I can't find genuine Accutron batteries. What do I do?
Original Accutron batteries are no longer available. Sometimes a jeweler will find a few NOS, but generally you must use replacements. Original Accutron specifications called for a battery that had 1.33 to 1.35 volts of uninterrupted power. The batteries were mercury oxide – which is now outlawed in America due to mercury leakage in landfills. The battery for the 214 was a 343 and for a 218, a 387. As these are no longer available, collectors and users of Accutrons had to turn to replacement batteries – a 1.15 volt silver oxide battery. Watchmakers started telling customers that all that was generally required the rephrasing of the watch to compensate for the difference in voltage. An adapter ring made them fit properly in the case. Avoid this if you treasure your watch!! Recently, silver oxide batteries with controlling output circuits have been developed that exactly replicate the original voltage. Expect to pay in excess of ten dollars for a new battery for an Accutron. These new batteries are MORE than worth their weight in silver oxide.
I have a nice old Accutron, but the dial is damaged. Can it be fixed?
Yes. There are services that can refinish a dial for you. Contact your watchmaker and have him send it out for refinishing. One word of caution though – tell the watchmaker to indicate that the dial is to be refinished EXACTLY as it was originally. If the dial refinishing service cannot do this – they should send the dial back untouched. I once had a lovely old dial with Babe Ruth's signature on it. Sent it out for refinishing and got it back with the words Babe Ruth in block letters. The dial was completely ruined. You can also sometimes purchase NOS dials for your watches. They sometimes come up for sale. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of twenty five dollars and up for a new dial. Specialty dials like Astronaut, Railroad, Physicians etc. are the most expensive. Dial refinishing should cost about 25 dollars for simple jobs and go up as well.
When I lift up the setting crown on the back of my 214 to set it, the second hand stops. Is this normal?
Yes. Your watch has a "hack" mechanism. Originally available only on the Astronaut and Railroad models of the 214, a hack mechanism deliberately stops the second hand for more accurate setting. Set the watch ahead about one minute. Then using a highly accurate time source like the Atomic clock, wait until the exact time matches the time on your watch and push the setting crown back in. The watch will have the exact time on it.
I saw an Accutron with a dial that had a well known company logo on it. Is this original?
Probably yes. Bulova was known for making presentation watches for corporations. They still are. They created many dials with company logos on them. There are even some metal bands with special logo plaques on them. Some even have diamonds and are in 14 k. While most of these presentation watches remain treasured family heirlooms, occasionally one comes up for sale. I have many 214's, 218's, 219's etc.with corporate dials. I also have many newer quartz watches. There were also watches for colleges, sports tournaments, etc. Due to the scarcity, these watches are obviously collectable and can cost considerably more than more standard models. But it is a conversation piece to wear a watch with the "golden arches" or a major university on it. Collectors love them.
I saw an Accutron watch listed for sale shaped like a tuning fork. There was no date letter or number on the back. Is this original?
Yes. This is the Anniversary model – case 7581 - created only in 1975 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Bulova Watch Company. The model was big and bulky and not popular at a time when "thin" was becoming "in". It came in yellow gold filled and very rarely in Stainless Steel. There aren't many around because not many sold. Today they are highly sought after by collectors.
I have an Accutron that looks like it has wood inlaid in the bezel and the band? Is this right?
Yes. It sure is. What you have there is another Accutron oddity – the Woody. What was nice about the 218's is that in the late 60's and early 70's, Bulova got a lot trendier with case, band and dial styles. The result is a lot of very unusual watches that really fit the times they were made in. The "Woody" as it is known to collectors was made with a band by Duchess, USA. The bezel and dial are actually inlaid with genuine wood. It looks like mahogany to me – dark, reddish, grainy wood. There was also a ladies 230 Woody that featured an identically styled band by Duchess but no wood around the bezel. They are rare and interesting and lots of fun to wear.
I saw a clock for sale with a 214 movement in it. Are these original?
Bulova made several models of desk clocks with 214 movements. There are even some miniature ones that are less than two inches tall. There is also a woman's boudoir clock that was actually a 214 Spaceview pendant watch that could be worn as a necklace and then kept in a holder on the bedside as a clock. Obviously the clocks are even rarer than the watches. Look for them.
Is Accutron ephemera collectable?
In a word YES!. There are many interesting items out there for sale from time to time. These include store displays, original manuals, original ads, even copies of the original commercials on film. Of course, this is a more specialized collection. Not every collector of Accutrons is interested in the advertising materials, but they do make lovely collections for display along with watches. Most is pretty reasonably priced now. Look for these items.
What about beyond Accutron. Are Bulova's early digital watches collectable now?
Most definitely yes. They are becoming more collectable all the time. Oversized, bright red LCD Bulova Computrons are the most popular with collectors now. Especially the "wedge" shaped ones with the display on the side instead of the top. Right now they are still affordable, but becoming scarcer all the time. Start your collection now. There is also an interesting ladies bracelet model – largely ignored by collectors now. There is also a VERY rare LCD called Millenia which is circa 1979 - 80. It is ultra thin. Rumor has it that they were mostly returned to Bulova not working because the thin watches bent on the wrist and broke. Very few if any survive. Look for them. Very few around and largely unknown by collectors. It has nothing to do with the current Millennia collection. This is Millenia with one N. (I have two!)