Established in 1875, Bulova is one of the oldest American watchmaking companies. Although it should be noted that the brand today is not as “American” as it was once. The company is currently owned b the Japanese watchmakery Citizen. Founded by Joseph Bulova, an immigrant from Bohemia, the renowned New York-based brand is responsible for numerous milestones and watchmaking innovations. These milestones, or as the brand likes to call them “firsts”, include the first privately-owned watch to be worn on the Moon, the world’s first curved chronograph movement, the world’s first photo timer, the first complete range of ladies’ watches and many others. For this article I’ve decided to write about one of the most iconic, and certainly the coolest, Bulova watches – the Accutron Spaceview.
But before we talk about the timepiece itself, let’s first have a look at the Accutron technology. The Accutron movement was invented by the Swiss Max Hetzel, who joined the American watchmaker in the 1950’s. Powered by a battery, Bulova’s Accutron watches use a tuning fork that oscillates at 360 Hz. The tuning fork is placed between two electromagnetic coils. The magnetic field created by these coils vibrates the fork 360 times per second. Using a small indexing system, these vibrations are converted into a rotary action that drives the hands. The first Accutron watch came out on October 25, 1960.
Ironically, the Accutron Spaceview was never intended to be sold. Well, at least not in that form . In an effort to show people how different and advanced their new Accutron technology is, Bulova decided to make display models with the dials removed, allowing potential customers to see the watch’s internal components, including the tuning fork and electronics. These showcase models were distributed to Bulova dealers worldwide and featured plastic crystals printed with dial markings. However, many customers, seeing the display model, thought it was a standard model and wished to buy it. And dealers, being dealers, didn’t want to pass on this opportunity and were more than happy to sell these showcase watches. The strangely attractive watch quickly became an instant hit and started selling like crazy! America fell in love with these dial-less Accutrons.
In response to the enormous demand, Bulova decided to add the Spaceview model to the Accutron range in 1961. The interest for this watch was, in fact, so high that the company struggled to ensure enough stock was available. In order to satisfy the demand, many retailers started “converting” regular Bulova Accutron watches with solid dials into Spaceviews. These “converted” models featured another crystal and hands. The first Spaceview watches produced in 1961 were very much similar to the original “display models” and featured crystals with dashes and dots that marked the hours and minutes. In 1962, Bulova equipped the Spaceview with a built-in minute scale (chapter ring) placed around the exposed electronic and mechanical components. Instead of the dots and dashes, the crystals on these models featured only the Accutron name and tuning fork logo.
The iconic Accutron Spaceview had been produced from 1960 to 1977. During this period, Bulova had made more than 200 different versions of it. In 2002, to commemorate the Spaceview’s 40th anniversary, the company created the Spaceview 21. Limited to 1,000 pieces, this model featured a quartz movement. In 2010, Bulova introduced a special 50th anniversary piece, also limited to 1,000 pieces. However, this model had a genuine Accutron movement. Although they have not been in production for 40 years, the Bulova Accutron Spaceview watches are still highly desirable among watch enthusiasts.