Why I Can’t Get Enough Of These Totally Weird Watches
thank god for something different.
Dive watches, tool watches, Submariners and Speedmasters are great, but sometimes you might feel like you’ve seen it all. Today, even most vintage watch reissues play it relatively safe, and that’s why something as offbeat as the Accutron Legacy collection is refreshing. These watches are certainly not for everyone, but therein lies their appeal.
But is there quality behind the eye-catching designs? And do these reissues do justice to their vintage counterparts? We tested three models from the collection to find out.
Case diameter: 32.8mm; 34mm; 38.5mm
Water resistance: 30m
Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic
Price: $1,290 to $1,550
Availablity: Limited to 600 copies each
The Accutron Legacy Collection consists of eight models (some with a few variations for a total of 12), faithfully recreating watch designs from the 1960s or 70s. This might sound a familiar phrase in today’s atmosphere of vintage watch mania and reissues, but these are the types of designs that are overlooked by the vast majority of brands that paint their back catalogs for watches with modern mass appeal. (think military watches, diver’s watches, etc.). In other words, most brands just don’t have the balls to reissue such polarizing designs.
More importantly, Accutron Legacy watches are not only stunningly quirky, but beautifully and lovingly rendered. The collection’s pricing puts them comfortably above entry-level automatic watches, but you can expect quality construction, materials, and detailing at least commensurate with their price points.
Who it’s for
You’re probably going to find Accutron Legacy watches some of the coolest or ugliest you’ve seen lately, because the generally unusual sizes, shapes, and designs make them inevitably niche and polarizing. Average consumers might find them attractive and fashionable, but most buyers are likely to be collectors who value the unique look as much as the brand history. These are for vintage lovers – and those with funky tastes, at that.
Accutron does a particularly nice job of recreating the quirky side of mid-century watch design, but they’re not the only brand to do so. Hamilton’s Ventura ($845) is another such watch that, like Accutron, played an important role in early electric wristwatches. Rado also stands out among modern brands for firmly sticking to its guns and offering a modern version of its historic DiaStar watch now called Rado Original ($750). There are certainly more, but your best alternative might be genuine vintage watches which, if you dig into sizes and styles like this, will offer a lot of value.
The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s gave us many watch designs that are still (or again) relevant and still just as compelling (or more so). They look great as vintage watches and continue to inform modern design – but there was so much more that this era of experimentation produced. Anyone who has spent time digging through the internet version of the vintage watch bin has surely come across the forgotten B-sides of watches.
Not everyone will want to wear triangular, trapezoidal or other watches. It takes a certain type of enthusiast to appreciate books like Mitch Greenblatt’s Retro watches and hit “Like” on each post of Instagram accounts like @relax and @utdesign. I’m exactly that kind of enthusiast who seeks the weird and the wonderful, and considers Accutron Legacy watches to be one of them.
When watch enthusiasts hear the name Accutron, they think of one thing: a sub-brand of the American company Bulova that introduced revolutionary wristwatch technology in 1960. The Accutron name helped distinguish this type of movement from battery-powered pre-quartz electric watch of existing technology, which was all almost everyone knew at the time: mechanical clock movement. Accutron’s “tuning fork” solution (reflected in its logo) was eventually replaced by quartz, but the watches and technology continue to fascinate collectors.
Bulova has maintained the brand’s heritage over the years in different forms, but Accutron was relaunched as an independent brand on its 60th anniversary in 2020. It now exists as a sister brand to Bulova under the aegis of the Citizen Watch Group. Alongside modern Accutron watches featuring a new type of electrostatic movement (DNA and Spaceview 2020 collections), the watches in the Legacy collection are all based on vintage watches featuring tuning fork technology – the irony that enthusiasts are quick to point out.
Hitherto known for electric technology, Accutron reissuing these classic models with automatic movements might seem like a bit of a departure – but the brand has repositioned itself carefully. The two-pronged approach appeals to collectors in different ways: on the one hand, the future-oriented electrostatic watches ring true to a history of technical innovation and, on the other hand, the Legacy collection is aimed at enthusiasts who appreciate Swiss watches. automatic movements and funky retro design.
At first glance, the models in the Legacy collection are completely different from each other: there is no common design trait between them other than the logo, not even a case silhouette. However, they form a coherent collection by seeming to be born from the same concept. They’re all reissues of watches from the 60s and 70s, they’re all true to their vintage size (often small) and they’re all powered by Sellita automatic movements. And, of course, they’re all at least a little eccentric.
Their cases, dials, hands and vibrations can be quite different, but each is carefully designed and executed. Although these are functionally simple watches, the cases have intricate facets with individually tailored finishes, and the vintage-style raised sapphire crystals have particularly difficult and expensive shapes to produce. The bracelets have butterfly type clasps and are all of excellent quality. Take a closer look at each, and there are all sorts of subtle details to uncover. They aren’t the cheapest Sellita movement watches you can buy, but they aren’t the most expensive either, and the above factors make their prices seem quite reasonable.
Most appreciated of all, however, is that each watch has its own (IMHO) captivating character. Appearance isn’t their only quirk, though: these 3:30 to 4 o’clock offset crowns are so small they have to be operated with your fingernails, making manual winding unpleasant, if not nearly impossible. (Fun fact, the originals didn’t have crowns, and the time was set via the case back.) This could be one of those “charming” downsides because of its authentically retro feel, and it’s not not a deciding factor for me, but important to mention.
Although the Legacy collection generally seems consistent, each model has its own history and characteristics that are worth looking at individually.
There are square or rectangular watches like the Tank, the Reverso or the Monaco, but there is that. Part Art-Deco, part dress watch, part “TV dial” and oh so 60s, it’s the kind of watch you just can’t imagine a modern brand could design. It could only have been a product from that decade, but it’s been recreated to a high standard and still looks classy despite being totally unorthodox. Besides the obviously funky case shape, don’t miss the applied hour markers which each consist of two staggered lines in a way that adds interest to the design without detracting from readability. Of the three models I tested, this is the one I wore the most.
At first glance, it might look like a relatively conventional design – and a bit like a field watch. Admittedly, that straight, readable dial looks almost military with its interior hour markers to indicate the 24-hour time. The faceted case, however, doesn’t quite fit the field watch mould. Accutron made some of the first wristwatches to be approved by the North American Railroad (previously only pocket watches were sufficiently accurate), and this one is based on the Accutron “RR -0” watch from 1970 Manufactured to Canadian Railway specifications with zero at 12 o’clock. Another reason why this watch is a bit unusual: it measures just 34mm – small enough for modern tastes, but still with a striking presence on the wrist.
Simply called the “261”, the design comes from a 1971 Accutron watch and looks a lot like one of those inexplicably cool eBay finds. It has a 38.5mm tonneau-shaped case with all sorts of angular facets, alternating polished and brushed surfaces, no bezel, and a proportionally narrow bracelet. The dial features unusually tall applied indexes which are themselves faceted and give a lot of depth and three-dimensionality (this model also features a bit of light on its hands and dial). The best part about this watch, however, is its dial: its specific texture and hue reminds me of a car from my childhood and probably makes it my favorite blue dial.
It’s no surprise that Accutron Legacy watches have niche appeal, but I think they should have caught more attention from watch enthusiasts than they did. If you were to ask me to pick a favorite from the three samples reviewed here, I’d be hard-pressed: each one is carefully crafted and executed, and there’s no doubt that’s true of the entire collection. Those who are equally drawn to quirky looks and a brand with an interesting history shouldn’t wait for these limited editions.
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