The Accutron Spaceview Evolution, a true original
Featuring the Accutron Electrostatic caliber.
The Bulova Accutron — nicknamed the Spaceview upon its announcement in 1960 and commercial release in 1961 — is a legend. Its revolutionary tuning fork regulator was the talk and toast of the watch industry when it hit the shelves. Its dial-less design was a revelation (and responsible for its nickname). This watch placed its high-tech heart front and center of the story. It wasn’t just an advancement in the very method of timekeeping, it was also the willing representative of a new age. It bucked tradition and embraced total newness, something with which the watch industry had always been, and largely remains, uncomfortable.
However, the future rather quickly became the past. Impressive a technical achievement as the Accutron was, it was soon usurped by the cheaper (and quieter) quartz movement, which went on to become the foundational technology upon which the new industry was built. The tuning fork movement — briefly thought of as the technology of the distant future — was largely consigned to history, a curious curio but nothing much more. For the Bulova obsessed, it remained a peerless icon. For the rest of us, it became an interesting footnote in the annals of time, but one for which there would always be a place, should it ever wish to return…
Precisely because of the Spaceview’s success, Bulova was seen as an innovator. That identity was and should remain, central to the brand. And so, what the brand needed to continue its legacy, was another “new” technology. Following the establishment of the Accutron brand, now formerly separated from Bulova, the new marque committed to keeping that legacy alive.
Finally, we got what we were waiting for: the Accutron Electrostatic caliber. This movement, which is powered by the accumulated electrostatic energy generated by two spinning turbines, debuted in 2020. Now, by shifting the crown to 2 o’clock and thus rotating the movement by 30 degrees, we have a new dial aesthetic that the brand is calling the Spaceview Evolution.
The Accutron Spaceview Evolution
This release comprises two new models, both 43.5mm in diameter, crafted from polished stainless steel, and topped with double-dome box sapphire crystals. The new crown position improves the wearability of the watches, but it must be said, at 15.9mm thick, they still command attention on the wrist.
So, the big question is, how does the Accutron movement actually work? Those two turbines, which benefit from remarkable inertia, spin rapidly due to the movement of the wearer’s wrist in exactly the same way a traditional rotor weight would. Between these two turbines, mounted on the movement itself, are two electrodes. The turbines interact with the electrodes, making and breaking a circuit with every pass, and thus generating an electrical charge, which is then stored in an “accumulator” (which is basically a “capacitor” or, in layman’s terms, a rechargeable battery).
The accumulator then distributes this energy to two motors. This aspect is, in my opinion, the most interesting thing about Accutron’s system, which, to be blunt, is otherwise an aesthetically engaging auto-quartz caliber (of which we’ve seen plenty in the past). One motor is used to drive the seconds hand, while the other powers the hour and minute hands.
A Sweeping Entrance
If you’ve never seen a video of this thing in action, I recommend you seek one out. You will notice, probably instantly, something very unusual about the seconds hand. If you look closely, you will see it is sweeping smoothly around the dial. And I’m not talking about a rapid high-step movement that makes it appear as if it is genuinely sweeping, I’m saying that it is sweeping. And to be quite frank, it is glorious.
This has been achieved by running the seconds hand off a different motor from the hour and minute hands. It is therefore completely decoupled from the time-telling mechanism and is, perhaps more accurately, an independent running indicator (that circles the dial once a minute) rather than a seconds hand in the purely traditional sense of the word. Finally, Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive caliber has company, and, for watch fanatics, it is surely welcome.
Energy Efficiency and Extreme Accuracy
This movement, accurate to within 5 seconds per month when worn regularly, also has two power-saving modes. If the watch does not move at all for five minutes, the movement will stop the seconds hand to conserve energy. As this is separate from the hour and minute hands, the watch will continue to keep time should you simply have fallen asleep on the sofa (or passed out at your desk, perhaps). As soon as the caliber detects movement, the seconds hand will start running again.
The second energy-saving function activates after ten days of no motion whatsoever. This shuts down the entire watch. As soon as you start wearing it again, it will spring back to life (but you’ll probably need to set the time unless you get really, really lucky).
Lastly, on the subject of inactivity, it should be noted that leaving this watch in a sedentary position for two years or more, will result in the demise of the watch’s accumulator (apparently, it can’t survive such extreme neglect and needs to be used semi-regularly to remain functional). Thankfully, however, the watch has a five-year warranty.
A Worthy Successor
There is very little out there that looks like the Accutron Spaceview and this subsequent evolution. For this, and the brand’s constant attempts at innovation, Accutron should be praised. And, in my humble opinion, there are far too few watches utilizing auto-quartz technology these days. There was a time when good quality auto-quartz movements made by ETA (such as the 204 series caliber), could be found in all kinds of cool watches (including some of my favorite Swatches of all time).
It’s a cool way to power a watch and the Accutron Spaceview Evolution makes the most of the mechanism by making it the focus of the dial. Consequently, this is a worthy entry and a visually interesting addition to the collection.
It looks like a successor to the Tuning Fork watches and, while it isn’t anywhere near as ground-breaking as the first fully electronic watch to hit the market, it is at least stylistically and conceptually congruous.
The price is not unreasonable for a watch that surely required significant development, but it does put it up against some heavy-hitting propositions from more traditional brands. For fans of the brand and perhaps newer collectors coming over to watchmaking from a more technical background, this could be the right watch. After all, there’s nothing else like it out there. And that alone should be enough to warrant its place in the watchmaking universe.
Accutron Spaceview Evolution
Movement: Accutron Electrostatic Caliber
Functions: Time only
Case: 43.5mm × 15.9mm polished stainless steel
Dial: Open-worked dials in either smoke gray or silver tone
Strap: Shiny black or blue alligator strap
Price: USD 3,950
|Self-winding caliber A-500; 60 hours power reserve
|Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date
|42.5mm; titanium; water resistant to 30m
|Salmon (6N gold plated) with gené or frosted area; Super-LumiNova filled Arabic numerals
|Ballistic gray rubber; titanium folding clasp