The Vintrage Accutron and what to expect...

Submitted by JEV1A on November 9, 2023 - 8:24am

I have received countless messages and questions about Vintage 214 and 216 Accutron's that have stopped running or have other major issues that are cropping up so I decided to answer a few inquires here to all:

My Accutron is no longer running

First is to check your battery. A 214 accepts a 387S. Its actually a 394/380 with a Spacer Ring. Make sure battery is correctly set in cavity Positive side down. Check for corrosion around the poles. I typically find old battery leakage, rust and dirt-dust which can alter voltage or negate contact with positive-negative. A voltmeter can help you establish battery strength and it the Movement Coils are active. I also notice on 214s that once the back is screwed back on the battery hatch may not be making correct contact. Parts can be obtained to restore these hatch covers but making sure the underside contact is clean is most important. Still not running? Coils and Electronics inside over time will erode especially the coils on these movements, I read once these coils are wound 27,000 times and if a single strand was to corrode or break then the voltage will cease and movement won't hum. But overall, I find that proper fresh battery installation contributes to 90% of the dead 214s that I see in my shop.

For 218's its basically the same procedure although the battery I use is a Renata (Swiss) 344 again Positive side down. Check your battery strap for corrosion. Make sure the screw is tight and the strap is making good contact with the battery. You should immediately hear a hum. If not a Bulova Manual from Accutron describes a technique that I have used often to "jump start" a non-wotrking 218. Gently tap at the 3:00 position with a plastic pen. The coils will react and start to hum. Many times a 218 if not running for years and a new battery installed still won't start, this authorized technique can sometimes jump-start the coils. If the movement begins to hum and quickly fades, your coils may have reached end of life.

My Accutron is Stopping and Starting

This remains a mystery even to myself that have restored hundreds of these unique timepieces. Environmental factors can crop up with tuning fork movements. When NASA used Accutrons for Apollo missions within instrumentation they were afraid if astronauts wore Accutron wrist watches, it could interfere with their on-board electronic and computerized guidance system. I see 218s that stop and start on their own accord, run slow and fast and then run perfectly for years with only battery service. The 218 was in the day one of the most accurate watch movements but also one of the most complex to understand.

My Accutron is dead and the Jeweler said its scrap...

I get upset with modern day jewelers and even a few watchmakers that won't touch or give up on Accutron service. If all else fails with a completely dead 214 or 218, coils and electronics can be replaced. Just be aware that this is a costly process. Sometimes I'll purchase from legit auctions a donor watch to replace an entire movement. Many times this can be a less expensive solution for the client than a total restoration job. Just make sure the movement is a exact copy of the one you are replacing. For reference a 218 (0) is without a day or date calendar. A`218-1 is date only and a 218-2 is both day and date.

Hopefully this information on Vintage Accutron's can help you in your quest to own and collect these one-of-a-kind wonderful timepieces.

John V.
Time & Again

Posted November 12, 2023 - 6:31pm

Great info John. Thanks for posting.

After watching a few Accutron service videos I will confess as someone who can disassmble and reassembe a 10AN movement in his sleep, Accutron movements are a totally different ball game. Anyone that can comfortably service an Acctron has a great skill.

Posted November 12, 2023 - 7:38pm

In reply to by mybulova_admin

Gladly trade places with you, 10ANs I find to be complex as well. Yes, the 214 and 218 Accutron has its place in history of horology as advertised in the day as the most accurate watch in the world but in reality, one of the most complex and more importantly unpredictable watch movements ever made. John V.