Bulova Accutron II “Snorkel” Review


B7A8CF4C-FD66-4794-93DF-19D0706A5CB4_zpsxwuw0zicThis 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.

Original Accutron Snorkel

Original Accutron Snorkel

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.

0f91d29b-2632-45e4-addd-ce8cc5714dfe_zpsa834638aThe 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.

photo copy 31This 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.

Bulova Accutron II Review


AstronautOriginalThere once was a time when the name “Accutron” meant something to people. When it was introduced in 1960, it was the most significant technological leap in timekeeping since the invention of the clock…the world’s first electronic watch that keep time to the precise vibration of a tuning fork. There was nothing else like it when it came out and it left the Hamilton Electric watch and all other mechanical watches in the dust from an accuracy standpoint.

For ten years, it dominated the watch scene and was “the” watch to have. Even when quartz came along at the end of the 1960’s, the Accutron tuning fork movement soldiered on for another seven years or so, finally giving in to the realities of the market, which quartz would reshape. Accutron went through several changes in the decades to follow, it’s uniqueness diminished.

A revitalized Accutron appeared around 1989, now defined as the Swiss arm of Bulova but with quartz movements and later, automatic and mechanical. This was considered by many a fan of the original Accutron to be heresy for a watch which which had broken the mold by not being a conventional, mainspring-driven watch. These watches, while very well made and worthy of the “Swiss Made” title were never considered to be the logical successor to the original Accutron…that honor went to the Bulova Precisionist when it came out in 2010. The Precisionist was the first quartz based watch whose second hand did not hack but which flowed with the smooth motion of “a satellite in orbit”, the most noticeable attribute of an original Accutron.

Moonview1If the Precisionist had the DNA and the feel of a true Accutron, it never had the appealing design and looks of one, going for overly large, overly designed cases that turned off many would-be buyers. It left many asking the question of why Bulova had not relaunched Accutron with this revolutionary new movement instead of creating an entire new line under a different name. Fast forward to 2014.

Bulova announced in March of 2014 that Accutron would be relaunched as a line of vintage styled watches borrowing designs from the original Accutrons and featuring a new Precisionist-based movement that would allow the use of more conventionally sized watches. Dubbed “Accutron II”, these watches are now the only Bulova product that carries the Accutron name.

For this review, I’m writing about one of the five lines of the new Accutron II series, the Moonview. Anyone who knows the original Accutron Astronaut (pictured at the top of this article) will recognize the Moonview because it is directly inspired by the Astro and Bulova has been rather faithful to the design of the original. Here are the particulars:

Moonview2Build: The case and bracelet is crafted in stainless steel and the bracelet is pretty solid for this price range, nicely finished and it well made. All links are solid and polished on the ends and once sized to the wrist, it fits nicely. The bracelet is modeled after the old “coffin link” bracelets that some Astronauts had, brushed outer links and polished center links. It has a butterfly clasp with push releases on the sides and claps snugly together when closed.

The case is round and features a bezel which has engraved numbers for the hours and hash marks for the half hour. It is brushed and looks nearly identical to the original, although it is a twelve hour scale and not a 24 hour scale. It is stationary as this is not a GMT like the original. It is serrated around the edge of the bezel and brings the width of the case to 42mm. The crown is neatly tucked away at the 3:00 position, hidden from sight. Purists will no doubt long for a GMT version but that would likely require engineering a new movement just to add that feature.

Moonview3The back is a snap-back, nicely polished and includes the various markings including “Water Resistant”. According to the manual, unless the watch is marked this way with a depth number next to it, it is not suitable for swimming. The lowest number in the manual with a depth rating shown is 50m and anything under that is suitable only for splashes, washing or cleaning. Another Accutron II model, the Snorkel, is rated to 200 meters if you want one for swimming and diving.

The original Astro’s cone-shaped lugs are not present here but there are vestiges of them. I imagine it would have driven the price up higher to reproduce them exactly.

Dial and Crystal: The crystal is mineral but seems to be very thick, somewhat raised and nicely domed, giving it a vintage appeal. It does not warp the dial at an angle like some do. There is no A/R coating but the dial is matte black which, when combined with the dome effect helps cut down on reflections. The lume is pretty good actually, better than most Bulova watches I’ve owned. The dial has applied silver markers and silver hands and is signed “Bulova Accutron II”. A date window appears at the 6:00 position. It is very readable and somewhat simple.

This watch is thinner than any of the Precisionist models I have had and the depth of the dial is pretty good so the new movement must be thinned down a good bit. The second hand also seems to glide along smoother than the Precisionist as well. It was very hard to detect any trace of incremental hacking…think of an old electric clock and you get the idea.

Moonview5Things I like: Good build quality, nicely sized case, vintage looks and appeal, gliding Accutron second hand, highly readable dial with decent luminosity, nicely executed coffin link bracelet, machined bezel, hidden crown.

Things I would improve: I would have made the dial to as closely resemble the original Astronaut, including adding that name to the dial. I would have also gone to the extra expense to machine the lugs exactly like the original, giving that true original look in a modern format. Accutron did this with the Limited Edition Astronaut introduced in 2007 and reviewed on this blog separately. I would have made the watch water resistant to at least 50 meters and preferably to 100. A sapphire crystal would be nice too but all of my improvements would have added a few hundred dollars more to the overall price.

Summary

The first modern watch to bear the Accutron name that has a movement worthy of Accutron. The gliding second hand really brings back the feel of the originals and the accuracy and reliability should be a lot better. For the money, the watch has a lot of appeal and the battery life should be twice as long as the original, if not longer. It is good to see the Accutron name back on a watch that can truly claim direct lineage to the original.

Authors Note: This is an expanded version of my article that appeared this month on Timezone.com

Bulova Unveils the Accutron II


AlphaThe original Bulova Accutron, introduced in 1960 with a revolutionary tuning fork-driven movement was the first truly electronic wristwatch, eclipsing Hamilton’s 1957 electromechanical wristwatch and setting the bar for true accuracy several years before the quartz watch made them all obsolete.

Quartz watches, which are more accurate and much less costly to produce, came to dominate the market, resulting in the Accutron brand dropping the tuning fork movement around 1977 and jumping on the quartz bandwagon. All this did was dilute the brand equity of the Accutron name, which wandered on without a true sense of identity for the next few decades. Once the unique movement was dropped, there just wasn’t anything to differentiate a quartz-powered Accutron from the scores of other quartz watches on the market and the Accutron name became little more than just that.

Bulova made a genuine attempt at reintroducing the line in the 1980’s as a high quality, Swiss-made arm of the Bulova family, featuring quartz watches in superbly crafted cases and these enjoyed some success. When mechanical watches became associated again with luxury, Accutron added Swiss automatic and manual winding movements, creating fine watches to be sure, but the irony of having such a movement in a watch whose name first signaled a break from the traditional was not lost on watch collectors at all. Accutron originally stood for “Accuracy through Electronics”, meant as the watch to replace the mechanical movement watch.

In 2010, Bulova introduced the Precisionist line of wristwatches, featuring a new kind of quartz movement that was far more accurate than the traditional kind and which featured, for the first time, a smoothly sweeping second-hand. It harkened back to the appeal of the original Accutron with its unique movement beating so fast that the second-hand appeared to glide like a satellite in orbit, but in the end, it wasn’t called “Accutron”.

Many purists like myself felt all along that Bulova should have used this new movement to reintroduce the Accutron line of watches rather than forge ahead with building a new line from the ground up. Instead of the classic good looks of the original Accutron watches, Precisionist buyers were met with a mostly-odd assortment of overwrought, oversized case designs, which turned many buyers off. Additionally, in the nearly four years since the Precisionist was introduced, only a handful of new models have come out, limiting choices. Apparently Bulova management decided to make some changes and while not killing the Precisionist line, Bulova has instead decided to take a new approach and has made some restructuring changes in their upper lineup of watches.

Bulova-Accutron-II-Alpha-Watch-4First of all, the top-of-the-line Bulova, previously known as the Accutron, which is now the Swiss-made arm of Bulova has changed its name to Bulova AccuSwiss. Ok, so it sounds like a hybrid of a Swiss acupuncturist and it’s not exactly a game changing name that engages the chronometric hormones of watch envy or anything but it does free the Accutron name from the bonds of being only Swiss and allows Bulova to do other things with it….like maybe pop a modified Precisionist movement (which is made by parent company Citizen in Japan) into a vintage-inspired, successful design of the past and call it the Accutron II. That is just what they did and suddenly Accutron is back again.

Bulova has made some other changes across its line as well such as a new font and the apparent removal of the Accutron tuning fork logo from it’s lower line of standard Bulova watches. This puts the logo back in it’s rightful place…on the true successor to the original Accutron.

The new Bulova Accutron II was introduced this past week at BaselWorld, the annual watch and jewelry fair held in Basel, Switzerland. Drawing from the first Accutron introduced in 1960, the case design, known as the “Alpha” (maybe because it was first?) very closely follows the characteristics of the original with its shield-shaped case and lugs. Where it differs though is that this one looks much more like the limited edition Accutron that Bulova built for the watch’s 50th anniversary. You know, the one that had a real tuning fork movement and cost between $4000 and $5000 USD. Way out of most people’s price range for a Bulova, no matter how limited the run.

Bulova-Accutron-II-Alpha-Watch-16Such is not the case with this new Accutron watch. The new model, which as I mentioned is driven by a modified Precisionist movement, is intended to retail for between $399 and $599 and comes in a variety of metal colors and straps. The entry-level model is the stainless steel “Alpha”, which features a “Spaceview” dial that allows the wearer to see the movement. Admittedly, the new movement is not nearly as detailed looking as the original tuning fork movement was but anyone that knows watches will know this for what it is: a Spaceview, reborn for the 21st. century.

The watch features a recessed and hidden crown for setting the watch, which is also in keeping with the original, although the crown is on the side of the new one instead of the back like the original.  That’s quite alright, as the original was known to have problems with water leaking in the area where the setting crown connected with the back of the watch case. The new Alpha also appears to have a generous amount of luminous material on the hands and dial, hands which look identical to those found on many original Spaceviews. A black leather strap embossed with an alligator pattern completes the package.

Bulova-Accutron-II-Alpha-Watch-5Other configurations include a gold-plated model with a brown leather strap, a rose gold-plated model with a white leather strap and a black PVD cased model with a black mesh bracelet. The black metal model is anticipated to be the priciest version at a few hundred dollars more.

All in all, the new Bulova Accutron II promises many things. It has the vintage appeal of the 1960’s era Accutron coupled with the most modern quartz movement available. While it may not be a tuning fork Accutron, the modified Precisionist movement is the legitimate genetic successor to the original movement and promises a smoothly sweeping second-hand that glides effortlessly. It may not hum with the vibration of the tuning fork but those with good ears will likely be able to listen in a quiet room as the little stepping motor purrs rather than ticks. More than this, the reliability factor will be increased considerably. According to sources, the modifications that were required will make this movement slightly less accurate than a Precisionist but still six times more accurate than a conventional quartz watch. That is still far more accuracy than can be attained with any mechanical watch.

Bulova-Accutron-II-Alpha-Watch-3While there are many original Accutron watches still out there working every day, they are getting harder and harder to fix when damaged, as parts become increasingly scarce and Accutron expert repairers become fewer. Those who still wear them have to take extra care and precaution that the tiny transistorized electrical movement is not damaged from the rigors of day-to-day wear. For those who love their original Accutron watches, the new Accutron II promises to be a much more robust watch that is more suitable for everyday wear. Plus, they are just plain cool.

Look for them in stores around June 2014.

Tudor Heritage Ranger Announced at Baselworld


photo.PNG copyIntroduced at Baselworld 2014 is a totally new Tudor, yet not quite so new to longtime fans of the brand. Tudor’s original Ranger, their version of the Rolex Explorer, featured the aesthetic values and look of the Explorer without the heftier price tag and the new Heritage Ranger appears to follow in that lead.

Crafted in stainless steel  with a completely brushed finish, 41mm case, the Heritage Ranger is first and foremost a tool watch and definitely looks the part. It is larger by 2mm than the current version of the Explorer and features a matte black dial nearly identical to that of the original. The Ranger features the ETA 2824 movement, heavily decorated and meticulously regulated by Tudor in their Geneva factories.

The hands are in a white gold finish and the pear-shaped hour hand is an homage to the original Ranger, which also featured a similar hand. A sapphire crystal, domed to resemble the vintage models, protects the dial which is also domed while a screw-down crown, emblazoned with the vintage Tudor rose logo, protects the movement to a depth of 150 meters.

photo 2The Heritage Ranger is available on a variety of leather straps, as well as a stainless steel Oyster-style bracelet with vintage-inspired straight end pieces. All versions feature an additional nylon strap in a camouflage colored material.

Prices have not yet been announced but if the pricing strategy follows that of Rolex, the Tudor Heritage Ranger should come in near the entry point of the Tudor brand of watches. Tudor’s focus of bringing back the vintage models reflecting the history of both its own company and that of its older sister Rolex seems to have hit a positive note with watch aficionados everywhere, especially with Tudor now retailing in the United States once again.

The new watch is a great way to break into the Tudor line of watches. It features a robust, time-tested design made modern for today’s market as well as the vintage aspects that have made these watches, quite literally, stand the test of time.

photo 1

Tudor Heritage Black Bay Sings the Blues


photo 5When Tudor, the younger and slightly rebellious sister brand of Swiss powerhouse watch brand Rolex introduced the Heritage Black Bay in 2012, it wasn’t long before they realized they had hit a home run.

The Black Bay, an homage to both Rolex and Tudor Submariners of the past, was part of a lineup that had fans of the brand lining up at dealers and prospective buyers in the United States bemoaning Tudor’s n0t-for-sale-in-the-US status…that is, until 2013 when Tudor returned to these shores.

This year, at Baselworld 2014, Tudor has issued a new Black Bay that will have fans singing the blues soon enough….blue as in bezel that is. The new Black Bay is much like the original with a few subtle differences. First, Tudor has made a new, deep blue bezel available and combined it with a black dial, a strikingly different package from the dark brown dial and burgundy bezel of the original. Like the original, the aluminum flange connecting to the crown is also colored to match the blue bezel.

photo 1-2This latest version of the Black Bay dial is also contrasted from the original by having white gold hands, index surrounds and lettering. The snowflake hour hand, unique to the Tudor line of watches returns as well.

Like the Black Bay in burgundy red, the midnight blue model comes either with a stainless steel oyster-style bracelet or an aged leather strap, in blue with this model. A nylon strap in blue is also included with either choice.

Prices haven’t been announced yet but should be similarly priced to that of the original and should be available in authorized Tudor dealers soon. Stay tuned for more news from Baselworld!

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photo 3 copy

Affordable Retro: Tissot Heritage Seastar PR 516 GL


PR516GLWith the holidays looming, the potential for Christmas bonuses or just the need to add another watch to the stable, one recent find fills a lot of checkboxes on the “What to Buy” list…the Tissot Seastar PR 516 GL. Let’s take a look at that list, in a nutshell. It’s made in Switzerland by none other than the Swatch Group. On the price scale, it falls into the “affordable” range for most watch lovers, well under $1000.00 USD. It offers a lot of value for the money too, both in the features that come standard on it and the quality of construction. It also has history, being a reissue of a model Tissot produced for a number of years. Finally, it has a retro-cool look that harkens back to one of the more interesting periods in our history. This review will cover each of these facets in more detail.

In the current watch stable of the monolithic Swatch Group, Tissot falls in at the top of their middle range according to the hierarchy listed in their annual report. Tissot does produce a few high end models, usually in limited editions to commemorate any number of special anniversaries in their history but overall, the majority of Tissot watches can be had in the $500.00 to $999.00 USD range. The PR 516 GL falls within this price range depending on where you find one and which model you select. When you can find a well-crafted, value-packed Swiss automatic wristwatch from a reputable brand in this price range, you’ve had a good day.

It’s important to keep in mind the name of this particular watch when looking because “PR516″ can also denote other watches made by Tissot that look nothing like the one this article covers. The “GL” makes the difference in the name, and frankly, this watch has a lot of name in the game. The dial alone has six lines of text, including “Tissot” “Visodate” “Automatic” “Seastar” “PR516″ and “GL”, yet it seems to work out well, even if it does give the watch a bit of an identity crisis. To help break this down into bite sized morsels, this basically means:

  • Tissot (Brand)
  • Visodate (Feature, i.e. the Day and Date windows)
  • Automatic (Movement type)
  • Seastar (Line)
  • PR 516 (Model)
  • GL (Submodel)

Fortunately, it lives up to all this dial hype and does so with style and capability. The original, introduced in the late 1960’s is a product of the design ethos of the time. Designers were pushing the boundaries a bit and leaving behind some of the plain, simple but elegant designs of the early 60’s in favor of watches that made more of a visual statement. The word “Cool” was entering the lexicon of daily language and could now be appropriately applied to many of the watch designs coming into the market. The Seastar PR516 GL could be counted among them. The reimagined modern version remains remarkably true to the original. It’s a bit larger, as befits the modern trend toward larger watches but not oversized by any measure. At 40mm wide, it manages to hit the “just right” spot with most watch wearers.

TissotBlackPR516The dial, in my case black and silver, closely mirrors the appearance of the original and is very 1960’s in appearance. It has a silver chapter ring with large, blocky indexes affixed which floats just above the black dial. This part has a faint sun ray pattern that can be seen in bright light, giving the dial more character. The effect is much more apparent in models with the silver or blue dial. The dial also features a vintage Tissot logo, a raised silver block with the letter “T” in the middle. This is a nice touch of class on the watch. The hands, which mirror the indexes in size and shape, are easy to align with the indexes when setting the watch. The hands of the watch contain luminous material that glows brightly after being exposed to light. The indexes also feature luminous material that appears in normal light to be a black line but which actually glows a pale green in the dark. The hands are significantly brighter in the dark than the indexes.

One of the features of this watch is a day and date display, located at the 3 position. These change simultaneously right at midnight with a noticeable click. With the day display, you can choose between a normal day abbreviation or one that has the number of the day of the week in red alongside the day (i.e. 1MON, 2Tue and so forth).

The case is made of 316L grade stainless steel, an industry standard for steel watches. It is polished on the sides and brushed on the top with a large crown that is easy to grasp, yet doesn’t protrude significantly from the case. Pulling the crown to the first position sets the day (counter-clockwise rotation) and the date (clockwise rotation). Pulling the crown to the second position stops the second-hand and allows for setting the time precisely.

Powering the watch is a basic ETA 2824 movement. Aside from the rotor, which carries a modest degree of finishing, the movement is unremarkable and unadorned. On the plus side, it is known for its robust character and dependability, performing its task with typical Swiss precision. It features 25 jewels and can be viewed through the transparent case back. One interesting characteristic is the representation of a steering wheel, which is placed over the movement and underneath the transparent case back, an homage to the racing spirit of the original model.

One of the welcome features on a watch of this price range is the slightly domed and beveled sapphire crystal. The dial is easily viewed through the crystal, which lacks any type of anti-reflective coating. The crystal rises about a millimeter above the case and has a beveled edge all the way around which actually seems to channel light onto the silver chapter ring, making it stand out nicely. I’m very pleased with the crystal, which as I said is a nice touch at this price point.

There are a variety of dials available with this particular model. The one I chose is a basic stainless steel model with a black dial and silver chapter ring. The watch also is available with a blue dial or a silver dial and also in a yellow gold PVD plated case with a white dial. The models with the white/silver dial have the effect of combining with the chapter ring to make the face look larger, although this is an illusion as they are all the same size. The models with the blue dial and silver dial come with an interesting retro bracelet in steel while the black dial model and the gold model have leather straps with deployant claps. Both the bracelets and the straps feature large holes in the racing strap style.

photo copy 16My experience wearing the watch with the leather strap included was very comfortable. The soft, supple leather strap feels good on the arm and does not add weight to the watch. It is easy to size by moving the deployant device. I have not tried on the one with the stainless bracelet but understand from others that, while fashionable, it is not as comfortable to wear as most bracelets. I outfitted mine with a mesh bracelet that is both very comfortable and which actually compliments the retro look and feel of the watch. It is exactly the kind of bracelet that works well on a watch of this period look.

Accuracy, while not in the chronometer range, is acceptable. The watch gains about 20 seconds a day on the arm but this is acceptable for a watch in this range. I generally just stop it now and then and wait for the seconds to catch up.

Overall, the Heritage PR516 GL is a great watch with a vintage look but without the drawbacks of  a vintage watch. The price point nets you a day and date display, a viewable automatic movement with hack feature, a deployant clasp strap and a sapphire crystal, all for about $600.00 depending on where you find them. Multiple sales outlets carry these on the internet and the likelihood of fakes are low in this price range. One should always be cautioned to purchase from a reliable seller.

Tissot has a solid reputation for quality, reliability, style and affordability. These combined traits make for a nice watch that you will be proud to own.

Timeless Designs: The Hamilton Ventura


Ventura1957The year 1957 wasn’t an especially significant one in the decade of the 1950’s but like most all years, it had its claims to fame. In the month of January alone, two events in particular are noteworthy: the inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower to his second term of office as President of the United States and the introduction of the world’s first commercially available wristwatch powered by a battery. The Hamilton Electric was born and no other wristwatch in the new Electric line summed up the “Fabulous Fifties” like the Ventura.

Consider the time in which it was born. The 1950’s saw an entire new wave of design come into maturity that mirrored the optimism of the times. Everything, from appliances to furniture, accessories and even homes, reflected the future modern touches of the designers of the time.

Tail fins soared on automobiles, the rocket era was in full swing and with the introduction of the Electric line of wristwatches, Hamilton wanted something that beat with the times. They turned to industrial designer Richard Arbib and from his pen a number of striking designs found themselves rendered into precious metals. The Ventura was the first such design and it has been the most enduring.

The original Ventura, referenced in sales literature of the time as the Ventura I, was introduced on January 4, 1957, along with a more traditional design model, the Van Horn (a safe-bet watch, just in case the new design didn’t go over well with the public) and from the moment it hit the stores, it was a runaway success, despite its somewhat lofty price of $200.00 Crafted entirely of 14k gold (US market versions), the Ventura featured a case design unlike any others of the time with a bold, triangular shape and lugs reminiscent of automotive fins.

Originally fitted with the somewhat troublesome Hamilton 500 electromechanical movement, the Ventura, when properly maintained and cared for, was accurate and never needed winding, although battery replacements were fairly regular, usually about once a year. Within a short time, the more refined and improved Hamilton 505 movement found its way into the Electric of watches.

The first Ventura wristwatches were made available in a yellow gold case with either a black or a silver dial that featured the hours denoted by golden dots with tracer lines that radiated inward. A jagged electric line transected the center of the dial, connecting the 3 and 9 together, the total effect of which suggested electricity with a hint of the atom. A unique two-tone leather strap in black and gold came with the first Venturas but was quickly phased out due to manufacturing costs and a tendency to not hold up well.

The following year, a white gold version was introduced, although it never sold in numbers like the yellow gold versions and consequently is a rarer find today. Additionally, an 18k rose gold version was produced at some point for export only, making it probably the rarest of all Hamilton Ventura watches.

Rod-Serling-Hamilton-Wristwatch

Rod Serling with his yellow gold, silver dial Hamilton Ventura

In a sea of ubiquitous wristwatches, the Ventura and most of its electric brethren stood out and this uniqueness soon found its way onto the wrists of some notable television and movie personalities. While this was unintentional at the time, product placement was something that Hamilton would take advantage of in future decades.

Rod Serling, the producer of “The Twilight Zone” wore a gold Ventura with a silver dial in his opening and closing monologues on many episodes of the show.

The futuristic, space-age design of the Hamilton Ventura was a perfect fit for both Serling and his hit TV series and he wore the watch for many years after its small screen debut but it was undoubtedly the big screen debut of the Ventura that immortalized the watch in the minds of many fans, linking it forever with the biggest name in the music industry, Elvis Presley.

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Elvis Presley on the set of Blue Hawaii, wearing a yellow gold, black dial Ventura

Presley wore a yellow gold Ventura in the movie “Blue Hawaii” and the watch was highly visible in many scenes, including one brief closeup. It is unknown if the watch was a studio supplied watch or not but apparently Presley liked the Ventura because he added a white gold version with a dealer-installed expansion bracelet to his personal collection. The Ventura later became known as the “Elvis Watch” because of the association with Presley.

The Ventura was produced for six years and was sold by Hamilton jewelers until all the supply was used up. Eventually Hamilton discontinued the Electric line after significant inroads had been made by Bulova’s humming Accutron, as well as the advent of the Quartz controlled wristwatch but the Ventura story was far from over.

Fast forward a quarter of a century to 1988. Hamilton, which had been purchased by the forerunners of today’s Swatch Group in Switzerland was looking to get their name back in the minds of watch buyers. In a market flooded by mostly inexpensive quartz watches of boring design and questionable pedigree, Hamilton had to find a way to both penetrate the existing market and to do something that would stand out from the crowd.

Instead of looking at the existing trends, they decided to look inward at their own history and from their archives, they drew inspiration that started a new trend. Pulling designs that had proven popular in the past, they came out with a new line of old watches, authentic reproductions of timeless classics, reissued to resonate with a modern world.

VenturaAdFrom the 20’s came the Piping Rock and from the 30’s, the Boulton, Ardmore and Wilshire were reborn, among others. Topping the range of models, Hamilton reintroduced the Ventura to a new generation of watch fans who had never seen it before and were immediately taken with the design. The vintage watch trend was born and has continued more or less unabated to this day.

Hamilton made four versions of the “new” Ventura available for purchase by mail order in magazines and later, in retail stores: yellow gold-plated with silver or black dial, white gold-plated with black dial and rose gold-plated with black dial. These new versions of the Ventura were authentically detailed based on the original designs and a very close approximation of the original Ventura. Each came with a color coordinated Teju lizard skin strap, depending on the dial color.

Powered by a modern Swiss quartz movement, the new Ventura was the perfect blend of modern, reliable timekeeping technology encased in a proven, classic vintage design. The wearer of a Ventura was virtually guaranteed that his watch would draw attention when worn and over the next nine years, the new Ventura became a staple in the growing portfolio of the Hamilton Watch Company, now a part of the Swatch Group. Although the appearance changed little, the yellow and rose gold-plated models were eventually phased out as the white gold-plated version with black dial became the standard-bearer.

In 1997, the release of the feature film “Men in Black” reintroduced the Hamilton Ventura to the movie going public as part of Hamilton’s campaign to get their watches on the big screen. The movie became a big hit and the Ventura became a bigger star as the watch of choice worn by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, the stars of the movie.

A chronograph version of the Ventura was released for the sequel, as well as new versions of the classic model, now in stainless steel with dial choices in black, silver and salmon color. While constructed of better grade materials, the post-MIB Ventura models differed from the original Electric models in details as well as movements. Dials were now flat instead of gently domed and the word “Electric” had never appeared on a modern Ventura. The back of the watch was thoroughly modern in design and the tang buckle was replaced by a modern deployant buckle.

In 2007, Hamilton celebrated a milestone with the 50th birthday of the Ventura and released two special editions of the watch. The 50th Anniversary Ventura came in two versions: a larger sized version with an automatic movement and a skeletonized dial for viewing the movement and a traditional version with a quartz movement.

Ventura50The quartz movement version drew the most attention, featuring a case that much more closely approximated that of the original 1957 Ventura, both front and back. Stamped from new dies, this 50th anniversary edition included a sapphire crystal and a domed dial with a unique pattern not seen on a Ventura before. While still evocative of the times in which the Ventura was born, the new dial was different and for the first time in fifty years, the word “Electric” reappeared on the dial. This version is the only quartz powered Ventura to ever feature that word on the dial. A slightly wider 18mm crocodile strap with a vintage tang buckle rounded out the package, as well a commemorative box.

Only 1,957 examples of the 50th Anniversary Hamilton Ventura were crafted for the US market, making this version of the watch one of the rarest of the Ventura line. The automatic also came in a strictly limited and numbered run of 1,957 examples.

Two other versions of the 50th Anniversary Ventura also were produced by Hamilton but these were made for the Asian market and were never sold in the United States. Two runs of 1,957 watches were crafted, one in yellow gold PVD plate and the other in rose gold PVD plate, both featuring dark bronze dials with the original atomic dial indexes of the Ventura I. These were the first new Hamilton Ventura watches in several years to feature a gold tone case and some of these found their way to the US via online retailers like Ebay. Both are considered to be very rare in the western hemisphere.

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2010 Stainless Steel Elvis Presley Ventura

Not one to let a good thing end, Hamilton decided in 2010 to issue two new special editions of the Ventura to commemorate the 75th birthday of Elvis Presley and these are considered by many to be the most authentic reproduction of the original Ventura to date.

The first one was crafted in stainless steel with a steel expansion bracelet similar to the style of bracelet Elvis wore on his personal white gold Ventura purchased in the 1960’s. The black dial retained the signature jagged line across the center and the atomic themed dial of the original Ventura.

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2010 Gold PVD Elvis Presley Ventura

A yellow gold PVD plated version, also with an expansion bracelet in gold, was available, it too with a black dial and a unique red second-hand similar to the ones found on the rare 18k gold models of the past. Even more unique, both watches could be had with a two-tone leather strap in either black and silver or black and gold, depending on the case material. This was the first time Hamilton had offered such a strap since the original 1957 model debuted. The strap, many collectors believe, show the watch in the true way that its designer, Richard Arbib, intended for the Ventura to look….cool, futuristic, striking and unique and on that front, Arbib and Hamilton succeeded.

Ventura21Today, the Hamilton Ventura is considered to be a truly iconic watch of American design and enduring style. It is available in a variety of versions, sizes and features, from the original design reproductions to the automatic, the chronograph and, since 2010, a modern 21st century reinterpretation that redefines the Ventura in a modern world. No other American watch design is as well known or as long lived as the Ventura and its popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing at all.

If you want to own a watch that is both reasonably priced, iconic in design and steeped in history, look no further than the Hamilton Ventura.