Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Accutron Astronaut

Scott Carpenter, Mercury astronaut, on the cover of "Paris Match" magazine in 1962, wearing his Accutron Astronaut. Studly, eh?

After the great suggestion to put the Accurton series of tuning-fork watches on the Famous Watches List, I decided to learn about more about Accutron, a watch line I'd known almost nothing about previously.

After scanning the various Accutron fan sites, I felt that Accutrons were even more deserving of Famous status than I had previously thought. While the Spaceview series isn't my particular aesthetic cup of tea, just about any of the 1960-1977 Accutrons deserve placement on the list for their unique movement that was, in many ways, the grandfather of the quartz watch, and a sort of hybrid bridge between the old mechanical world and the new transistor one.

And then we come to the Astronaut line. Wow. Aside from, IMO, being the coolest looking of the Accutrons, they also gain historical fame points in ways that are meaningful even to people who aren't horological wonks. For example:

-The Astronaut was the official watch of the pilots of the experimental X-15, the ancestor of technologies as diverse as the SR-71 Blackbird and the Space Shuttle. Neil Armstrong was once an X-15 pilot. The first winged vehicle in space, altitude record of the X-15 has only been surpassed by the Space Shuttle and the recent Spaceship One.

-Omar Bradley, of WWII fame, was head of the company during the glory days of NASA and lobbied to have Accutrons replace the Omega Speedmaster. He wasn't successful, but the Apollo 11 astronauts did place a number of Accutron movements on the Sea of Tranquility in 1969.

-Supposedly, the Accutrons went into a space a few times (need to verify this, but supposedly Explorer and early Apollo missions), although it was never the official timepiece like the Speedmaster. The astronauts must have brought them along as backup watches or for personal reasons. It's also unclear if these were Astronaut models or some other kinds, although the Astronaut would seem the logical choice given its larger dial and GMT function.

To cap it all off, I'm bidding on a near-mint 1969 Accutron Astronaut on eBay. We'll see if I get it!

DD

(sick icon because I have a nasty cold today)

Current Mood: sick

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