An Incredible 1960s Watch Gets a Cool Electrostatic Upgrade

Illustration for article titled An Incredible 1960s Watch Gets a Cool Electrostatic Upgrade
Photo: Accutron

The Accutron—the world’s first electronic watch—is back. Sort of. The new Spaceview 2020 relies on a similar movement and that original 1960s design, but packs in a few welcome modern features.

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The Spaceview 2020 looks surprisingly like the original tuning-fork based watch movement created at Bulova in 1960 and found in the Accutron. Those early watches used a small piece of vibrating metal to drive the hands at a steady pace and predicted the rise of quartz watches a decade later. This new $3,450 watch features the same unique movement but instead of relying on a battery it is charged using two electrostatic turbines that spin on the watch face and power an accumulator that powers the watch’s two electrostatic motors.

Illustration for article titled An Incredible 1960s Watch Gets a Cool Electrostatic Upgrade
Photo: Accutron
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This results in an electronic movement with a smoothly turning (aka sweep) seconds hand and an accuracy of plus or minus five seconds a month. The hour and minutes hands move using stepper motors. Because both the motors and the rotors are electrostatic, they require very little power to run. Most distractingly, the rotor on the face spins freely, capturing your normal motion to turn it into energy.

The watch comes in multiple colors and styles including a bright green model that matches the original Spaceview. The pricing - a hefty $3,450 - isn’t awful for what amounts to a unique timepiece for a special kind of watch lover.

These things are a far cry from the original Spaceviews from the 1960s but the entire package has a retro-spacekraft feel to it that makes it a geeky badge of honor dedicated to the Golden Age of space travel. After all, an original Accutron is currently resting on the Moon, a reminder of how important timekeeping was in every age of exploration.

John Biggs is a writer from Ohio who lives in Brooklyn. He likes books, boardgames, watches, and his dog. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

dixie-flatline
Dixie-Flatline

Lots of fancy marketing talk, but it’s still fundamentally a kinetic, quartz watch with an interesting drive train (for watch scale, that is). That’s not to dismiss the design entirely, as the miniaturization to utilize this concept in a watch is admirable, but they are talking like they reinvented electrical engineering.

I’m interested in watch nerd takes on this departure from Bulova in favor of Citizens though.