The Incomparable Accutron
The Worlds First Electronic Timepiece
Accutron is now in it's 55th. year - The 214 first appeared in stores on October 25, 1960
Tick, No Tock:
Put an early Accutron (1960 to 1977) to your ear, and you will hear the distinctive hum of an electronically driven tuning fork. The conversion from vibratory to rotary motion is so smooth that the second hand appears to move continuously. The 214 is the first of its kind, and it's the only caliber that sets from the back of the case.
Accutron Changed Everything:
Before Accutron, the method of keeping time mechanically had not changed since the invention of the "balance wheel" and "escapement" which occurred over 300 years ago. Suddenly, at the end of 1960, a timepiece went on the market which was inherently accurate and made the use of escapements and balance wheels obsolete. here are only 12 moving parts in a 214 movement.
"first edition" Accutron 214:
The original 214 caliber Accutron is widely regarded as the collectible tuning fork movement . When the value of a 214 is compared with that of later calibers starting with the 218, it's clear that serious collectors have good reason to prize the 214 above all others. Many original Accutron owners value the 214 for sentimental reasons and also for their historic value, but the rear mounted setting stem and battery hatch on a 214 left little room for engraving and by the 1970's, thin was in. At that time the less expensive Accutron 218 with it's setting stem located on the side of a much thinner case was the watch to own.
What followed during the few remaining years of tuning fork movement production was that the 218 started a series which eventually incorporated first a date (the 218D, 2181), then day/date functions (the 2182, 2185, 219, 221, 224 and 230).
As for the millions of 214's that were still running during the 90's their resale value bottomed out when Bulova stopped making repair parts. However, as new parts became scarce, repairers began buying 214 "parts watches" in order to satisfy the huge number of 214 owners who couldn't bring themselves to trash their 214's. Competition for those used 214's has driven prices up slowly, but continuously ever since.
Given that situation you would think that eventually the high cost would discourage 214 owners from repairing their tuning fork driven Accutrons, but that's not the case. Prices for working 214's have risen dramatically over the years and the demand for repair is as high among owners and collectors today as it ever was.
Contrast that with the fact that the 218 series is still an inexpensive item and good used specimens that are in running condition can be bought for very little. That's actually good news for the 218 owner who treasures a watch that was given him by a loved one because the cost of repair is still comparatively low when compared to a 214.
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Fork Movement Repair:
Accutron service requires specific knowledge and certain unique skills which have been largely forgotten over the years, One wrong move can destroy delicate parts like the "Index Mechanism" or the "Coil" which otherwise might have lasted for another 50 years. Bulova no longer repairs tuning fork watches, and if you ask them why, they will inform you that they have no repair parts. All parts obtained today are either new-old-stock from estate sales, or salvaged from working tuning fork movements. Given the current situation, losing critical parts due to a botched repair job is not an option. For that reason alone, many watch repairers will not, and probably should not work on a "hummer".
Fortunately for Accutron 214 owners, there are still a number of us old timers around who have been helping to keep 214's "alive". To illustrate the point, read this 2002 New York Times article For Collectors, a Race for a Space-Age Heirloom
The distinctive 214 is the only Accutron that is set from the rear of the case by lifting a spring loaded "C" shaped lever. It is also the only Accutron that has a battery hatch that unscrews to access the battery compartment.
© 2002 by Martin Marcus. All rights reserved. These pages may not be copied without written consent.