Is buying a nonrunning vintage accutron worth it?

 

Hi, I'm a noob to Bulova. I recently purchased a '72 mechanical SeaKing. Online, I've seen some beauties. The crownless accutrons, the asymmetrical cases & the astronaut all intrigue me. 

So here is the question. There are several nonrunning accutrons online that I've seen and liked. Some seem a bit much, but others seem reasonably priced compared to the working equivalents. (Some hum, some don't.) Is it worth it to get a non-runner and repair it, or is the repair cost going to be too much for what the watch is worth and what a runner can be had for?

I'd love to hear your opinions. 

Reverend Rob's picture
Reverend Rob
Posted November 27, 2017 - 9:29pm

Panel Member

No.

At watchmaking school, we had drawers full of non-runners, and I have a parts closet in my shop also full of various condition movements and partial watches.

The amount of effort and expense needed to get a non-runner working far outweighs any possible result, unless it is something very special.

There are some specialty shops in the US and might even be one or two in Canada, but my experience with these watches is that once your index wheel gets damaged (like, by TOUCHING it) the movt is KAPUT.

I have several that are runners, but they eat batteries and periodically quit for no discernable reason. Basically, I tell my customers that any electronic watch is subject to aging at a higher rate than any mechanical watch. Circuits, coils, resistors, not to mention the extremely fragile pallet jewels on their tiny spring arms, and the index wheel, which has not been made since the early 80's...and you have a recipe for a money pit.

Barring any intervention by Bulova, such as re-issuing the original spec accutron movts (there was talk of this a year or so ago) the supply of index wheels that are NOS or undamaged is shrinking, and even the quartz movts by ISA that were direct replacements for the Accutrons are long gone.

If you are thinking of getting a vintage Accutron, I would say get one that RUNS, and the better it runs, well....the better. Kind of like a vintage car. Running ones are more desirable. 

IMHO, of course.

macosie
Posted November 27, 2017 - 8:56pm

Thanks for that info. I'm glad I didn't jump at any of them. 

 

macosie
Posted December 2, 2017 - 10:14am

I'm wondering if it is worth it to look at 60s and 70s quartz watches. I'm seeing nice looking watches going for fairly high prices as nonrunners, and running watches fetching even higher prices. But I'm starting to think that a lot of these watches may be at the end of their servicable lives. 

It would annoy me to pay a grand for a 60s Astronaut, for it to only last a few years before stopping.

 

Reverend Rob's picture
Reverend Rob
Posted December 3, 2017 - 1:39am

Panel Member

Quartz watches in general, have a shorter lifespan than any mechanical watch. We see watches that are over 200 years old, and if they have been maintained, they are still quite functional. (I still recommend to the owners NOT to carry and use them)

A quartz watch is an electronic device, and contains a fair amount of plastic. Even in an ideal environment, a really good one will last maybe 30 plus years. A cheap one will last One to Three years. Factors that accelerate deterioration are everything from batteries leaking to moisture to dirt and magnetic fields. Dirt will stop a quartz watch easily, whereas a mechanical watch has the power to keep running. Batteries begin to off gas as they start to fail, and you may have noticed that dead batteries are no longer flat on top (They bulge) due to internal pressure. The off gassing contributes to circuit failure, and leakage can wick up the contacts and destroy wheels and components. 

A magnetic field can and will destroy a quartz watch and there is no shortage of these today in our tech heavy world. 

Quartz quality was much better overall in the 80's, but obviously you can still get good quality Swiss quartzes today. Again, a lifespan of 30 to 40 years tops, usually less. It all depends on how well the watch was cared for. 

My main reason for bias in favour of mechanical watches is mostly longevity. A well maintained mechanical watch will last 80 years on average, and they have been to known to last much longer. Mechanical watches can be de-magnetized if they pick up any stray magnetism, and they can be cleaned and serviced. Quartz watches can also be serviced, but usually the movts are replaced with new ones. Their cheaper initial cost means that owners are not as willing to spend the money to maintain them, and many are downright disposable. 

There are still a LOT of parts floating around out there for mechanical watches, but for quartz, not so much. There are quite a number of quartz movts out that are completely obsolete due to their voltages depending on batteries that no longer exist.

My biggest beef, however, is plastic. I do not like to see plastic in or on a watch, even if it is a spacer ring or small teflon part. There are some high end Swiss watches that have begun to use plastic components because they are self-lubricating. They are also shorter lived, and in the future it will be these parts that become impossible to find. 

My own opinion, FWIW, is that quartz watches are far more likely to fail with age. Another thing I should mention is that quartz movts are actually not as bullet proof as we might think and can be damaged with shock. Mechanical movts likewise do not handle shock well, and the most typical damage to a mechanical movt is the broken balance staff. 

 

 

 

macosie
Posted December 2, 2017 - 12:06pm

I think I will stick with my mechanicals and autos. I still love the design of the astronaut. I'm thinking about the modern moonview homage to the astronaut, but I wish it was a GMT. 

Thanks for the information. 

mybulova_admin
Posted December 2, 2017 - 8:18pm

Club 5000Panel Member

Rev this is great advise and something everyone considering buying a vintage Accutron or Quartz watch should read.

It's probably why I stick to mechanical movements, despite always wanting to buy an Accutron watch.

macosie
Posted December 2, 2017 - 10:34pm

I found the Accutron II Moonview and it seems to be a homage to the astronaut. I'll see if I can get one on sale this Christmas. What I really hope is that since Bulova has a nice case already made up, that they will consider a GMT version, a true homage or reissue of the astronaut. It's a nice watch, and I dig the vintage style coffin bracelet. 

 

Vintage Astronaut

 

Reverend Rob's picture
Reverend Rob
Posted December 3, 2017 - 1:41am

Panel Member

The MoonView seems to have disappeared from the International Bulova site- so I don't know if that means they have discontinued them already? I'm going to try and find out if there is any stock left here in Toronto.

Reverend Rob's picture
Reverend Rob
Posted December 3, 2017 - 1:40am

Panel Member

One additional point I should mention about Accutrons- The voltage req's for these do not match the new watch cells, so they will run fast usually. There is a method to 'phase' the movt to get it to run properly, and there is a guy in the US who does it, I have lost the contact info. Otherwise you will have to buy 'Accucells' and these are resisitor modified watch batteries made specifically to match the power requirements of the Accutron. They don't last long in my experience.