Bulova Accutron model 214 wristwatch

The Bulova Accutron is a perfect jewel of an opportunity, because it fits a recipe you're going to see repeatedly here at Auctionbandits: A highly desirable item with lots of interested buyers on eBay, whose nondescript looks means it can be snatched out from under less knowledgeable people who have no idea what they're looking at.

Repeat after me: I will learn about the Bulova Accutron wristwatch because it will present me with fantastic profit opportunities. Not too long ago, I stopped at one of those 'divorce' style yard sales. You've seen them - they're kind of like estate sales, where everything in the house is being unloaded, except the stuff is lots newer. As I was walking through the living room, I spotted a shelf with several wristwatches on it. I picked one up out of habit, and almost fell over when I saw that I was holding a beautiful Bulova Accutron 'Astronaut.' I asked the seller how much she wanted for the old watch, and got the usual 'make me an offer.' "How about a buck..." "A buck sounds good to me." I had bought a $500 watch for a dollar!

You would be wise to learn more about the various models of Accutron watches, because they're not only out there waiting for you, but they have plenty of fanatical eBay bidders looking for them!

In today's world of wrist watch technology, one of our last concerns is accuracy. Quartz crystal technology means that a dollar watch you pick up at your local flea market will be more accurate than the most expensive Rolex watch from the era when all wristwatches were powered by springs and flywheels.

Back in 1960, Bulova set the accuracy standard by introducing the very first commercially available electronic watch, which they called the Accutron. Sure, there had been other previous watches that utilized a battery, but only to replace the wind-up mainspring that was used to drive the balance wheel. The Accutron, on the other hand, uses a battery along with electronic circuitry, in one of the earliest consumer applications of the transistor! Remember, this was back in the day when most televisions and radios were still using vacuum tubes!

Before the advent of the Accutron, the usual way a wristwatch kept time was via a mainspring/wheel combination that revolved at approximately 2 1/2 times per second. The Accutron shattered this model by using a tiny tuning fork vibrating at whopping 360 (and up to 700 in later models) times per second. The tiny electromagnets that powered the tuning fork in the Accutron were wound with over 60 yards of a wire so thin that it measured one third the diameter of a human hair. All this was quite a feat for 1960!

Needless to say, this instantaneous leap in timekeeping technology had every manufacturer from the affordable Timex - all the way up to the incredibly expensive Rolex - literally shaking in their boots. The Bulova Accutron was capable of delivering accuracy to within two seconds per day, making it the most accurate wristwatch available at the time, at any price. As a matter of fact, during the Accutron's 17-year run, it was the most accurate timepiece - both on Earth and in space. In 1960 NASA even asked Bulova to incorporate Accutron technology into the equipment to be used in the space program, and Accutron timing mechanisms ended up being used in 46 U.S. space program missions. An Accutron watch movement even sits on the moon's Sea of Tranquility today, inside an instrument that was placed there back in 1969 by Apollo 11 astronauts!

In 1962, the Accutron 214 became the first wristwatch certified for use by railroad personnel. Up until that time, railroad engineers had to use pocket watches that required frequently calibration in order to run the railroads on time. By 1967, Accutron clocks were the only clocks used aboard Air Force One, as well as in the instrument panels of many military ships and aircraft.

After producing millions of Accutron watches in many different models, Bulova finally discontinued the Accutron in 1977, to concentrate on the newer, more accurate quartz crystal technology. This means - you guessed it - there are loads of these old Accutron watches out there waiting for you to come and get them. And since most people are completely ignorant of Accutron's place in history, they'll happily descend on a pile of yard sale watches to pick out the Omegas, Seikos, Elgins, and Hamiltons, while completely ignoring the Accutrons.

The particular watch in our example here is the 214, one of the earliest, and most collectable, Accutrons. The serial number tells us that it was made in 1965. The easiest way to distinguish the model 214 from other Accutron watches is the absence of a 'setting crown,' the little knob normally located on the side of the watch that's used to set the time. On the 214, the time is set by pulling out the small semi-circular ring located on the back of the watch.

When you consider all the above, the collectability of the Accutron watch should be obvious. It was one of the earliest applications of the transistor in a consumer product. It represented such a fantastic, groundbreaking leap in technology that it was the gold standard of accuracy for many years. The Bulova Accutron is important to watch collectors because it represents a line of demarcation that's as distinct as the line between propeller-driven aircraft and jets, or between mechanical adding machines and electronic calculators. And if there's one thing collectors love, it's those items that represent landmark shifts in the technology of their specific field of interest. So, when you combine the Accutron's place in history with all those watch collectors already on eBay, you have a surefire recipe for success!

The final ingredient in this recipe is, of course, affordable availability. Who cares how desirable an item is, if you can't get your hands on it cheaply enough to turn a profit? One of the very best things about the Accutron for you is that so many models look so nondescript and downright plain that you can often pick them up for a few dollars. Just look for the name - and the little tuning fork on the bezel - and you're in business! You can look for anywhere from $150 to well over $200 for nice, run-of-the-mill examples of this particular watch. Many examples go for much more!

Photo of Bulova Accutron 214 wristwatch