Three Electrostatic Motors Almost Make This Pricey Watch Worth It

Illustration for article titled Three Electrostatic Motors Almost Make This Pricey Watch Worth It
Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo

The 1960s were an interstitial time when it came to technology. Not quite computerized, the world hovered between the mechanical and the digital, computers clacking out commands onto old teletypes while Nixie tubes - essentially glowing wires in a vacuum - ran the countdowns for rickety spacecraft that had more in common with Magellan than with Musk.

The 1965 Accutron Spaceview was a product of that strange time. One of the first “electronic” watches, the timepiece used a small tuning fork to vibrate at 360-hertz to drive the hands across the face. Produced in a time before quartz crystals were in common use, the watch literally hummed on your wrist, a mechanical/electric hybrid of a thing that was a bridge between old and new.


The new Accutron 2020 DNA, a watch styled like the original Spaceview, is an homage to that period and it uses some fairly unique technology of its own. The face shows three electrostatic motors or, more precisely, one large motor at 10 o’clock and two smaller generators at six o’clock. The watch “charges” when those two little rotors spin due to the motion of your hand and the main motor drives the hand when the larger motor spins. These motors don’t use coils but depend on the repulsion of magnets around the rim. You can use them to either generate power or drive a mechanical system and they use far less electricity and are smaller than other motors. The smallest electrostatic motor consists of just 18 atoms (although this set is far larger). The watch stores electricity in a tiny capacitor rather than a real battery.

The face is transparent and a domed sapphire crystal shows the entire movement in all its throwback glory with green-tinged metal taking the place of the original Accutron’s silicon styling.

Illustration for article titled Three Electrostatic Motors Almost Make This Pricey Watch Worth It
Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo

When looking at this watch you ask a simple question: What is this thing doing? When charged, the sweep second-hand moves serenely across the face and the big rotor spins wildly. When in a low-power mode, you’ll see the hour and minutes hands tick across the face without while the second’s hand stays at 12 o’clock. There is luminescent paint on the pips around the dial and on the hands for reading this thing at night.


Now for the bad news. The watch costs $3,450, a price one collecter I talked to called “aggressive.” There are a few reasons for this price. First, this is a proprietary movement hand-made for Accutron that has never been used in this configuration before. Further, the first quartz watches from Seiko made in the 1970s cost as much as a Toyota Camry at the time, so you’re kind of getting a steal. That said, the watch is a tough sell, especially since an old-school, running Accutron Spaceview costs about $500 on eBay.

The watch is fun to wear and just the right size for men and women. If you’re a fan of space or this specific aesthetic—call it Paleofuturistic—then you’re going to love this thing. It’s nice to know that watchmakers can still induce that little twinge of steampunk nostalgia for a time between the modern era of cellphone clocks and the earlier era of a ticking—or humming—timepiece on a bedside table.



  • A pricey—if cool—foray into a strange branch of the watchmaking.
  • The watch is fairly basic. The real draw is the movement.
  • At $3,500, this watch is probably too expensive for non-collectors.

John Biggs is a writer from Ohio who lives in Brooklyn. He likes books, watches, and his dog. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo. Signal: +16468270591 Telegram: @johnbiggs

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I do wonder what the market for this is since you can get the real deal for the noted $500.
*edit* And look a hell of a lot nicer.