Accutron. Are You Ready?
My grandfather wore and Accutron watch, and so did yours. In every important way, the Accutron WAS the 1960s. Electronic, with claims to accuracy and links to the space program. Made in Switzerland. Modernist style. It has also made for one of the great opening sequences of any TV show: the Season 7 opener for Mad Men. Watch and Enjoy!
From Mad Men, season 7 opener 'Time Zones'
Bulova’s "Accutron" watches went on sale in October 1960. The Accutron watch uses a 360 hertz tuning fork instead of a balance wheel as the timekeeping element.The inventor Max Hetzel joined the Bulova Watch Company of Bienne, Switzerland, in 1948. The tuning fork was powered by a one- transistor electronic oscillator circuit, so the Accutron qualifies as the first "electronic watch". Instead of the ticking sound made by mechanical watches, the Accutron had a faint, high pitch hum which came from the vibrating tuning fork. A forerunner of modern quartz watches which also keep time with a vibrating resonator, the Accutron was guaranteed to be accurate to a minute per month, or 2 seconds per day, considerably better than mechanical watches of the time.
The tuning fork movement was a horological revolution. Previously, electronically regulated timepieces were limited to some scientific instruments, being too large for a personal watch. The Accutron was also the first wristwatch precise enough to qualify for U.S. railroad certification. A wristwatch regularly moves in all possible directions, as opposed to a pocket watch which spends the vast majority of its life either mostly vertical or mostly horizontal. Prior to the Accutron, that movement affected the precision of all wristwatches to a degree which precluded railroad certification, even for the best made and most expensive chronometer certified wristwatches. The ability to legitimately claim the Accutron as the most precise wristwatch in existence was a tremendous boon for the company.
Bulova was a contender for the NASA trials to find the right watch to be worn by the astronauts. While Omega’s Speedmaster won the right to be the Official NASA watch, Bulova’s Accutron timing devices were used on 46 NASA missions throughout the 1950s and ‘60’s. During the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 – the first moon landing – an Accutron timer was placed in a communications relay device and placed in the Sea of Tranquility to help control vital data transmissions.