Accutron 214

Accutron Spaceview Conversion 214H M9

Accutron Spaceview Conversion 214H M9

When Accutron 214 based watches were first released in 1960, they were truly ground breaking. Although the Hamilton Electrics had only been released 3 years earlier, the 214 Accutron watches were very different to anything that had gone before — in fact, in one of Bulova’s 1966 advertisements, they have a tag line that says “The Accutron timepiece is not a watch.“. It was the first wristwatch to employ a transistor, it lacked a hand-setting crown on the side of the watch, it made a strange humming sound and it was very accurate. It is no surprise to me that the 214 “Spaceview” watches (see below) were a great success; owners wanted to see this wondrous movement inside their watch…and they wanted their friends to see it as well!

Here are the main calibres in the 214 Series:

  • Accutron 214: Standard 214 with no hacking facility
  • Accutron 214H: Standard 214 with hacking spring (part #194)
  • Accutron 214HN: GMT 214 with hacking spring (part #194). This calibre was used in the Astronauts (see below)

According to Pieter Doenson’s book, from 1968 onwards, the 214 calibre numbering system becomes as shown below. In addition, in the 1960’s, 214 movements were often used in instrument panel clocks — NASA used them in spacecraft — but I’m unsure what calibre designation these clocks would have had. Likewise, I have seen some Accutron 214 panel clocks with a date window; again, no idea what the calibre was….none of the Accutron 214 wristwatches had a calendar function.

  • Accutron 2140 = 214
  • Accutron 2141 = 214H
  • Accutron 2142 = 214HN
  • Accutron 2143 = Marine Chronometer (Mk11S)

Lots of interesting watch designs in the Accutron 214 Series! So, in no particular order…..:

Accutron 214 TV and Alpha

These are very early designs. The early Accutron 214 movements in these watches often lack certain features that were added from late 1960 onwards, such as the Coil Lead Retaining Plate (part #190). And their crown used the early Setting Stem Spring (part #9873) rather than the much more common Fly Back Spring (part #9937). Finally, they would have had the 3-lead Germanium PNP transistor based circuit rather than the later 2-lead Silicon NPN type. None of these improvements warranted a change in calibre number designation.

The watch below is the TV-style Model 521 and is unique in the 214 range in having a mineral glass crystal and a snap-on back; all other 214’s have acrylic crystals and screw down rings plus back.

Sadly, I do not have an example of the 214 Alpha.

Accutron 214 Astronaut

Judging by the number of Accutron Astronauts I serviced in 2012, this has become a very popular model with collectors. It’s also surprising how many subtle varieties there are. They all have the Accutron 214HN movement which is characterised by having a second time zone hour hand. However, unlike the Astronaut Mark IIs with the Accutron 2185 movement (see Accutron 218 Series), the second hour hand on the Accutron 214HN cannot be set independently of the other hands but instead relies on the owner turning the outer bezel to set the correct 2nd time zone time.

And an unusual solid 18K gold version that I worked on recently — it really was quite heavy:

Accutron 214 Spaceviews

For many people, an Accutron watch is synonymous with the Accutron 214 Spaceview. These very striking models came in all sorts of styles:

  • Cases came stainless steel, gold filled, 14K gold etc
  • Cases were round, cushion, Anniversary, TV shaped etc
  • Some had internal chapter rings with hour and minute markers
  • Some had crystals with the hour marks printed on the underside; sometimes as dots, sometimes as bars; in white, yellow or pink.
  • All sorts of hand styles: baton, daphine, etc.
  • But all were characterised by having no dial thus exposing the 214 movement….hence the name “Spaceview”

Due their popularity and value today, there is a mini industry producing Spaceviews from other standard Accutron 214 models with dials. Known as “Spaceview Conversions”, some are very professionally done and unless you examine the watch under a loupe, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a genuine Spaceview and a conversion.

The Spaceview in the first seven photographs below is very unusual. Bulova produced various Accutrons for Tiffany & Co in the 1960s but this is the only Spaceview example I have ever seen. To replace that signed Tiffany crystal would be near impossible!

Other Accutron 214 Watches

Sadly, over the years many of the Accutron 214 watches that fall into this group have been sacrificed to make Spaceview conversions. It’s easy to do: just remove the dial and fit an appropriate signed Spaceview crystal. But it’s not so easy to do it well: you often need a movement ring, you probably need a change of hands, you may need to alter the stem length, you might need a chapter ring and not all signed crystals are appropriate for all cases.

So the watches below are those that have escaped the Spaceview Conversion fate.

Accutron 214 Anniversary

In 1975, Bulova celebrated 100 years of making watches. To mark the occasion, they brought out several Accutron models that had a case in the shape of a tuning fork. These watches are known as Accutron Anniversary models and were only produced for one year; as a result, their cases and movements also lack the letter-number dating code.

The watch below is a recent purchase (2013) for me. I’d been after a man’s Anniversary model for some time; none are easy to find but you do see many more gold plated ones compared to the stainless steel version…but I was after the stainless steel one! And here it is, complete with the rare ‘100’ on the bracelet clasp.

I also own a ladies Accutron Anniversary model that contains the Cal. 2300 tuning fork movement. It has the tuning fork shaped case and the ‘100’ marked on the dial. See it here.

Accutron 214 Clock

In the 1960s, Hamilton put their new electric movements into all sorts of small desk clocks… and Bulova did the same thing and had many different styles. Here is one example that I’ve owned in the past. Bulova also had Accutron 214 instrument panel clocks in NASA spacecraft in the 1960s.