Style and Sync in the Sixties: The Bulova Wristwatch

By Beth Hedrick
October 25th, 2013

In 1959, in the Bulova watch-maker’s headquarters, Max Hetzel and William Bennett were hard at work completing the creation of the Accutron 214.  This was the first electronic watch (no winding needed!) that went on sale in New York on October 25, 1960.

This super-accurate watch, called the Bulova Accutron, was known to have better timing than all of its predecessors, was electronic and could be worn on the wrist.  The reasoning for the more precise timing was the fact that it had a tuning fork inside of it, placed between electromagnetic coils.  The humming sounds it produced were much more soothing that the wind-up watches’ tick-tick-tick.  And it was so on time that it was proven to be accurate to, give or take, 2 seconds per day (or a minute per month).

It Went to the Moon…And it’s Still There

The Powers that Be wanted this watch because of its impeccable timing.  In the late 1950’s and very early 1960’s, railroad bosses, Air Force One commanders, and NASA all recognized this gift of time.  When astronauts went to the moon, they didn’t leave home (or earth, rather) without a Bulova watch. Spacecrafts used Accutron timing devices in their instrument panels and other timing devices.  The Vanguard Satellite of 1958 had Bulova Accutron mechanisms, and even the first steps on the moon came with a Bulova Accutron panel clock and mechanisms (there is one on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility!). 

Hey!  Great Timing!

Richard Branson New Ambassador of Bulova Accutron Collection AdThe late 50s and into the 60s was a period of cool gadgetry and inventions.  The television, the tape recorder, the synthesizer…all sorts of electronic devices were being made.  Even computer language was being written, and I think it was all a sign for what was about to become of us.  Humans were beginning to realize that they could have…

instant gratification.

In this time period, things were being created that gifted humans with instant gratification.  The washing machine with five buttons for all of the washing needs was here.  And people said hello to the new and improved dishwasher.  And don’t forget the TV dinner!  Hungry?  Well, here’s a hot dinner in a few minutes!  So of course, it was only a matter of “time” that people would become tired of having to wind those watches and risk losing a minute or two.  I mean, who on earth wanted to dig in their pocket for their pocket watch?  Or walk somewhere to find a clock?  So it was only natural for the wrist watch to come out and then one with electric power. 

When I don’t have my watch on, I feel naked.  I don’t have time or energy to look for a clock or ask someone what time it is!  And I certainly don’t want to have to use my Smartphone (that is in my pocket) to look for the time!  Good gracious that would be too much work!


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