What does "NOS" mean?
NOS refers to New Old Stock. It means that a watch is brand new – not just mint condition. Think of a coin and the difference between mint and uncirculated. NOS is uncirculated. Generally NOS refers to watches or parts found in the stock of old jewelers or watchmakers or sometimes from the factory. These items are new. If they are parts, they are usually in their original packaging. NOS watches are usually in original boxes, have original documents or original hang tags – sometimes all three. Sometimes NOS cases are even still coated with brightly colored plastic paint that was put there in the factory to prevent scratching.
How can I tell if something is really NOS or not?
First off – you can examine the watch to see if there are any signs of wear. Check the back of the band first. If the watch was worn, odds are the buckle shows some scratches or signs of wear from coming in contact with surfaces like desks, tables etc. Look also for dings around the crown if it is a 218 or up. Any protrusions are always the first thing to get dinged on a watch. You can also look at the back of the band and the back of the case for signs of skin oils. Check carefully where the back of the case is attached to the bezel. Often skin oils and dirt finds its way into that crevice. You can also check to ensure that the movement and the case were originally paired up. You can do that often by dating the case AND the movement. If the case and movement weren't together originally – the watch isn't NOS. It has been refurbished and some parts have been changed to give the appearance of NOS. Check carefully. It isn't generally a big deal that an item be NOS, it can be collectable anyway, however if you are paying a premium for that feature, be sure you are getting what you pay for.
How often should an Accutron be serviced?
Accutrons should be checked by a CAT – Certified Accutron Technician – or competent repair person every three to five years. As in any watch, oils dry out over time and either becomes sticky and gummy or brittle. Either scenario is dangerous for any watch – especially the delicate wheels and motor in an Accutron. Always err on the safe side and have an Accutron looked at when you first buy it.
I just bought an Accutron Deep Sea Divers' watch. Is it safe to use for diving?
Until you have it inspected by a competent repair person – most definitely NO. Opening the watch to change batteries without resealing a Diver's watch (ANY Divers' watch!) correctly can completely destroy its water resistant qualities. A Divers' watch should be pressure tested using special equipment before you even consider getting it wet. And remember – there is actually no such thing as "waterproof" – only water "resistant". Any watch is subject to water damage if not properly cared for.
What are "lugs"?
The lugs of a watch are the protrusions on both ends of the case where the band is attached. On the inside of the lugs are holes where a spring bar holds the band in place. Accutrons had a few different styles of lugs. You may see phrases like "deco lugs" or "bowtie lugs" used to describe an Accutron watch case. Deco lugs are stepped and have an Art Deco appearance. They are sort of two level. Bowtie lugs are curved away from the case on each end and resemble a bow tie. Both styles are a bit rarer than the standard straight lugs. In the 60's and 70's, American watch companies didn't use the metric system for measuring width of bands. If you are using a non- Accutron band for your watch, the best fit for the 214 is 11/16" (or not quite ¾ of an inch) at the lug ends. Most 214 cases measure between 0.687" and 0.705" (17.5mm to 17.9mm) between the lugs. If you want to use a leather band, an 18 mm band will fit by having the leather compress slightly underneath the spring bar. The only problem is that the leather tends to wear out faster when squeezed in between the lugs like this. Check frequently for wear. If you are using an 18 mm metal bracelet band, it will have to be adjusted by being filed down at the lug ends a little before it will fit. Generally, a band with Bulova or the Accutron symbol on it was made to fit. Most people prefer Accutron bands anyway. Although I once knew a watchmaker who had a custom made Native American turquoise band for his Astronaut and never wore anything else. Anything goes as long as you like it.
What does it mean if an Accutron has a "Champion Band" and why are they more money?
JB Champion bands are considered by many to be the "Cadillac" of watch bands. They made bands for Bulova as well as many other companies. Other companies who made bands for Bulova include Kreisler, Baldwin, Duchess and several others, but to most collectors, the Champions are the most desirable. Collectors seek out Accutron metal bracelet style bands that have the tuning fork symbol on the clasp as well as leather bands with the tuning fork or the word "Bulova" on them. There are also some stretch style bands made by Bulova. They are easily identified – each link of the band has the word "Bulova" on it. Please remember that jewelers selling Accutrons frequently stocked additional bands and swapped bands for customers selecting new watches if they didn't like the original band. Bands came in white and yellow gold filled, stainless steel and combinations of both. Leather bands ranged from simple cowhide to exotic leathers like green sea turtle and shark. The exotic leathers are very desirable. Expect to pay more for a watch with a Champion band or one with a lovely exotic leather band. NOS leather bands show no dent in the leather where they were previously buckled – even while on display.
What is the difference between RGP, WGF, YGF, EP and SS?
RGP refers to "rolled gold plate". Rolled gold is a very thin sheet of precious metal (gold) is actually fused and laminated to a lesser metal such as brass or white metal. The two layers of metal are heated under pressure to fuse them together. The sheet is rolled very thin sheet and used to make jewelry or other objects. Jewelry made from rolled gold wear well over time – especially in watch bands which tend to rub against the skin a lot and lose gold. Rolled gold pieces are marked rolled gold plate, R.G.P., or "plaque d'or lamine". WGF and YGF refer to white or yellow gold filled. It is also called "double d'or". Jewelry is made of a thin outer layer of gold atop any base metal in a process similar to rolled gold plate. If an object is marked GF, it should tell you what the karat of the gold used is. For example, an item marked 1/20 G.F. 14kt. Indicates that at least 1/20th of the metal is 14 karat gold. To be classified as GF, an item must be at least 1/20th gold sold by weight. EP refers to Electroplating – or Galvanotechnics after its inventor, Luigi Galvani. The gold is placed over the base metal using electricity that transfers a thin coating over top of the base metal. Items can be gold plated, silver plated, rhodium plated, platinum plated, chromium plated or copper plated, etc. The thickness of the metal coat varies. Electrogilded coating is the thinnest (less than 0.000007 inches thick); gold-cased metals have a coating thicker that 0.000007 inches. SS is Stainless Steel – NOT Sterling Silver.
How can I take care of my watch to ensure that the gold layer doesn't come off?
One of the most common causes of gold coming off of an item is actually powder. Talc is abrasive and wearing a lot of powder underneath a gold plated or filled item will cause the soft gold to rub off faster. Avoid powders or perfumes on the wrist when wearing a plated or filled watch. Note that often an item will say that the bezel (top of the case) is plated, but the back is stainless steel. This is to save the expense of using more costly gold on surfaces that do not show anyway and also because of abrasion to the parts that contact the skin. If an item becomes unplated and the base metal begins to show through, a competent metal refinisher can electroplate the item for you. It is impossible to add gold by the RGP or GF process once the piece is made. You may have to re-electroplate frequently to maintain a nice gold finish. The cost is generally minimal. Ask your jeweler. Many jewelers have the capability to electroplate in their shops.