In the world of watchmaking, the word “movement” contains multitudes of definitions. Beyond its most straightforward meaning (a change in position or location), the term refers to the mechanism that makes a watch tick. But even that definition falls short of capturing the word’s horological complexity.
The vast majority of watch movements are either mechanical or quartz. The former relies on the release of energy built up in a mainspring that is wound either by hand or by an automatic mechanism, while the latter requires battery power to make the timekeeping mechanism work. Accutron, however, is famed for making watches that transcend these basic categories.
It all started in 1960, when the American watchmaker Bulova introduced the world’s first fully electronic watch, called the Accutron (a contraction of “ACCUracy through elecTRONics”).
In place of a tick-tocking mechanical watch movement, which employed a balance wheel and pendulum as its regulating organ, the Accutron featured a tuning fork movement that generated a hypnotic humming sound. The model marked a turning point in the history of watchmaking, not only because it pioneered an entirely new approach to timekeeping, auguring the introduction of quartz technology in the late 1960s, but also because of its radical design, which placed the inner workings of the timepiece front and center.
Six decades later, the brand that evolved from that original groundbreaking movement introduced another game-changing mechanism. For its Spaceview 2020 collection, Accutron unveiled an all-new and proprietary next-generation electrostatic energy movement using technology borrowed from other cutting-edge industries and applied to watches for the first time. A triumph of micro-engineering, the development marked the first time any company was able to harness electrostatic energy into something small enough to wear on the wrist.
The electrostatic energy is created by twin turbines that rotate at high speeds between two electrodes. The energy, stored in an accumulator, drives two motors: an electrostatic motor–first time used in a timepiece–to power the fluid second hand and a stop motor that powers the hour and minute hands. Both motors are synchronized.
Much like the Accutron’s original 1961 Spaceview model, which featured a by-now iconic deconstructed dial designed to expose the state-of-the-art Accutron mechanism, the new Spaceview 2020 models feature open-work dials boasting the exact same signature green accents, a discreet nod to the model’s place in avant-garde timepiece history.
The contemporary Spaceview 2020 collection is comprised of seven models, including two 43.5 mm stainless steel styles unveiled earlier this year, each featuring a transparent outer ring, light green super luminous markers, hour and minute hands and an orange second hand.
One has a smoke gray open-work dial with signature Accutron green accents. It retails for $3,850 (on a stainless-steel bracelet). Another has a new green dial treatment with gray bridges. It retails for $3,450 (on a charcoal calf-leather strap).
Another style was created in partnership with La Palina Cigars, one of Accutron’s brand partners. The model features a brown open-work dial with signature Accutron green accents and brown outer ring, light green super luminous markers, hour and minute hands and a warm yellow second hand.
In spite of all its technological prowess, however, Accutron has always been about more than just high-tech accomplishments. Since its inception, the brand has maintained a position at the forefront of the cultural conversation.
In the beginning, Accutron used its advertisements to push cultural boundaries (in the 1970s, for example, the brand ran ads promoting gender equality). Today, its medium of choice is The Accutron Show podcast. In the more than two years since the show debuted, its three co-hosts—entertainment reporter Bill McCuddy, journalist David Graver (Cool Hunting, New York Times, Vogue) and editor Scott Alexander (GQ, Playboy)—have interviewed leading scientists, tastemakers and arbiters of culture, including astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, journalist Katie Couric, fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, renowned chef Daniel Boulud and historian David Rooney.
Accutron has also partnered with leading lifestyle brands—in addition to La Palina, they include Hudson Whiskey and Esterbrook Pens—to spread its message beyond the world of fine watchmaking. As the brand looks to the future, its reputation as a luxury timepiece brand—and conversation starter—is all but guaranteed.