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By Laurent Martinez 

There are more than a few iconic American companies that can trace their success to one product in particular. There’s Ford’s Model T, The Coca-Cola Company’s Coke, and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. 

In the watch world, there’s Accutron, which was a revolutionary electronic watch with a tuning fork that Bulova debuted in 1960. Accutron today operates as its own brand.

Before writing this article, my knowledge about Joseph Bulova was limited. However, after diving deep into researching him, I have come to realize that Joseph Bulova was an innovative entrepreneur who not only loved to invent and visualize the future but also was guided by a strong sense of ethics and values.

Joseph Bulova emigrated from Bohemia (known today as the Czech Republic) to New York in 1870. As a fully trained watchmaker, he landed a job at Tiffany & Co. but left five years later to open a small jewelry store on Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan. It’s interesting to note that before dedicating his life to wristwatches, Joseph Bulova already had a few inventions under his belt, including making jewelry improvements to earrings, bracelets and rings.

Joseph Bulova understood time better than most and was always one step ahead. During his time in America the country was in its golden age of industry and progress thanks to railroads, manufacturing, electricity and light. It was the perfect era for Joseph Bulova to make his mark on timekeeping design and production.

By 1912, Bulova established a plant in Bienne, Switzerland, dedicated to the production of watch components and their assembly into jeweled movements. Although he was driven by the values of quality before quantity and perfection before production, Joseph Bulova was an early pioneer of mass and standardized production of watches, which he sought to fulfill his vision of putting an affordable watch on every wrist in the United States.

Bulova was one of the first brands to recognize the shift from pocket watches to wristwatches even before World War I. This was in large part due to Joseph’s 17-year-old office assistant, John Ballard, who would later become acting president of the company for almost fifty years. 

Fifth Avenue 

By 1927, the Bulova Watch Company moved to 580 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, complete with the Bulova Observatory on the roof — the first Observatory ever built on the top of a skyscraper. The Bulova School of Watchmaking is established in 1946. In 1948, Bulova develops the phototimer, which combined a photo-finish camera with an electronic timing mechanism. Bulova then introduced the unprecedented Accutron 214 electronic watch in 1960. In 1970, Bulova unveiled the 666 Devil Diver.

Bulova is associated with so many “firsts” in the industry, including the first radio clock, the first Dust-Tight Protector (to keep dust out of the watch movement), the first national radio commercial (1926), and the first television commercial (1941).

Bulova was also no stranger to pop culture with banners at the first Beatle concert in the United States. The Frank Sinatra Show musical variety show that ran in the early 1950s was also known as Bulova Watch Time. Earlier than this even, Bulova understood the importance of associating watches with celebrities of the era, like pioneer aviator Charles Lindbergh, Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller (who later became an actor famous for playing Tarzan), and General of the Army Omar Bradley.

In Space

The Bulova company was also involved with NASA, participating in forty-six space missions). In fact, the U.S. Air Force purchased an Accutron Astronaut watch for every pilot in the X-15 project, which ran from the late-1950s until the late-1960s. More recently, astronaut Dave Scott’s Bulova chronograph, which he wore on the Moon, sold for nearly $1.6 million at RR Auction.  

Astronaut David Scott wore this Bulova chronograph on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971. It sold for nearly $1.6 million in 2019.

Bulova was involved in many other applications such as developing timing instruments, clocks, and altimeters. However, some of Bulova’s work remains unknown as Bulova worked with the U.S. government on plenty of top-secret military projects.

Archives 

Carl Rosen at Bulova’s museum in the Empire State Building.

Six years ago, Jeffrey Cohen, CEO of Citizen Watch America, called up Carl Rosen, a trained engineer and the former COO of Bulova, and archivist Julie Loftus and proposed creating a Bulova archive, complete with vintage watches, ads, memorabilia, sketches, designs, patents, marketing materials, and other ephemera.

The archive contains physical recordings, as well as digital electronics files stored in a database. Not only will this work serve to keep the Bulova brand alive forever, but it also lends inspiration to the current design, marketing, and sales teams. There’s plenty of material to inspire reissues or modern interpretations of vintage Bulova classics.

Furthermore, the Bulova museum is charged with showing the history and evolution of this important watch brand. Items are presented to represent key moments of both Bulova and American history. I was amazed to see unique and iconic pieces like one of the oldest Bulova watches with an open back, as well a watch that once belonged to Elvis Presley.

Today, the company has more than 2,000 physical items like advertisements, books, memorabilia and packaging, in addition to 6,000 digital documents like scans of Bulova annual reports, catalogs, commercials, and images. If you look at the packages, names of the watch lines, and advertisements, you quickly begin to see the history of the United States unfolding in front of you. 

It’s clear that Bulova is an integral part of American history.

If you have the opportunity to visit the Bulova museum at the Bulova offices in the Empire State Building, I highly encourage it! Carl is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about his work.


 Bulova and Accutron have teamed with their headquarters, New York City’s Empire State Building, to light the building in Accutron’s signature green hue in celebration of Accutron’s anniversary on October 25.

Rosen is the encyclopedia of Bulova and he knows the ins and outs, the origins of everything, the timing, the advertisements, the why of this design or packaging, alongside a plethora of interesting anecdotes and charming stories.

If you want to learn more about the fascinating history of Bulova, I also recommend two beautiful books published by the brand. The first is “Bulova, A History of Firsts” and the second is “Bulova, A Legacy of Innovation.” A lot of documents are also accessible via the Bulova and Accutron websites.

I commend Julie and Carl for their amazing work to preserve the history of Bulova.

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com

 

Accutron expands the color options within its groundbreaking electrostatic-powered Spaceview 2020 collection with three new models. These include a brown-dialed collaboration with the La Palina cigar company, a new dark grey-dial edition and a version with a full green movement plate with contrasting, darkened bridges.

The new Accutron x La Palina Limited Edition Spaceview 2020.

With an openwork design, the Spaceview 2020 displays its dual electrostatic ‘turbines’ and accumulator framed by a clear bezel and connected bridges, all within a 43.5mm steel case. One model from the initial 2020 launch is cased in gold.

Retaining that original layout, Accutron commemorates the La Palina partnership by coloring the watch’s dial and outer ring brown and adding light green luminosity to the markers, hour and minute hands. Accutron then adds a cigar-friendly warm yellow second hand and a matching brown alligator strap to the new watch.

Finally, Accutron rolls the entire package into a humidor set with a cigar cutter and ten ‘Accutron blend’ cigars. The custom-designed humidor, which will hold a minimum of fifty cigars, is handmade by master craftsmen in
the Nicaraguan region of Estelí.

The new Accutron x La Palina Limited Edition Spaceview 2020 watch is a limited edition of 222 pieces. Priced at $5,000, it is available for pre-order with a fall delivery.

Grey and green

Just prior to the La Palina debut, Accutron also added two new models the ongoing Spaceview 2020 collection.

The first new style boasts a smoke-grey open-work dial with signature Accutron green accents and transparent outer ring, light green super luminous markers, hour and minute hands and orange second hand. Finished on a matching stainless steel bracelet, the watch is priced at $3,850.

The second style features a new green dial treatment with 
transparent outer ring, grey bridges, light green super
luminous markers, hour and minute hands and orange
 second hand. Offered on a charcoal calf leather strap, this model is priced at $3,450. Both watches feature a 43.5mm polished stainless steel case with domed scratch resistant sapphire crystal and water resistance to 50 meters.

 

 

As football season continues, Accutron reminds collectors that the inspiration watches for two of its new Legacy models drew catchy gridiron nicknames in the 1960s.

The two models, the Accutron 565 and 203, were both initially launched in 1966 and were notable for their distinctive asymmetrical case designs, which accounted in part for their football-related nicknames.

The new Accutron Legacy 565. The original model 565 was known as the ‘Football Cross Hatch’ watch.

One watch, model 565, was known as the ‘Football Cross Hatch’ watch thanks the spiral pattern on its bezel. Likewise, fans called the 203 model the ‘Football Gold Relief’ watch primarily because of its case shape, which somewhat echoes that of the pigskin.

The new Accutron Legacy 203.

Accutron’s Legacy collection, first seen in late 2020, includes newly re-imagined versions of those original watches plus many others from the 1960s and 1970s. For these models (and the full Legacy collection) Accutron wisely resists the modern tendency by watchmakers to upscale retro editions by housing them in larger cases.

New versions

Accutron today adds the distinctive bezel cross hatch pattern to the crown (at 4 o’clock) on the new Legacy 565 ($1,390). This model is 34mm in diameter and features a silver-tone stainless steel case with a three-hand silver white dial, large hour markers and an outer minutes ring.

The new Accutron Legacy 203 ($1,450) offers the same 34mm size case, but with two-tone finish, a three-hand champagne-colored dial, Arabic numerals and thin markers on the outer ring. It’s sold with a brown croco-embossed leather strap with a double-press clasp.

The full Accutron Legacy collection is available online and in select stores with each design limited to 600 watches. All models feature sapphire crystals, a Sellita-based automatic movement and are water resistant to 30 meters.

All Accutron Legacy watches are priced at less than $1,500. Most retain what are now called unisex sizes, from 34mm to 38.5mm in diameter, and almost all are sold in both silver-tone steel and gold-tone steel cases. While several offer steel or gold-tone bracelets, most echo the era and come with croco-embossed or retro-style leather straps.

 

Accutron has teamed with Vermont-based Stave Puzzles to create The Accutron Challenge, a hand-cut wood jigsaw puzzle inspired by the 2020 launch of new Accutron Spaceview.

The Accutron Challenge wood jigsaw puzzle, made by Vermont-based Stave Puzzles.

The puzzle offers seven separate challenges, including a “Beat the Clock” multiple design puzzle, with the final products creating seven different colored Accutron timepieces.

Accutron launched a new series of Spaceview watches last year to commemorate the original 1960 tuning-fork-powered Spaceview,  the first electrically powered wristwatch. The new Accutron Spaceview is powered in part using electrostatic generators.

The Accutron Spaceview 2020.

Accutron adds Stave Puzzles to its expanding list of U.S.-based collaborations, which also includes Hudson Whiskey, La Palina Cigars, and Esterbrook Pens.

The Accutron Challenge is priced at $745 and can be purchased from Accutron’s website.

 

By Nancy Olson

With East Coast roots and an American heritage that has served them well, Accutron and Esterbrook have joined forces to produce the Accutron by Esterbrook—a pen collection that commemorates both well-known brands and their inventive spirits.

“Accutron and Esterbrook pens are two storied American brands who share the same DNA,” said Jeffrey Cohen, President of Citizen Watch America, Accutron’s parent company. “Pioneering their respective industries with the spirit of innovation, both brands made history and continue to do so today through these special collaborative projects.”

A bit of history

Richard Esterbrook, a Cornish Quaker, arrived in the United States from England in 1856 and founded the Esterbrook Steel Pen Manufacturing Company in Camden, New Jersey. The company thrived, and Esterbrook eventually grew to include nearly 500 employees, eventually producing about 216 million pens a year. Though it began as a dip pen maker, Esterbrook’s wares grew to include fountain pens as well.

Accutron brings the same penchant for technological advancement and design with new watches powered by electrostatic energy, reimagining the brand’s historical timepieces.

Not long after Accutron released its first watch in 1960, President John F. Kennedy used an Esterbrook pen to write the speech that set the United States on a course to the moon. In another twist of intermingled fate, NASA used Accutron technology on dozens of missions later that same decade, and into the next.

The Accutron Estie Traditional with gold-plated steel nib.

The pens

The new Accutron by Esterbrook Limited Edition pen series includes three models. The Accutron Regular Estie rollerball pen is limited to 110 pieces, while the Accutron Regular fountain pen with a gold-plated steel nib is limited to 300 pieces.

The Accutron Oversize Estie pen with an 18-karat gold nib is limited to 100 pieces, each pen numbered.

The Accutron Oversize Estie Pen with gold nib.

This new Estie pen series is made from a proprietary DiamondCast formula in Accutron’s emblematic green, here blended with gold and diamond dust. Each pen is equipped with a cushion cap closure to provide a secondary seal  ensure an easy start. The fountain pen nibs are specially manufactured for Esterbrook by German nib maker Jowo and may be inked with any international cartridge or converter.

The Accutron Regular Estie Roller Ball pen.

Incidentally, the Estie is one of the most-loved (and prolific) collections within the Esterbrook range of pens. It offer a classic style, numerous nib options and a penchant for color, all of which have made it a favorite among young and old, serious pen collectors and those just seeking a pleasurable everyday pen.

Prices: Accutron Regular Estie Rollerball pen, $350; Accutron Regular fountain pen with gold-plated steel nib, $395; Accutron Oversize Estie pen with an 18-karat gold nib, $750.