Now that the first lot of Accutron electrostatic watches are available to order, including the Spaceview DNA and Spaceview 2020, we thought it was time to explain exactly how the electrostatic Accutron concept works. The innovative movement, which was first announced last year in 2019, has completely revolutionized the way we tell time and has more importantly recaptured Accutron’s legacy as one of the most important innovators in horological history.
Bulova, the original leading name of the Accutron watch, debuted the new concept movement at Baselworld last year and explained how the Accutron name would be converting to its own separate brand. Delivering an almost kaleidescope-like dial on the watches, the electrostatic movement has been described as a “next-generation first for the industry” and uses unique technology to both generate power for the watch, and to move the hands.
The History of Accutron
Before we get into the more complex explanation of how the Accutron Electrostatic concept works, we first need to understand how Accutron arrived to where it is today. Delivered under the name of Bulova, Accutron watches were first produced back in 1960 and were widely considered the most commercially and technically successful electronic watches in the world. Its most notable features were the smooth sweeping of its seconds hand and the high pitch hum emitted from the case by the iconic tuning fork.
The tuning fork, which had previously only ever been used in music, was developed by engineer Mark Hetzel. He developed the transistor movement which replaced the balance wheel as a regulator and instead used the tuning fork powered by electromagnets attached to a battery-powered circuit. The concept was a huge success and provided an unparalleled precision of a minute per month. What became known as the ‘Accutron Spaceview’ was a massive achievement for the Bulova name, and the piece was even worn by American astronauts on a mission to the moon.
Interestingly, the original Accutron Spaceview watch was also never initially intended to go into production. It’s intricate design which featured an open-worked dial was only originally designed to help dealers understand that these were not traditional mechanical watches but ones that encapsulated a technology completely unique to the industry. However, the showcase of the technology through the dial was a huge hit and became a permanent decision in the Accutron design.
Sadly, with the rise in quartz technology and its decreased cost, Accutron watches ceased production in 1977 and although Bulova has launched several limited edition pieces over the years in honour of the original Accutron Spaceview, no permanent collection has been launched until now.
How does the Electrostatic Accutron Concept Movement work?
Just like the original Accutron Spaceview, the new Accutron electrostatic concept watches reveal a mesmerising open-worked dial. However, rather than the tuning fork on show, these new timepieces feature two small turbine-like structures on the lower half of the dial which rotate when the watch is in motion – just like that of an oscillating rotor in an automatic watch. The upper part of the dial is also dominated by a turbine, this one larger in size and used to drive the seconds hand in a sweeping motion.
The upper turbine is an electrostatic motor while the two smaller turbines are electrostatic generators. Unlike a conventional electronic motor which consists of a central rotor wound with wire, an electrostatic motor sits inside the stator which is a ring-shaped permanent magnet. When the current advances the rotor coils, a magnetic field is generated, and the attraction and repulsion produced allows the rotor to rotate which in turn moves the driving shaft of the motor.
The two electrostatic generators are also powered by arm movements and when the current is produced, it is stored in a capacitor and delivered to the large motor. The blades of the motor’s rotor is similarity attracted and repelled by an electrical charge, but in this case the arrangement of blades are superimposed causing the rotor to turn. This unique system allows the seconds hand to sweep effortlessly across the dial, just like the original Accutron, while the hour and minute hands are powered by the conventional stepper motor.
The benefits to this remarkable technology are twofold. The first advantage is that it achieves an extremely stable rate of five seconds per month, a rate that exceeds all standard quartz watches and is even close in accuracy to the legendary Grand Seiko Spring Drive. Secondly, the Accutron electrostatic movement provides a stunning visual experience on the dial. As the turbine spins at high speeds with every movement of your wrist and the seconds hand delivers that iconic sweeping glide, we are not only reminded of the Accutron watches of the past but the futuristic approach to watch design that the brand remains so famous for.
Accutron Spaceview 2020 and Spaceview DNA
We’re not going to do a full review of the new Accutron Spaceview watches right now (but keep an eye out for these coming later to Horologii), however we felt a feature on the Accutron electrostatic movement wouldn’t be complete without touching on the models it is housed within. As its name suggests, the Accutron Spaceview DNA brings back to life the genetic material of the original Spaceview but with the contemporary twist of the electrostatic movement. It is currently available in four colourways: green, bronze, black and blue.
Meanwhile, the Accutron Spaceview 2020 is described as “the new face of time for those who blaze new trails” and commemorates avant-garde timepiece with a more classic stainless steel aesthetic and green detailed open-worked dial reminiscent of the popular originals. There are three designs of the Spaceview 2020 currently available, the first in stainless steel with a transparent minutes track, the second also in stainless steel but with a green minutes track and lastly, an 18 carat gold model limited to 60 pieces.
Both the Accutron Spaceview 2020 and Spaceview DNA collections are now available to order on the Jura Watches website. Get in touch with the team today on 01335 453453 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance finding your next luxury timepiece.