About Tuning Fork Watches
Accuracy, originality, and a hum.
Tuning fork watches were introduced in 1960 by the Bulova corporation in order to significantly improve upon the accuracy that could be acheived using a balance wheel.
At the time, a balance wheel was used as the time regulating device in all other wristwatches in existance, so this was a revolutionary new advance.
Instead of a balance wheel, the innovative Bulova Accutron used a tiny tuning fork vibrating 360 times per second to regulate the time.
The Amazing Accutron
Tuning fork watches are sometimes referred to as "hummers" because they emit an audible "hum" instead of a "tick" like a conventional watch. They are also virtually the only watches that feature a continuously sweeping second hand (other than Seiko's Spring Drive watches).
The first Accutrons used a 214 movement and have a dial on the back of the watch to set the time instead of a more conventional crown at the side, which allows them to have an uncluttered elegant round shape. Later Accutrons used the 218 movement which reverted to the more conventional side mounted crown in order to allow the watch movement and case to be thinner.
A Model Admires a Model Accutron 214
Before the Accutron, the very best that a mechanical watch could acheive under ideal circumstances was about 5 seconds per day with a typical accuracy of about 15 or 20 seconds per day.
The Accutron is almost 10 times more precise with an accuracy of 2 seconds per day or about 1 minute per month.
Almost all tuning fork watches were produced by the Bulova Corporation although they were made under license to Bulova by a few other companies such as Omega, Rado, Tissot, Longines, Universal Geneve, and Titus. In total, about 5 million tuning fork watches were produced during the 16 years that they were made.
Scott Carpenter and
his Accutron Astronaut
Claims to Fame
An Accutron was worn by several Astronauts and X-15 pilots including Scott Carpenter. An Accutron was left on the surface of the Moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the historic Apollo 11 mission. A popular model of Accutron called the "Astronaut" was worn by Elvis Presley.
Possibly the most famous model of Accutron was known as the "Spaceview" in which the dial was removed to allow you to view the tuning fork mechanism from the front face of the watch.
A Spaceview was worn by Hunter Thomson in the 1971 novel "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas".
The reign of the tuning fork watch was doomed by the emergence of quartz technology in the early 1970s and they stopped being produced entirely in 1977. Ironically, virtually every quartz timekeeping device today uses a quartz crystal in the shape of a tuning fork. Although watches continue to be produced today with the "Bulova Accutron" name and a tuning fork logo on the dial, these are not to be considered "real" Accutrons since they don't contain a tuning fork movement. Today, 50 years after the introduction of the Accutron, these amazing watches have proven to be incredibly reliable and durable.