Sunday, November 1

ACCUTRON Spaceview 2020 – up close with the world’s first timepieces powered by electrostatic energy

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We first saw the Accutron Electrostatic concept movement in Baselworld 2019, where it was displayed at the Bulova stand. The watch is finally released for September 2020. We had working prototypes of both the Spaceview 2020 and the DNA on an extended period in July, and here is our hands-on review.

Release information on the Accutron Spaceview 2020 and the Accutron DNA

Hands-on review of the Bulova Accutron Spaceview

Accutron Spaceview 2020

We had both the Spaceview 2020 as well as the DNA. We think the most exciting aspect of both is the new electrostatic movement, so decided to do only a full review of the Spaceview 2020 while providing a detailed explanation of how the movement works. We provide a short snipet of the DNA at the end of the article for reference, and note the main differences.

Teaser of the Accutron Electrostatic. Official Accutron video.

The case, dial and hands

The case of the Spaceview 2020 is a rather traditional round case, executed in stainless steel, and is water resistance rated to 50m. The 316L Stainless Steel is polished and features very small bezel, with a large domed sapphire glass protecting the dial.

The entire movement is visible from the dial side, the eye picking up on the copper coil and the magnificent green PCB like appearance of the movement frame. This green is painstakingly made to match the green of the original Spaceview, and it certainly looks the part. The base plate is a matte finished slate grey.

The generators and motor is visible from the dial side. We describe their functioning in the Movement section below. For now, we cover the aesthetics. They reside within three armed polished bridges. The large motor is placed at the 9 to 11 o’clock position, and the twin generators occupy the bottom half of the dial from 4 to 8 o’clock. The rotors appear like blades of a turbine, spinning rapidly, offering a very mesmerising visual of flickering play of light. This layout is visually appealing, but is technically efficient, with the accumulator and quartz mechanism is tucked in the movement, partially visible below the Accurton logo from 12 to 3 o’clock.

The hour and minute hands are javelin type, and rather large. The hands are infilled with luminous material, making it easy to read under all lighting conditions. The center sweep seconds hand is coloured orange, like in the original Spaceview. The hour and minute markers are mounted on the underside of the domed part of the glass, and appear to protrude from the base movement. The hours are marked with large dots filled with lume.

The movement – Miyota/Accutron caliber NS30-Y8A

The movement is novel. And fully visible from the dial side. The case back is closed and features engraved markings of the branding and marketing blurb declaring the materials used, and the technology employed.

The caseback on the Accutron DNA. The Accutron 2020 case back carries similar engraved markings.

The electrostatic movement used is a new caliber NS30-Y8A, running in 28 jewels. The movements are designed and manufactured in the Miyota facility in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Miyota is the name of the city, and also the name of the movement manufacturer which is part of the Citizen Group of Companies, of which Accutron is also a member. Assembly is done under highly controlled clean room conditions in a climate-controlled area set aside specifically for manufacturing the movements. To understand how it works, we look at the detail of the dial.

How does it work?

The movement is driven by three electrostatic systems, two small generators occupying the lower half of the dial from about 4 o’clock to 8 o’clock. And a large electrostatic motor at about 10 o’clock. The large motor drives the sweep seconds hand, while the two smaller generators charge the accumulator which provides the electrical power for quartz mechanism which drive the time telling system.

Exploded view of the movement. Source: Accutron.

We trace the power flow to understand how it works. The power starts at a conventional rotor, which oscillates much like that on a conventional watch movement. Except that this rotor’s motion is not used to wind the mainspring, but mechanically conveyed to the two small twin generators. The generators are arranged much like any electric generator would be – a stator plate which remains stationary, and a rotor which spins. The rotor and the stator is oppositely charged – one positive, and the other negative. This is charging is done very carefully done at the factory.

The rotor is cut with slots giving it the appearance of turbine blades, but it has an important technical function as well. As it spins, powered by of the mechanical rotor, it presents an on/off electrostatic field to the oppositely charged stator. This creates an current which is drawn to charge an accumulator system. From here, the system is a rather standard quartz timekeeping module which draws its power from the accumulator system to power the stepper motors of the hour and minute hands.

The same accumulator also provides power to the electrostatic motor which drives the seconds hand. Technically a generator and a motor are the same construction. If motion is supplied, the system generates an electric current. When a current is supplied, the system generates motion. As the motion of the rotor is continuous, the seconds hand just glides along in a very smooth motion.

Close up of the electrostatic rotor/stator driving system for the center sweep seconds hand. the slots cut in the rotor look like turbine blades.

The electrostatic generators and motor generate a soft, low volume winding like sound as it spins, breaking the silence when it does.

Wear impressions

At 43.5mm in diameter, the Spaceview 2020 wears nicely, even though the generous diameter coupled with straight lugs might suggest that it will not warp around a wrist as nicely as a smaller case or curved lugs might. But in our wear, it fits nicely on the Chief Editor’s regular sized gentleman’s wrist (about 7 inch diameter).

For grins, we tried it on our Technical Editor’s tiny female wrist (5 inch diameter), and it is grossly too large to be carried off by her. Perhaps quite apt, as her instagram moniker is @tinytanwrist.

Concluding Thoughts

The motive principle for the movement is unique, as of now. The use of electrostatic energy to power a watch movement makes the Accutron Spaceview 2020 stand in its own space, sans competition. At least for now. We don’t have a crystal ball to tell if this new technology will stand the test of time, and if the watches will be able to run reliably, and accurately, though the physics is sound and the engineering is well executed to suggest so. No doubt, Bulova and parent Citizen will continue to develop and refine the technology, and the movement’s timekeeping and robustness should improve over time. Nor are we able to predict if this principle will be adopted by others.

So as of now, it is a really cool watch. An engineering marvel, like the original Bulova Accutron was back in its day, the Spaceview 2020 is a technical wonder. It looks the proper geek tool watch, and the moving vanes of the rotor is mesmerising to watch. The smooth sweeping hand of the center seconds makes a compelling visual attraction, not dis-similar to motion of the seconds hand on the rival Seiko’s Spring Drive.

Variants

Accutron Spaceview 2020 Limited Edition

But before we discuss the Accutron DNA, there is a limited edition of the Spaceview 2020 of 300 individually-numbered pieces. It comes packaged in a deluxe box set with a beautifully illustrated book published by Assouline: Accutron, From the Space Age to the Digital Age. The Accutron literature is quite vague on this, but from what we can determine, the only difference is the Open-work dial is framed by the signature Accutron green on outer case ring and punctuated with light green super luminous markers, while the regular edition has a smoke grey open-work dial with signature Accutron green accents and transparent outer ring. The Limited Edition carries a small premium of US$ 550.

Accutron DNA

The Accutron electrostatic movement was introduced in two variant models. The first, which bears rather good resemblance to the original Accutron Spaceview which we reviewed above. And another re-interpretation which Bulova calls the Accutron DNA.

Accurton DNA.

The Accutron DNA uses the same movement, but in a more sporty, perhaps more modern look. The case is redesigned, and is enlarged from 43.5 in the Spaceview 2020 to 45.1. The shield-shaped case has hooded lugs, and are available with four colour options on the movement plates, three which are a dark slate, and one in vivid electric blue.

When worn, the larger case still wears smaller than the 45mm dimension might suggest, as the the hooded lugs are curved over to hug the wrist well.

The Accutron Spaceview DNA and Accutron Spaceview 2020 watches: cases, 316L stainless steel, 50 meters water resistant; diameter 45.10mm (DNA) or 43.50mm (2020); thickness, 15.41mm. Movement, Miyota/Accutron caliber NS30-Y8A, quartz resonator with dual stepper motor and electrostatic drive system for the hands. Straps, leather (2020) or rubber (DNA) with folding buckles. Spaceview 2020, $3,450; Spaceview 2020 Limited Edition, $4,000. Spaceview DNA, grey/blue, grey/black, grey/gold-tone, and grey/silver tone models all $3,300.

Photo notes: Photographed with Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC4/120 Macro lens.

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