Much like the other Accutron and Unisonic models that we have featured on the site, the Bulova Accutron Astronaut is a tuning fork movement watch. What makes this particular model so special, however, is its connection to the A-12 Oxcart and other top-secret and cutting edge aviation projects of the 1960’s. The A-12 Oxcart was a classified reconnaissance aircraft developed by the Skunkworks department within Lockheed. Adding additional fuel to the story’s fire, the development of the aircraft was undertaken at Groom Lake in Nevada, better known as Area 51. The goal of the A-12 was to capture reconnaissance photos by flying so high and so fast over enemy territory that anti-aircraft defense systems would be useless in shooting them down, a feat it achieved with spectacular success. The plane, under command of CIA pilots, could travel at speeds exceeding Mach 3 – 2,000 miles per hour – and at a maximum altitude of almost 90,000 feet.
Through various ups and downs in its development – the project, at one point, was canceled altogether – the A-12 saw its first official deployment during the Vietnam War during Operation Black Shield. Over dozens of missions, the A-12 gathered critical information on the location of the North Vietnamese surface to air defense systems all without a single casualty. Ultimately, the A-12 program would be short-lived as the program officially drew to a close in June of 1968. The rapid development of reconnaissance satellite technology as well as the deployment of the Air Forces version of the A-12, known as the SR-71, made the A-12 obsolete. The video below from the National Reconnaissance Office is a great primer if you are interested in learning more about the A-12 Oxcart.
Due to the special nature of the A-12, pilots, and therefore their watches, experienced extreme conditions during their flights, including temperatures as high as 140 degrees and extreme G forces. These kinds of extreme conditions were well outside the operating range for most contemporary watches of the day and the CIA needed a solution for their A-12 pilots. After a series of tests, the Bulova Accutron Astronaut was selected as the watch capable of withstanding these extreme conditions and the CIA issued a Bulova Accutron Astronaut to every A-12 pilot. The story was shared with Bulova years later by a former A-12 pilot and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Frank Murray.
The Case and Bracelet
The 38mm stainless steel case and bracelet of this watch are in excellent condition for its age. The watch has absolutely seen wrist time and wears the scratches commensurate with its age. The watch features a rotating 24 hour bezel that in conjunction with the GMT hand can be used to track a second timezone. The watch comes on a JB champion signed bracelet that is correct for the time period.
The Dial and Hands
The gloss black dial is in good condition. The printing is crisp and clear. The lume throughout the dial has aged and dirtied in several places and may have been reapplied at some point early in its lifetime. There are various handsets that seem to have been used on Astronaut models so determining originality is hard.
This watch is powered by a Bulova 214 tuning fork movement. The watch is running and keeping good time but the service history is unknown.
|Movement||Bulova 214 tuning fork|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Band Material||Stainless Steel|