Affordable Vintage: 1969 Bulova Accutron Deep Sea

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While Bulova/Accutron made many killer divers in the 1960s and 1970s, the dual-crown Deep Sea has to be the coolest kid on the block. Sure, there are the Bulova Super Compressors, and Accutron made several awesome Snorkel models, but none are quite as bold as the Deep Sea.

BULOVA_ACCUTRON_DEEP-SEA_4At first glance, this model looks like it may have a Super Compressor case with its dual crown setup and rotating inner diver’s bezel. It isn’t. Real Super Compressor cases were produced by EPSA and featured a specialized proprietary water sealing design in addition to the iconic inner rotating bezel. Several companies in the 1960s and 1970s cashed in on the popularity of this design, and one of them was Accutron, who really did a bang up job.

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This baby is a big ol’ chunk of solid stainless steel, measuring in at just over 41mm wide by 45mm long, with 20mm lugs. With its giant superdome thick acrylic crystal, it measures 14.5mm thick. Overall, this watch really has wrist presence. The case is a classic ’70s cushion style, with a straight brushed finish on the top and sides, and with a slim, polished angled bevel separating the two.  The large dual crowns are semi-recessed into the case, and are both signed with the Accutron tuning fork logo.

BULOVA_ACCUTRON_DEEP-SEA_2From what I can gather, this watch appears to have been made from 1969 (the year my example is from) to about 1971, with the bulk of examples I’ve seen hailing from 1970.  Most ones I’ve seen have a plain jane case back with the NO (1970) date code. Mine has the more interesting ballerina back, with the highly embossed Bulova ballerina logo. This style has the date code stamped on the inside rather than the outside. Both kinds of case backs screw in with an oversized O-ring gasket. Sadly, the gasket material that Accutron used at that time breaks down and over time melts into a sort of sticky goo. This can be a real pain to clean off of the case when it happens.

As I wrote above, the crystal on this one is a behemoth. The high point sticks up a solid 6mm above the edge of the case. It is highly domed and very thick, and measures a whopping 37.7mm in diameter! Like the Super Compressor crystals, this one is also nigh impossible to replace, so be wary of purchasing an example of this model with a bad crystal. As large as the case is, the addition of the massive crystal makes the watch wear even larger than its measurements.

BULOVA_ACCUTRON_DEEP-SEA_8The dial is a real work of art, with a two color/two texture bulls-eye style finish. It really stands out. The inner circular part is a slate gray with a straight brushed finish. It has an applied Accutron tuning fork logo, with “Accutron” printed in white below the 12. It is also signed “Deep Sea, 666 Feet” above the six, another classic example of the Bulova/Accutron penchant for using the 666ft depth rating. I love the “666,” as it gives their divers a little something unique.

The outer portion of the bulls-eye dial is a nice contrasting gloss black. The hour markers are an applied steel baton style with large rectangular lume filled centers. The 12 o’clock marker is doubled up. These markers are very prominent, making the dial easy to read. The baton style hour and minute hands are painted bright white with lume filled centers. A bright orange sweep second hand rounds out the set. There is a day/date window at three, and it operates via a quickset function.

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BULOVA_ACCUTRON_DEEP-SEA_3Ah, now on to the beautiful internal rotating bezel! This is the part that really makes this watch. There are three variants of the bezel: an elapsed time, a countdown, and a world time bezel. The elapsed time and countdown bezels are basically the same, only the orientation of the minute markers are reversed. The bezel is a nice bright white, with a day-glow orange coloring for the first fifteen minutes of the elapsed time and the last fifteen minutes of the countdown bezel. The countdown variation (shown here) is by far the more rare of the two timing bezels. The world time bezel, of course, shows various cities of the world. Personally I’m not a fan of world time bezels–just too busy for me.

Underneath the hood is the classic Accutron tuning fork caliber 2182 movement. For those that don’t know, the tuning fork movement was pioneered by Bulova/Accutron (and subsequently licensed to other brands). It’s a battery powered movement that features the use of a tuning fork and electric coils for timing rather than a quartz crystal or balance wheel. They were (and still are) highly accurate and durable.

BULOVA_ACCUTRON_DEEP-SEA_12The 218 is Bulova’s second-generation movement, and the “2” at the end references the day/date. These tuning for movements are really cool, and when you put your ear to them you can hear the tuning fork humming. The second hand also has a really smooth sweep to it, owing to the very fine toothed gear that drives the second hand. As cool as they are, there aren’t a lot of folks that repair them, and NOS parts can be sparse. Fortunately, there are tons of the watches out there, and donor movements are relatively easy to come by.

BULOVA_ACCUTRON_DEEP-SEA_9The Accutron Deep Sea is one big, bad vintage diver. It has so many cool little features that add up to one killer watch. These aren’t overly common, but they aren’t rare either. They can be found on eBay with regularity, and you can often find a nice example in the $500 range, give or take. They used to go much higher, but prices seem to have cooled off a bit as of late. Do try to find one with a working movement and a good crystal, as well as a functioning internal bezel. It’ll save you some headaches down the road.

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Christoph (Instagram’s @vintagediver) is a long time collector and lover of all things vintage, starting with comic books when he was a kid (he still collects them). His passion for watches began in 1997 when he was gifted a family heirloom vintage Omega Genève by his step-father. That started him on the watch collecting path—buying and selling vintage watches of all sorts, with a special appreciation for vintage dive watches and Seiko.
vintagediver

8 responses to “Affordable Vintage: 1969 Bulova Accutron Deep Sea”

  1. Scofabear says:

    FYI ive used Star Findings in NYC for an overhaul of a 60s accutron, great work, great guy. Ive been to the “store”, but he also accepts mail in repairs! one of the few people in this country that still works on them

  2. Chris Erhard says:

    I love these old Bulova deep sea watches. I simply cannot understand why someone would spend over $600 on a brand new quartz watch when they could have a piece of history that is an instant conversation.

    I do also believe that the market for early electric, electronic, and tuning fork pieces is going to increase in the next few years.

  3. Blair P. says:

    I picked up one of these in December from the original owner, including the original bracelet, box and instruction manual for $200! Mine is a ’74, elapsed time bezel, ballerina case back.

  4. hangly says:

    Looks like you’re using the Modena tropic strap. Sadly they don’t sell them anymore I’ve been trying to buy some more.

    • MikeInFrankfurt says:

      Actually, I am going to guess that’s a silicone O.Frei strap which you can pick up from their site for about $5-6. Nice but likes to collect lint/dust.

      Can you confirm the strap, ‘stoph?

  5. Joe says:

    Beautiful watch. I will definitely be picking up a watch with this movement in it sometime this year. The sweep is mesmerising!

  6. Altex lan says:

    I bought the new version which is Accutron II . this are new technology. accuracy is better than average quartz. why fancy old watches?