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Getting my Bulova Accutron running...


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I have a Bulova Accutron that I got in the late 70's.  It looks similar to the one  below (mine is silver with a gold bezel).  

I would like to try to remove the back cover and replace the battery.  

Would  anybody know  the battery I  would  need?  I've heard these used some  type of mercury battery that's no longer used.

And, is there a gasket I should try to buy in advance or should I be treating the threads with some type of sealant?

And, to remove the back, should I use something like the Harbor Freight Tool shown (it's at https://www.harborfreight.com/watch-case-opener-91550.html).

Should I also buy a holder for the watch?

I've never done this before and actually am looking forward to it.  Not sure if it'll work or not but I figure I should try.  Anything else I should check  on the watch?

Sorry for all the stupid questions but I am a novice.  😉

 

 

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Those tools should work to get the back off. Battery is a 344. But- and it's a big but, Simone, these watches work in  reverse of normal mechanical watches. They build power to move the hands and date from what becomes a very high torque source. So they will grind through rust and wear until parts literally fall apart or disintegrate- and run to that point, keeping time. If it hasn't been serviced in the last 5-10 years, best to do a full service, or get in line for the rapidly diminishing parts and a more costly service.

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3 hours ago, nickelsilver said:

Those tools should work to get the back off. Battery is a 344. But- and it's a big but, Simone, these watches work in  reverse of normal mechanical watches. They build power to move the hands and date from what becomes a very high torque source. So they will grind through rust and wear until parts literally fall apart or disintegrate- and run to that point, keeping time. If it hasn't been serviced in the last 5-10 years, best to do a full service, or get in line for the rapidly diminishing parts and a more costly service.

Thank you for your advice!   In the full service would the shop replace gears and parts and lubricate?  I have actually never had it serviced since it was new and it hasn't run in years.  Let me know if  you know a good service place for these and, again, thank you.

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Do you know what movement is inside? The early Accutrons are tuning fork movements while later ones are quartz.

If yours is a tuning fork watch, unfortunately parts are getting hard to find and finding a watchmaker who can service one is even harder.

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If it hasn't run "in years" there's a good chance it just needs an overhaul, no parts. My mom got an accutron (for my birth), 1973, changed batteries every 12-18 months, then I serviced it in 1998, 25 years later (I was in watchmaking school). It was impeccable, sorry to say, but I've also serviced Rolexes for friends where I'm assured it hasn't seen a bench in decades. Yes, if lube goes wrong after 5 years you can get wear.  But 10 years, good watch, epilame your stuff, yeah .

 

Accutron, you can go double service interval easy and then, it grinds itself to death. If you google "accutron service" you'll get the like 1 or 2 last dudes who do this as a passion. If they even manage to get a tiny bit of oil where needed your watch will outlive you!

Edited by nickelsilver
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The Accutrons have a very tiny and delicate index wheel. It has teeth so small that even at 60X magnification on my microscope, I can hardly see them. It is so delicate that Bulova warns that accidentally moving the second hand backward when pressing on the hand can shear off some teeth. 

Can you imagine what happens if the train wheels are stuck and the tuning fork powers up? It will be like a micro-power chisel hammering away at the index wheel. 

I have repaired about 12 tuning fork watches. I own 7 of them. Half of them can be revived without needing any part replacements. But the other half needed new coils, pcb's and index wheels. The only way to get spares is to get a donor movement. 

Even then, repairs are finicky. For some reason, my own watches are fine, but those that I've repaired for others seem to return for various reasons. So I've stopped repairing them for customers until I sort out the problem. 

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On 6/27/2022 at 12:18 PM, nickelsilver said:

Those tools should work to get the back off.

you want to be careful when you use a wrench like the one you have in the picture because you're trying to remove the ring which holds the back on. The ring comes off first then the back will come off

 

On 6/27/2022 at 3:25 PM, mmitsch said:

Let me know if  you know a good service place for these and, again, thank you.

your profile doesn't give a location. So is hard to make a recommendation because we have no idea where in the plan that you live.

On 6/27/2022 at 5:04 PM, HectorLooi said:

If yours is a tuning fork watch, unfortunately parts are getting hard to find and finding a watchmaker who can service one is even harder.

just do a search there is people online they claim they were para tuning fork watches.

 

On 6/27/2022 at 6:47 PM, HectorLooi said:

Even then, repairs are finicky. For some reason, my own watches are fine, but those that I've repaired for others seem to return for various reasons.

are you using the phasing procedure described in the repair manual or doing something else?

 

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2 hours ago, JohnR725 said:

are you using the phasing procedure described in the repair manual or doing something else?

Yes, I'm using the method described in the manual. Is there another way?

The 7 tuning fork watches that I own are all working fine even after 2 years. They just require a battery change now and then. But the ones I repaired for other people keep having problems like it's keeping good time for a few months then it either gains or loses time. My suspicion is that the watch had been dropped and the index/pawl fingers got bent.

 

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4 hours ago, HectorLooi said:

Yes, I'm using the method described in the manual. Is there another way?

the only minor problem with using the manual using the meter are you using a Mercury battery? If you have a Mercury battery than your fine but if you using a silver cell you have too much voltage.

 

For phasing I use what they described here.

http://members.iinet.net.au/~fotoplot/accphs.htm

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  • 2 weeks later...

The 218 series movements tend to have big issues with damage to the center-tube and/or the center-assembly. The center assembly looks like a canon pinion with a wheel underneath it. It is in two pieces, with the canon pinion being steel and the wheel brass. If they lose their lubrication in the area the pinion and wheel turn independently of each other, the junction area, they'll grind themselves to uselessness pretty quickly. At least this is my understanding. With these watches it may be dangerous to be setting the hands before new lubrication is added to this center assembly.

There are all sorts of interesting things about these watches. And yes, they are reputed to run virtually forever, or at least until they grind themselves to dust. I hope the OP has good luck with the service of the watch.

My recent journey into Accutrons just started, but I am very intrigued, and appreciative, of the all around design and quality of manufacture of what I've seen so far. They are a different animal, but a very cleverly designed one. Cheers.

Edit: The link that JohnR725 posted is invaluable for getting these watches to keep the kind of time they were designed to. I was finally able to "phase" a 2181 mode so that it's keeping great time with a new 1.55V silver oxide battery. I haven't had the same good luck with another couple, but will continue to work on them until their morale improves, along with their timekeeping.

 

Edited by MrRoundel
Change JohnR275 to 725. Doh!
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Welcome to the world of humming watches @MrRoundel. It's really strange that so few people are willing to work on Accutrons but yet every Accutron that appear on eBay gets snapped up. Sometimes at ridiculous prices.

The recalcitrant 214 that has been giving problems turned up again. This time the coil on the component side gave up it's ghost.

Finally the mystery got solved. The problem was a defective coil which was about to break. I feel relieved and vindicated.

Now to hunt for a new coil.

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Thanks for the welcome, HectorLooi. I haven't worked on a 214 yet. It's on my bucket list. Unfortunately, they seem to go for a lot more money than 218 series and such. I had a friend that was into pocket watches when I first got into them in the nineties. Not long after we met, he started going after Spaceview wrist watches. I remember him talking about the "real deal" vs modified versions. I had no interest in wristies at the time, and certainly not electrified watches with weird vibrating forks.

What started me down this road/rabbit-hole, was a guy who didn't want to spend what it would take to fix a 2182 that was his dad's. He offered it, gratis, to the first taker. I was the second one who saw it, but the first guy was out of the country and the owner had said he'd only ship to the US. Lucky for me, I think. That 2182 is still not running right, but rather fast and stuttering with a 1.55V battery. I'll probably end up replacing the index wheel. I won't get a good look at the teeth on the existing index wheel until I get my doubling Barlow lens that will take me to 90X magnification.

Good luck with your problem-child 214. The 214, Spaceviews in particular, really are the classic Accutron. But the later models did have some nice improvements that apparently made them less finicky to work on. Cheers.

 

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