Accutron is a brand name under the Bulova umbrella, at least in vintage. Founded by a Tiffany & Co. employee, Joseph Bulova, in 1875, Bulova Watch Company came to be recognized as a supremely impactful American wristwatch manufacturer, the likes of which there are few. After a period of focusing on pocket watches, Bulova was one of the first brands to see a tidal wave coming in the space of wristwatches. Joseph took a very American approach in refocusing his business. Rather than building handmade watches built on a tradition of craftsmanship a la Ferrari, the brand went the way of Ford by building all of its watch components with as many common parts as possible to facilitate mass production. Amazingly, this focus did not come at the expense of accuracy as Bulova was praised for its simplicity and timekeeping from the outset of its wristwatch business. In 1919 the brand’s first full catalog of women’s wristwatches was introduced and by 1923 the same was the case for men.
Through the 1920s and 30s, Bulova, now under the leadership of Joseph’s son Arde, can be attributed with a large part of a boom in the popularity of wristwatches among Americans. Although hard to imagine today, wristwatches were viewed as childish when first coming to the market because men were attached to their large and status symbol pocketwatches. By introducing the product set to women first, Bulova began to build a market and desire for the wristwatch. While the brand introduced wrist watches for men in 1923, popularity only hit after a series of genius marketing techniques. In 1926, Bulova created the first American radio advertisement with the phrase “it’s eight o’clock Bulova Watch time” heard by millions. That same year Arde publicly offered a prize of $1000 to the first pilot to fly nonstop across the Atlantic and privately gifted a watch to Charles Lindbergh. Prior to leaving for his famous 1927 flight from New York to Paris, Lindbergh wrote to Bulova “Many thanks for the Bulova Watch Prize offered… The Bulova Wrist Watch, which it is my pleasure to wear, keeps accurate time, and is a beauty.” In 1927, Bulova released their “Lone Eagle” men’s wristwatch with newspaper ads showing a copy of Lindbergh’s letter. The Lone Eagle was a massive success and the mass American watch market was born.
Many years after the Lone Eagle, Bulova had taken a firm hold of the watch market into the 1950s when in 1952, two competitors introduced “the greatest advance in the field of watchmaking in 450 years.” Elgin and Lip had created the first electric wristwatches. Arde Bulova, still president of his namesake brand, was immediately worried that the new technology would cut into his market share and ultimately his business. Arde asked his best man, Max Hetzel to look into the watches Elgin and Lip created. Hetzel found that the movement’s battery simply powered a conventional balance-wheel movement, leading to no accuracy improvements. However, he believed the idea of an electric watch could work and in 1952 the idea for the Accutron was born. For the next eight years, Hetzel and Bulova’s best engineers work on the project to introduce, in 1960, what would become one of the most innovative movements in watch history, the Bulova Accutron caliber 214.
From the movement’s introduction in 1960, Bulova wasted little time in developing a range of models not only including the movement but proudly featuring the Accutron name front and center on the dial. As the Accutron offshoot gained steam, so did a Bulova product line of simple and affordable divers rated to 666 feet of water resistance now referred to as the “Devil Divers” by collectors. The watch for auction here is the marriage of these two successful Bulova initiatives of the 1960s and 70s, following the trends of electric power and sport diving respectively. The Devil Divers served the ever-growing market of recreational SCUBA divers of the era the same way the Accutron movement served a consumer’s futurist dreams.
Case condition of this Accutron diver is great with original finishes appearing to be intact and sharp geometry maintained. No major flaws are seen such as deep scratches or dents. The caseback is stainless-steel and presents nicely with few scratches and all the correct markings.
The crystal is correct for this watch and in great condition showing only small scratches and a correct Accutron logo signed crown is fitted which we presume to be original, but this cannot be verified.
The Dial and Hands
This Devil Diver example sports a great to excellent black matte crosshair dial with no large issues seen. The only flaw to note is the slight spotting which could be dust on the dial surface or could be aging to the dial’s finish.
A slight off-white to mint patina has developed to the lume plots at each hour marker. The material is full and shows little to no loss.
The handset is correct for this reference and presumed original although the lume has aged differently than that on the dial. A UV inspection has not been done. Condition outside of the lume is great with no noticeable flaws to the hand finish. Other variants of this same Accutron Devil Diver have a silver Accutron logo ended seconds hand, this red-tipped seconds hand is also correct for these watches and is presumed to not have been replaced.
The Bulova signed Accutron caliber 218 is said to have a recent service and is running and keeping time well.
|Brand||Accutron by Bulova|
|Movement||Tuning Fork, Accutron cal. 218|
|Dial||Black matte crosshair dial|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Band Material||Rubber Strap|
|Clasp Type||Stainless Steel Buckle|