people who work there. They call me when something interesting comes in and recently, when the opportunity came up to purchase a good vintage Rolex from another source, I called the store manager and asked his opinion of whether the purchase price was a good deal or not. He was glad to help me to determine that the asking price was a little higher than it should be given the age, materials used and the lower desirability of that particular model.

I say all of this illustrate a point. There are a lot of people out there like me who love watches and who are not Donald Trump. If I want  a new Rolex or a Breitling or an Omega, I have no problem with saving my money until I can purchase one or trading one in on something new and paying the difference. Someone asked me once why I would buy such an expensive watch, not being wealthy or possessing a large supply of disposable income. That is easy to answer.

Why do people who don’t have a lot of money to throw around buy things like motorcycles, ski boats or jet skis? Many of them cost a lot more than a number of Rolex watches for sale out there and they not only depreciate quickly but they require a lot of upkeep and service. A Rolex on the other hand holds its value and can actually increase in value over time. They usually only need upkeep and service once every several years. Sure, it may cost several hundred dollars but have you priced a major service on your car lately? You can wear a Rolex and enjoy it every day. You can’t wear a motorcycle or a boat and you can’t usually enjoy it every day, especially when the weather is bad.

I enjoy nice watches and having a reputable, authorized dealer who is knowledgeable and who treats all their customers well makes the sales part of it pleasant and the after-sales experience pretty much guarantees I will be back. I don’t expect to be treated like royalty-I just want to be treated with courtesy and with respect and I in turn will do the same.

The joy of owning a fine watch is tangible but the joy of having a trusted watch advisor increases that feeling that your purchase was a good choice. There is value in the relationship that goes both ways. A satisfied customer is a repeat customer and feels he gets more for the money spent than just the watch. A repeat customer keeps a dealer in business and enhances the reputation of the dealer’s business.

In some ways, a trusted relationship with an authorized dealer is like when you find a good family doctor-once you find one, hang on to them!