Something a little different…

The Bulova Accutron was the world’s very first electronic watch, manufactured and released 1960. Pretty immediately, it became the watch chosen by some of NASA’s astronauts to accompany them into space, although it was never “flight qualified”; that accolade went to the Speedmaster, as most people will already know. The Accutron is also a “hummer” – a tuning fork watch featuring a sweep second hand and a claimed accuracy of about one minute per month. It was designed by a Bulova engineer called Max Hetzel, and he managed to achieve a frequency of 360Hz (which was quite something at the time); in fact, Accutrons were used as time references in many satellites and also to control some of the Apollo moon experiments and became something of a horological milestone in the process. Some interesting facts…

> The index wheel boasts 320 teeth each of which is ten microns in depth
> For a thirty year old watch this means that over 2.8 E+11 teeth have have moved under the pawl jewel
> The Accutron was used to correctly dimension Greenland for the first time
> Each coil boasts 8000 turns of wire, the diameter of which is 15 microns
> The Bulova Accutron was the first wristwatch to utilize a Bipolar Transistor

The watch that’s presently on my wrist dates from 1965, although it was originally sold by Garrard & Co Ltd in 1968 (more on that in a minute). It’s an Astronaut model, and there were so many variations of this watch that it’s quite hard to pin down the correct designations. However, this guide suggests that it’s a Type 1 and what seems to be an Astronaut A (that is, black dial and straight/pointed hands with a non-luminous second hand). The GMT hand is coupled to the main hour and minute hands, and the second time zone is set with the bi-directional bezel, precisely as you’d do with a Rolex 1675.

All in all, I love it as a watch in terms of both looks and heritage; however, this one is even more special as a consequence of the package it came with. It has the original coffin-link bracelet, the outer box, the inner box, the original Garrard guarantee certificate dated 22nd January 1968, the instruction book, the battery changing instructions, a Garrard warranty repair receipt dated 10th July 1968 and the little tool for opening the battery cover. On top of all that, it’s recently been serviced at so is, basically, as good as it gets for one of these.

You may be able to detect a hint of glee… in any event, here are a few photos!

The Dark Knight Rises

Some time ago, I wrote a fairly long post (I know – not unusual for me!) about a watch that I’d just acquired with a particularly interesting history – the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. You can read that post here if you’re so inclined. A truly iconic watch, and to my mind one of the most beautiful looking dive watches you can buy.

Now, despite the above it ended up being moved on, as it just seemed a little too large for me; however, when I tried on the DLC’d “Dark Knight” version recently I was really surprised at how much better it wore on me, and the more I thought abut ti the more I wanted to add one to my collection.

I’ve been wearing it for about 24 hours now, and my instincts were definitely correct in that it looks far better on my wrist the the stainless steel version did. In fact, I’ve just ordered a custom strap from Camille Fournet (black sharkskin with red stitching) which i think will be absolutely perfect for it.

The best of both worlds?

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks with incomings. It started with the two vintage Heuers that I’ve posted about already, and ended with the arrival of the EZM1 a few days ago. Sandwiched in between, though, I also took delivery a Speedmaster – my first for a while but one that I posted a “Want to Buy” on TZ for all of two years ago. The “First Omega in Space” is a numbered edition (limited to 1962 pieces) that was released at Basle in 2012, and whilst not a reissue of the Ed White that I used to have it’s certainly reminiscent of it. In fact, it’s based on the ref. 2998, but more about that in a minute.

This Speedy is a little smaller than the regular Moonwatch, with a case measuring 39.7mm – it certainly looks smaller, no doubt in part because it has no crown guards. The crystal is sapphire as opposed to Hesalite, and it has a nicely decorated solid caseback. It really does wear nicely on my wrist, which is a little under 7”, and I actually prefer the fit to the 42mm asymmetrical case of the Moonwatch proper. Inside is the rock-solid calibre 1861 movement – obviously manual wind, and a tried and tested favourite.

Most of the interest that has been sparked by this watch concerns the dial and hands. Reverting to the comment I made above regarding it’s origins, this watch is based on the reference 2998 worn by Wally Schirra on the Mercury Atlas mission back in October 1962; that watch had straight hands on all three registers, whilst this “reissue” has a leaf hand for running seconds. I have no idea why Omega did that, save that the earlier 2998’s (earlier than Shirra’s, I mean) did have leaf hands on all the registers… maybe Omega were hedging their bets a bit with that one. The main hour and minute hands are dauphine and rather lovely, as is the applied logo at 12.

Anyway, there you have it. I said when this watch was first released that it was my favourite modern Speedmaster, and now I’ve worn one for a while I feel even more strongly that it is (although that’s just my own view, and other mileages will vary).

The watch that wasn’t, then was

About two years ago, I posted a WTB on TZ-UK for a Sinn EZM1. I’ve always loved them, and I do have a lot of respect for the Lemania 5100 movement – and I was delighted when I received an email off-forum from a member there who potentially had one for sale. The watch was located in Europe, and there followed a flurry of emails as we tried to agree on an appropriate price; however, the deal was finally done and after a few days of waiting the package duly arrived. Sadly, it transpired that the watch needed a service, and under a loupe there were also some marks on the crystal that I wasn’t happy about. The seller acted as any seller should and took it back, planning to have the work done at some point in the future; I then proceeded to move onto other things, and pretty much forgot about it.

I’ve kept my eye out since, but the EZM1 is a bloody nice watch and owners tend to hang on to them. However, a week or two ago a lovely example did pop up for sale on TZ-UK, and shortly after that I attended a get together in Norwich and bumped into an old mate there. He was actually wearing the 3H version, and after trying it on I realised that my yearning for one of my own hadn’t really diminished. Long story short, I bought the one that was listed for sale and have been wearing it now for a couple of days. The funny thing is, though, that upon opening the box and checking the paperwork, it turned out to be the exact same watch that I’d bought and returned previously. The service and crystal replacement had subsequently been carried out by Sinn, the Argon gas had been refilled and seals replaced, and the watch had been pressure tested. Brilliant, eh?

So a bit about the EZMI, for anyone not familiar with them… it’s a titanium case (and bracelet), with a diameter of 40mm. In fact, the case is very similar in shape to my Heuer 2446C, which perhaps isn’t all that surprising bearing in mind the association (if that’s the right word) between Heuer and Sinn in years gone by. The crown and pushers are on the left (this was a particular request from the German ZUZ special forces, for whom it was originally designed, I believe) and inside is that absolute workhorse of a movement, the Lemania 5100. The 5100 has been criticised by some for it’s very utilitarian design, but it’s proved itself in the most trying of environments over the years and in the main is highly respected for what it is. It also provides for what is undoubtedly the cleanest of chronograph dials, in that there are no subdials whatsoever; a second hand is completely absent, and the chronograph counter is read from the minute track on the edge of the dial (the little hand with an aeroplane symbol on it, tucked under the main chrono hand when not in use, tracks expired time).

It’s a real fit for purpose watch, with no frills whatsoever; in fact, my son saw it for the first time yesterday and immediately said “It looks like a military watch, Dad”. I liked that, a lot :)

When a beer and a curry…

Lead to something altogether different!

Anyone who I’ve spoken to about my former collection of old Heuers will know that the one I missed the most was the Montreal. I wrote a long incoming post about them when I bought my first and was always surprised at how one of the least vaunted of all the old Heuers had captivated me as it did. Things are changing now, in fact, and the Montreal is considered to be one of the better investment pieces, as well as being an absolute delight to wear.

Anyway, last night I had a very enjoyable evening with a friend and his lovely (expectant) wife. During the course of the evening – and I don’t mean the curry – I was happy to relieve him of his rather lovely 110.53 NC to take the place of my former love. This one has patina to die for, and has been fully services by Abel Court (who at the same time relumed the hands to match the original tobacco hour plots on the dial). It really is bloody fantastic, and what with “the other Heuer” also arriving this week it’s been one to remember. It’s nice to be firmly back in the Heuer camp again, too!

What goes around…

A couple of years ago, my watches were much more geared towards vintage – I suppose a slight change of lifestyle and work pattern led me down the newer and dressier path. I’m very happy with what I have, hence the lack of buying and/or selling activity over the last few months; however, I do kind of miss a few of my older pieces, and one that I really did like a lot was the Heuer Autavia 11630 GMT. It really is a wonderful watch, and I was lucky to have what was effectively a NOS example that passed through the hands – and workshop – of the Belgian Magician. This is the one, now happily gracing a friends wrist…

These screw-back Autavias are beautiful watches, but I found the large cushion case and fairly high bezel a bit impractical; in fact, what I really wanted was the earlier compression-cased version (the 2446c). Now, that one is appreciably smaller at 40mm, so very wearable; it also has “regular” lugs, and so sits under a shirt a little more easily (and avoids door-frames with alacrity, I should add). I did pester a couple of people regarding the examples they owned, but sadly they weren’t going anywhere. Good ones are also pretty hard to find.

I effectively put the search on the back-burner, but by sheer luck happened across a photo on Instragram recently, from the account of a seller in the US who’s pretty well known; it seemed to be a remarkable example, actually, and after a few emails back and forth we’d agreed a deal. The transfer of funds, bank holiday and overseas shipping all took their toll in terms of waiting time, but the package finally arrived yesterday.

The 2446C GMT was first released in 1969, and the original/1st Execution had small subdials, plain steel hands and plain pushers. Later iterations had a variety of changes including red-tipped and partially red-filled hands, fluted pushers and some subtle script differences, and whilst they’re a little difficult to tell apart this is a 4th Execution example, dating from the mid-70’s. It would probably have been sold on a beads of rice bracelet, but it’s come to me on a Corfam-style rally strap, which looks pretty good.

Condition is remarkable, really (which isn’t that surprising, considering that the seller bought it from the original owner who was a retired Heuer watchmaker). The dial is near perfect, and the bezel is virtually unmarked; the case seems to have it’s original sharply-polished finish, and there are just some very faint hairlines to signify that it’s been worn at all. There’s a minor issue with regard to the 24-hour hand, but with a bit of luck I’ll get that sorted over the next week or two. I’m really happy with it, and intend keeping this for the long term, along with my other two remaining vintage watches (the 5513 and Tuna).