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Bulova’s Accutron – like the 1968 Accutron Astronaut GMT here, on its original "bullet" bracelet – was a watch and radically new technology at the same time; when the first Accutron tuning fork watches were released in 1960, it revolutionized the watchmaking profession.


Accutron watches were not quartz watches, which remained a decade away, but electric. The Accutron was unlike any other wristwatch at the time, as it did away with the conventional balance and balance spring used by more inferior predecessor electric watches, which oscillated at the same rate as a mechanical watch.


Accutron went on to claim fame as the first electric watch to achieve widespread success; the singular difference between the Accutron Astronaut here and other Accutron models of its era was the inclusion of a 24-hour hand, and a 24-hour bezel.  The Accutron has no balance or balance spring. Instead, it uses a tuning fork oscillator, driven by a transistor-controlled circuit. The high frequency of Accutron movements offered unprecedented reliability, and its reliance on electric power with no requirement for a mainspring made it highly suitable for use in aerospace applications.

Accutron’s electric tuning fork mechanism was seen as revolutionary technology, and it found wide acceptance within astronautics and aeronautics. This included within the cockpit of the fastest plane ever made, Lockheed’s A-12 spy plane. The A-12, while highly similar in appearance to the SR-71 Blackbird, was the latter’s immediate predecessor. Like the Blackbird, the A-12 was made by Lockheed's famous Skunk Works division, which handled classified aircraft development programs for the U.S. military and the CIA.

When it first flew, the A-12 was the most advanced in the world and the U.S. Government selected what was then the world's most advanced watch for its pilots – the Accutron Astronaut. Though the Accutron had originally been designed for the civilian market, the construction of the tuning fork mechanism and low inertia of certain critical components gave it great resistance to high G-loads and an ability to withstand high temperatures without becoming inaccurate or otherwise malfunctioning.


Per a Hodinkee article on the A-12 and the Accutron Astronaut here, “The skin of the A-12 was made of titanium and it was the very first aircraft ever to be made entirely of the metal. Prior to this titanium had only been used for certain parts and the supplier to Lockheed did not have access to sufficient quantities for Project OXCART. The CIA therefore set up a number of overseas shell corporations to source the material clandestinely from what was at the time by far the biggest producer of titanium: the Soviet Union. (To paraphrase something Anthony Bourdain once wrote about Russia, one thing you get a lot of in espionage is irony).”


The A-12 and its sister, the SR-71 Blackbird, set speed records that remain unbroken to the present, leaving both aircraft the fastest ever built, despite being based on designs from the late 1950s. Likewise, the Accutron as a mechanism was an ingenious example of how far mechanical timekeeping can be taken. The Accutron Astronaut remains a fascinating instance of a revolutionary period in watchmaking.


Per Watches of Espionage, “The advantage of the tuning fork movement for an A-12 pilot is that there isn’t a balance spring that G forces would be able to affect, and in an airplane that can go over Mach 3, G forces are a crucial concern for a mechanical watch. Accutron movements proved effective and reliable for most of NASA’s cockpit instrumentation in the Gemini rockets, and later, the Apollo program. The CIA supplied the A-12 pilots with the Bulova and when the program ended, the watches stayed with the pilots.”

Another well-known user of the Accutron were pilots in the hypersonic X-15 rocket plane program, which were launched from under the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress at high altitude and flew at speeds of up to 4,500 mph. Many X-15 pilots qualified for astronaut wings as they flew high enough to have been considered to have reached the fringes of space.   Further, the same Accutron movement was adopted as cockpit instrument panel timers for manned space flight in the U.S.’s Gemini and Apollo programs.


This Bulova Astronaut comes on its original stainless-steel bracelet, and with nylon strap, rugged travel case, and springbar tool.

1968 Bulova Accutron Astronaut GMT Electric Watch, w/Original Bracelet

Out of Stock
  • DIAL: Starburst silver dial with silver GMT hand, with matching hour, minute, seconds, and GMT hands.  Dial lume shines. 


    CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 38mm x 38mm, with matching caseback.  Stainless-steel 24-hour bezel.


    CRYSTAL: Slightly domed crystal, no deep scratches or cracks.


    BAND: Original stainless-steel Bulova Astronaut "bullet" bracelet, which will fit an approx. 8.25 inch wrist; this Accutron also comes with a red, white, and blue nylon strap, as well as a brown leather strap.


    MOVEMENT: Bulova Accutron 214 tuning fork GMT movement, which vibrates at 360 Hz and uses a button-cell battery.


    CROWN: Like other Accutrons using the 214 movement, the Astronaut has no conventional crown and is set using a recessed key set into the back of the watch, adjacent to the battery door.


    We also have an original vintage Bulova ad, featuring the same watch, here.

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