The Vintage Accutron
"I feel now after a decade of vintage timepiece restoration and service on Accutron's, I can finally put to rest some of the crazy rumors and fallacies about these wonderful timepieces." I'm sure you have noticed the new swiss Bulova's with the Accutron logo. There is very little in common with a 214 and 218 Tuning Fork Movements. Bulova has opted for more a conventional and modern manual or automatic movement and their new Tuning Fork movements is a refined more modern approach to vintage Accutron's.
I won't go into the entire history of the Accutron but it most certainly is rightfully acclaimed in Horological History as the most accurate watch in the world released October of 1960. Max Hetzel of Basel, Switzerland whom joined the Bulova Watch Company in 1950 invented the incredible Accutron.
The most common problem I see on my bench are the batteries. The original batteries were mercury and were banned. So watchmakers and jewelers had to come up with alternatives and try to attempt to match the same voltage. So today for the 214 Movement I use the 387-S. The "S" stands for Sleave. For the 218 movement a 344 will work well. Remember when installing, both movements require the batteries to be mounted with Positive Side Down position and Negative Side up position. For the 214 there are many other considerations. Make sure the power cell cover hatch that you screw on and off is clean and the gasket not corroded. Now make sure the battery and plastic sleave are seated correctly. Once the hatch makes contact with the negative side of the battery, you should instantly hear the hum of the tuning forks. If not carefully check the battery for voltage. The 218 requires a jewelers flathead screwdriver to half turn and unscrew the hold down screw on the cell strap. Now check for any corrosion on the positive side you place the battery now into the chamber. Turn strap back into position and under screw mount and tighten. Again, instantly you should hear a hum and the movement running.
Movements that are going bad and have tired failing coils and electronics may need a kickstart. Gently tap at the 3pm position with a ball point pen and you should hear a hum. If the hum fades away and stops and the battery is good, then the watch most likely has failing coils or something within the electronics has gone bad.
Bulova did not make it easy for watchmakers and jewelers to repair Accutrons. In most cases it was easier for Jewlelers to send the watch back to the factory for a movement replacement instead of full disassembly for a coil replacement. So therefore I decided myself to simply change out the movement entirely than to attempt coil replacements. A gentle touch of a Accutron coil can break a coil thread that is 1/10 the size of a human hair. And to change out Tuning Forks and to recalibrate takes a master Watchmaker is which I'm not.
Another common problem I see is that the movement hums but hands are no longer moving. Again low voltage because of coil failure can cause this or even a battery with low strength. Also there is a clutch that controls the hands that needs oil. Most of the Accutron's I see have not had service in many years or many I see have never had service. The only point of lubricant Bulova recommends is at the clutch wheel so the hands don't freeze up. Many times I see the clutch corroded and frozen by the old oil that sat for decades.
These are the two most common problems I see. Many times a Accutron will react differently to the environment around it. I have a AV Model 218 from 1966 and during the cold months it will lose a few minutes and even stops but during summer runs perfectly. I can't prove this nor can I find any articles on this possible phenomenon.
I hope I have helped somebody out there in Bulova-Land and if you wish to send questions or need help with your Accutron or any Bulova watch, please do!
"Time & Again"