This week, I’m reviewing another great watch recently released by the Bulova Watch Company under their new Accutron II line of watches. Just to recount some previously covered ground, Bulova ceased producing watches under the Accutron name earlier this year and reintroduced that line as “Bulova AccuSwiss” to denote their high-end line of Swiss-made watches. Doing this accomplished two things. It righted a wrong in the minds of many purists who just could not connect the dots between the original Accutron tuning fork watch of the 1960′s/1970′s and the present day Swiss automatic watches that have now carried the Accutron name for many years. To many, it seemed that the watch that pioneered ACCUracy through elecTRONics had nothing to do with a mechanical wristwatch. It also freed up the Accutron name for use on something more befitting it’s heritage, which was the introduction of the Accutron II line in the Bulova portfolio.
Accutron II, the name of which implies a totally new generation of Accutron wristwatches, blends what is old with what is new. The line, which appears to be positioned between the standard Bulova line and the Precisionist line, is comprised of five distinct versions in a variety of styles, all of which are drawn from the original Accutron archives and updated to appeal to a modern audience. This particular review will cover one of the most interesting versions, the Accutron II Snorkel which, in the 96B208 version is a pure homage to the original in almost every way.
The Snorkel line is the only line of Accutron II watches that are rated to a 200 meter water resistance level. At this rating, the watch is acceptably designed for swimming and light diving. The original Snorkel was rated to a depth of 666 feet or roughly 200 meters so Bulova stayed the course with the updated version. More on that later.
First, the case of the watch is crafted in stainless steel, shaped to resemble the original. It has a distinctive 1960′s/1970′s style that was popular at the time but which went out as quartz watches and their new thin designs became prevalent. This funky retro, colorful watch style has come back in recent years, especially in brands such as Zodiac and Bulova has perfectly captured the design of the original while upsizing the case to 43mm to conform with the larger styles of the 21st century. The original was about 38mm, which at the time was considered to be a large watch.
The surface of the case is mostly rendered in a light brush finish with polished highlights such as the thin bezel ring around the crystal and a polished chamfer that runs up both sides of the case. The right side features two crowns like the original, the lower one used for setting the time and date while the upper one rotates an internal elapsed time bezel that surrounds the main dial. Oddly, the lower crown is screw-down style while the upper crown is not. The lower crown also features the Accutron tuning fork logo introduced on the original Accutrons in 1960.
The back of the watch is a screw-in type back, which is not surprising given the watch’s 200m water resistance. It is simple, brushed with polished accents and is signed with the serial number as well as the year production code (B4 for 2014). So is it a serious diver’s watch? I don’t think it is but at 200m, it should be fine swimming, snorkeling and light diving.
The dial is black with thin chrome indices filled with luminous material. It is a stark and simple dial with the slightest hint of a sunburst pattern and is signed “Bulova Accutron II” with the Accutron logo above it. The bezel ring, in orange and white, surrounds the dial and rotates in either direction you turn it. The hour and minute hands are white with luminous materials while the second hand is bright orange and stands out noticeable against the black dial.
Protecting the dial is a K1 mineral crystal. According to various watch sources, K1 mineral is a type of watch crystal that is hardened, more shatter-resistant than sapphire crystal, and more scratch-resistant than regular mineral crystal. This will not deter those that won’t consider a watch unless it has a sapphire crystal but I suppose that Bulova was trying to keep the price as reasonable as possible. On this example, the crystal is slightly raised and domed, which adds to the vintage appeal of the watch in a way that a flat mineral crystal could not.
The movement of this watch is one of the defining factors that makes this a unique timepiece. To get the size it wanted from the new Accutron II watches, Bulova built a new movement based on the Precisionist model, but smaller and thinner. To accomplish this and use a smaller battery, they had to make some modifications that lowered the accuracy rating from that of a Precisionist (accurate to within 10 seconds a year) but is still up to six times more accurate than that of a standard quartz type wristwatch. The torsional resonator movement beats at a rate of 16 beats per second, which gives the second hand the appearance of a completely smooth sweeping action, a hallmark of the original Accutron.
This particular model is only available with a mesh bracelet, which works well for this design. There are other versions of the Snorkel with different dial configurations and these feature a 60′s style coffin-link bracelet. The mesh bracelet, while attractive and vintage appropriate, fits oddly on my wrist. Rather than use a conventional clasp, Bulova elected to use a butterfly clasp and the bracelet is a combination of solid mesh with several removable bar links on either side of the clasp. Removing more than 6 links (the bracelet is quite large) resulted in difficulty closing the clasp as the bar links do not bend to conform to the shape of it. I decided to remove the bracelet and replace it with a period appropriate rally strap which I think goes well with the watch.
Overall, I think that Bulova has developed a credible vehicle from which to launch a reimagined Accutron watch line. The combination of proven designs from the 1960′s, accuracy much higher than probably 98% of the watches made today from a unique movement, a good price point ($450 to $650 USD), quality construction and a company with a storied history makes for a watch that should be a home run for Bulova.