The Accutron Paradigm Shift
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There is no mistaking an Accutron 214 with any other watch ever made. The 214 is the first of its kind, and it's the only Accutron caliber that sets from the back of the case. Put an Accutron 214 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.
To add perspective to the achievement, it's useful to consider a modern paradigm shift. The analogy's that spring to mind are the introduction of hybrid vehicles into an automobile market powered solely by internal combustion engines, but it's the staying power of the 214 that raises it to the status of an American icon. Thanks to it's groundbreaking 1960's technology, Accutron 214 tuning fork watches may very well be the only mass market electronic devices of their era which are still in every day use.
Tuning fork driven Accutrons evolved into quartz crystal watches by the 70's but the old hummers are so robust that when given reasonable care they run as well today as they did when new. Compared to the dollars per year cost of modern chronometers, repairing a 214 is positively cheap, and they usually require nothing more than cleaning every five or so years.
It must be noted that repairing an Accutron 214 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.