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Why I Can't Get Enough of These Totally Oddball Watches

The Accutron Legacy watches aren't for everyone, but therein lies their appeal.

accutron legacy watches
Zen Love

Thank goodness for something different.

Dive watches, tool watches, Submariners and Speedmasters are great, but sometimes you might feel like you've seen it all. Even most vintage watch reissues today play it relatively safe, and that's why something as offbeat as the Accutron Legacy collection is refreshing. These watches certainly aren't for everyone, but therein lies their appeal.

But is there quality behind the eye-catching designs? And do these reissues do their vintage counterparts justice? We put three models from the collection to the test to find out.

Key Specs:

Case Diameter: 32.8mm; 34mm; 38.5mm
Water Resistance:
30m
Movement:
Sellita SW200 automatic
Price: $1,290-$1,550
Availability:
Limited to 600 examples each

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Notable

The Accutron Legacy collection consists of eight models (some with a couple variants for a total of 12), faithfully recreating watch designs from the 1960s or '70s. That might sound like a familiar formula in today's atmosphere of vintage-watch-reissue mania, but these are unusual: they're the types of designs that are overlooked by the vast majority of brands that comb their back catalogs for watches with modern mass appeal (think military watches, dive watches, etc.). In other words, most brands simply don't have the balls to reissue such polarizing designs.

Most importantly, the Accutron Legacy watches aren't just strikingly offbeat, but beautifully and lovingly rendered. The collection's prices place them comfortably above entry-level automatic watches, but you can expect quality construction, materials and details at least commensurate with their price points.

Who It's For

You're likely going to find the Accutron Legacy watches to be either some of the coolest or some of the ugliest watches you've seen recently, as the sizes, shapes and generally unusual designs make them inevitably niche and polarizing. Average consumers might find them attractive and fashionable, but most buyers will probably be collectors who appreciate the unique looks as much as the brand's history. These are meant for vintage enthusiasts — and those with funky tastes, at that.

Alternatives

Accutron does a particularly nice job of recreating the quirky side of midcentury watch design, but they're not the only brand doing so. Hamilton's Ventura ($845) is another such watch that, like Accutron, had a significant role in early electric wristwatches. Rado also stands out among modern brands for resolutely sticking to its guns and offering a modern version of its historic DiaStar watch now called the Rado Original ($750). There are certainly more still, but your best alternative might be actual vintage watches which, if you dig sizes and styles such as this, will offer lots of value.

Review

The 1950s, '60s and '70s gave us many watch designs that are still (or again) relevant today and are as compelling as ever (or more so). They look good as vintage watches and continue to inform modern design — but there was so much more that that age of experimentation produced. Anyone who's spent time rummaging around the internet's version of the vintage watch bargain bin has surely come across the forgotten B-sides of watches.

Not everyone is going to want to wear triangular, trapezoidal or other manner of what-the-heck watches. It takes a certain kind of enthusiast to enjoy books like Mitch Greenblatt's Retro Watches and press "like" on every single post from Instagram accounts like @unwindintime and @utdesign. I'm exactly that kind of enthusiast who seeks out the weird and wonderful, and considers the Accutron Legacy watches to be among them.

accutron dial
Even the collection’s simplest dial is worth inspecting up close.
Zen Love

When watch enthusiasts hear the name Accutron they think of one thing: a sub-brand of the American company Bulova which introduced a groundbreaking wristwatch technology in 1960. The Accutron name helped distinguish this type of battery-powered, pre-quartz electric watch movement from the existing technology, which was all that almost anybody at the time knew: spring-powered mechanical clockwork. Accutron's "tuning fork" solution (reflected in its logo) was eventually superseded by quartz, but the watches and tech continue to fascinate collectors.

Bulova kept the brand's legacy alive 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 umbrella of the Citizen Watch Group. Alongside modern Accutron watches boasting a new type of electrostatic movement (DNA and Spaceview 2020 collections), the Legacy collection watches are all based on vintage watches that featured the tuning fork tech — the irony of which enthusiasts are quick to point out.

Hitherto being known for electric tech, Accutron reissuing these classic designs with automatic movements might feel like a bit of a departure — but the brand has repositioned itself carefully. The two-pronged approached is aimed at collectors in different ways: on one hand, the forward-looking electrostatic watches ring true to a history of technical innovation and, on the other hand, the Legacy collection is for enthusiasts that value the likes of Swiss automatic movements and funky retro design.

At first glance, the Legacy collection models look completely different from one another: there's no common design trait between them besides the logo, not even a case silhouette. They form a coherent collection, however, by seeming to be born of the same concept. They're all reissues of watches from the 1960s and '70s, they're all true to their vintage sizing (often on the small side) and they're all powered by Sellita automatic movements. And, of course, they're all at least a little eccentric-looking.

accutron watch back
Each watch’s caseback features the model’s name and a half-window to the Sellita SW200-family automatic movement inside.
Zen Love

Their cases, dials, hands and vibes might be rather different, but each is thoughtfully conceived and executed. While these might be functionally simple watches, the cases have complicated facets with individually considered finishing to match, and the raised vintage-style sapphire crystals are of shapes that are particularly difficult and expensive to produce. The straps feature butterfly-style clasps and are all of excellent quality. Look closer at each, and there are all kinds of subtle details to discover. These aren't the cheapest Sellita movement-powered watches you can buy but they're also not the most expensive, and the above factors make their prices seem pretty reasonable.

Most appreciated of all, however, is that each watch has its own (in my humble opinion) captivating character. The looks aren't their only quirk, though: those off-kilter 3:30-4 o'clock crowns are so small they need to be operated with your fingernails, making manual winding unpleasant if not nearly impossible. (Fun fact, the originals didn't have crowns and time was set via the caseback.) This might be one of those "charming" inconveniences on account of how genuinely retro it feels, and it's no deal-breaker for me, but important to mention.

While the Legacy collection feels generally cohesive, each model has its own story and traits that are worth looking at individually.

Zen Love
Accutron Legacy
accutronwatch.com
$1,450.00

There are square or rectangular watches like the Tank, Reverso or Monaco, but then there's this. Part Art-Deco, part dress watch, part "TV dial" and oh so '60s, this is the type of watch you simply can't imagine a modern brand conceiving. It could only be a product of that decade, but it's been recreated at a high level and remains classy despite being totally unorthodox. Besides the obviously funky case shape, don't miss the applied indices which each consist of two offset lines in a way that adds interest to the design without distracting from legibility. Of the three models I tested, this is the one I ended up wearing the most.

Zen Love
Accutron Legacy ““R.R.-O””
accutronwatch.com
$1,290.00

At first glance, this might look like a relatively conventional design — and a bit like a field watch. True, that straight-ahead, legible dial looks almost military with its inner hour markers to indicate 24-hour time. The faceted case, however, doesn't quite fit the field watch mold. Accutron made some of the first wristwatches to be approved by the North American Railroad (previously only pocket watches being accurate enough), and this one is based on the 1970 Accutron "R.R. -0" watch made to the Canadian Railroad's specifications with its zero at 12 o'clock. Another reason this watch is a bit unusual: it measures only 34mm — pretty small for modern tastes, but still with a striking presence on the wrist.

Zen Love
Accutron Legacy "261"
accutronwatch.com
$1,390.00

Simply called the "261" the design hails from a 1971 Accutron watch and very much feels like one of those inexplicably cool eBay finds. It's got a 38.5mm tonneau-shaped case with all kinds of angular facets, alternating polished and brushed surfaces, no bezel and a proportionally narrow strap. The dial features unusually tall applied indices which themselves are also faceted and lend a lot of depth and three-dimensionality (this model also features some lume on its hands and dial). The best part about this watch, though, is its dial: its specific texture and shade remind me of a car from my childhood and make it probably my favorite blue dial ever.

Verdict

It's unsurprising that the Accutron Legacy watches have a niche appeal, but I feel they should've gotten more attention from watch enthusiasts than they did. If you asked me to choose a favorite from the three samples reviewed here, I'd have a tough time: each is thoughtfully conceived and executed, and there's no doubt that that's true of the whole collection. Those who are similarly are attracted to the oddball looks and a brand with some interesting history shouldn't wait on these limited editions.

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