The Accutron’s Cultural Influence
The Accutron watch is a revolutionary timepiece that has played a significant role in history. Developed by Bulova in the 1950s, it was the first and most advanced electric watch in the world, using a tuning fork to mark the passage of time. The watch was so accurate that it became the standard timepiece for high-speed flight and space travel, adopted by the US Air Force, CIA and NASA. The Accutron Astronaut was also used in 46 Apollo Missions, as both body-worn and instrument panel timing devices. The design of the Accutron even inspired the creation of an iconic sneaker, the Air Max 1s.
The Accutron was the result of Bulova’s attempt to improve upon the battery-powered electronic watches. Its creation was based on the tuning fork timepiece patented by Louis Francois Clement Breguet in 1866. The tuning fork vibrates at a high frequency and divides each second into 360 equal parts. This created a smooth sweep of the watch hands, unlike the ticking sound of a traditional mechanical watch. In 1953, Max Hentzel, a Swiss inventor, was recruited by Bulova to miniaturize the technology and develop the first fully-electronic watch. In 1960, the Accutron was released to the market as the first of its kind.
The Accutron was also popular for its movement view design that showcased the inner mechanical workings of the watch. It was worn by several historical figures, including Elvis Presley, Joe DiMaggio, and Paul Newman. These figures were featured in various photographs and articles wearing the Accutron, making it a popular and fashionable accessory. The watch became so popular that over 5 million Accutron “tuning fork models” were sold worldwide by 1976. Its transparent design became so ingrained in culture that the Centre Pompidou in Paris was modeled after the Accutron’s Spaceview.
The Accutron watch is not just a timepiece, but a historical landmark. Its innovative technology and accurate timekeeping not only changed the watch industry but also played a crucial role in the sneaker design industry. The watch inspired one of the most iconic sneakers, the Air Max 1s, released by Nike in 1987. Air Max 1s featured the watch’s transparency design in both the bubble element of the shoe and the view into the inner workings in the sole. They are now one of Nike’s most revered and coveted shoes, and appreciate at 28% per year. The Air Max 1 transparency design has also left a lasting impact on popular culture, just as the Accutron had.