Hands-On Review – Accutron Legacy Watches

The Skinny

“R.R.-O” (The Railroader)
Diameter 34 mm
Thickness 12.5 mm
Movement 26 jewel Swiss movement
Water resistance 30M
Price $1,290

“261” (The Blue Cushion)
Diameter 38.5 mm
Thickness 12.5 mm
Movement 26 jewel Swiss movement
Water resistance 30M

Price $1,390
“21343-9W” (The White Barrel)
Diameter 38 mm
Thickness 11.6 mm
Movement 26 jewel Swiss movement
Water resistance 30M
Price $1,490

Vintage Style with Swiss Mechanical Movements

I recently reviewed the Accutron DNA watch which is a large watch with bold styling and features a cool new electrostatic movement. However, as a vintage guy I am more excited about the Accutron Legacy collection. Let me explain.

What we have here is a set of 12 watches limited to 600 pieces each. Rather than the new electrostatic movement, these watches use traditional Swiss mechanical movements. The Legacy series leans into Accutron heritage with design rather than technology. One unique and refreshing vintage design feature is the smaller size of these watches. They range from 32.8 to 38.5 mm with an average size of 34.7 and median of 34 mm. There is not a 40 mm plus watch in the bunch. 

The other notable design feature is that several of the watches have unusual case shapes. There are only two watches that are round or mostly round. The remainder of the watches have cases ranging from asymmetric to cushion to tonneau to oval. All of the watches are unisex although the smaller asymmetric watches could be considered to have a more feminine appearance.

I selected three of these watches to review.

“The Railroader” 1970

Accutron wrist watches were among the first to be approved for North American railroad systems due to the superior accuracy of their tuning fork movements. Railroad grade pocket watches continued to be produced in the US until 1969 because the larger balance wheel meant that pocket watches were usually more accurate than wrist watches. US railroad grade pocket watches had a number of important characteristics including large Arabic numerals for legibility, lever setting meaning that the front crystal had to be unscrewed to set the time, and regulation and adjustment in five positions. Railroad regulations had been around since the late 1800’s. Accuracy was critical on the railroads to prevent head on collisions from incorrectly timed track switching. In fact, time zones were originally established by railroad companies to combat timing inaccuracies from taking the time from the sun which meant that neighboring towns could have different times.

The Accutron Railroader is based off a Canadian railroad watch which had similar but slightly different regulations. For example, a Canadian railroad watch could be crown set. More relevant for the design of this watch, a Canadian railroad watch would have a 24 hour dial. Appropriately for a tribute to railroad watches, the Railroader has a highly legible dial with black Arabic numerals on a plain white background. The dial has a hint of complexity and tradition by having inner 24 hour numerals as well. The 12 o’clock marker is a zero instead of a 12 to give military time. The spade hour hand and sword shaped minute hand harken to the railroad watches as well. The orange seconds hand stands out against the otherwise black and white dial. There is a date window with white numbers against a black background at 3 o’clock. Overall the dial is clean, legible, and has a balanced design calling back to the railroad watches of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The domed sapphire crystal is a nice vintage touch.

The 34 mm case has a simple high polish on each side. There are facets which give it a hint of a tonneau shape despite the overall roundness. The crown is at 4 which makes it difficult to wind. This recalls the original Accutron which did not need winding due to the tuning fork movement. I would have preferred a crown at 3 for ease of use with the mechanical movement. The back has a screw down outer ring and a sapphire half circle window which partially reveals the automatic movement. The bottom has lightly engraved the name of the limited edition and number out of 600. Overall the case is nicely designed without any impressive finishing. The best part of the case is the vintage size which is very comfortable and gives the watch a true vintage feeling.

The Railroader comes on a branded black leather strap with a deployant buckle. The leather material is adequate but to the touch feels more like fake leather than the genuine leather labeling. The deployant buckle is meant to be luxurious but I would have preferred a simple pin buckle as the deployant is big relative to the 34 mm case on the other side.

Although the finishing on the Railroader is simple, the watch is well-designed with a true vintage feel. It captures the spirit of railroad watches, which were meant to be practical, reliable, and highly legible.

“The Blue Cushion” 1971

The Blue Cushion harkens to the funky designs of the 1970’s. Accutron derived tuning fork movements sought to differentiate themselves from the older mechanical watches by a space age style. This was often done by bold colors and by dial furniture which emphasized the smooth sweeping seconds hand. The hour markers would sometimes be mounted on the crystal or raised from the dial to allow the seconds hand to sweep underneath.

The blue dial and stepped hour markers of the Blue Cushion echo that era. The dial has small rectangles of lume at the hour pointing towards the hour markers. Those markers are relatively wide and have a step in them which makes them look like a loafer shoe from the side. This makes it so that parts of the marker catch the light while other parts appear dark, adding contrast to the dial. The white minute marks are elongated and ⅕ second marks are placed between them, adding to the funkiness. The hour and minute hands are batons with lume at the outer thirds. The seconds has a squared off rectangular counterweight, giving it some more visual interest. The date window is a simple black on white. The sapphire crystal is quite raised and rounded to simulate an acrylic dome.

The 38.5 mm case is beveled downwards on all four sides with sunburst brushing. The crown and caseback are similar to the previously discussed model so I will not repeat the information here.

Overall I like this watch. The sunburst cushion case, funky markers and dial design give it a retro feeling. The case size is restrained and kept true to the vintage design. I think this is one of the more unique watches out there and really captures the 1970’s esthetic.

“The White Barrel” 1974

The White Barrel has another typical 1970’s aesthetic but with its own distinctive look. The case is tonneau shaped rather than cushion, and the flat sapphire crystal and the downslope from the dial edge to the center have the effect of looking into a tunnel rather than radiating outwards. The outer portion of the dial has a silver matte finish and the dial markers at 11, 2, 5, and 7 are beveled to match the tonneau shape of the inner dial. The inner dial is vertically brushed, matching the front of the case. The Accutron logo is applied. The hour and minute hands are batons which appear a little short when facing the 3 or 9 because the inner dial is wider than it is tall. There is a contrasting red seconds hand.

The front of the case has a flat vertical brushing that matches the inner portion of the dial and emphasizes the feeling of looking inwards. The bracelet is integrated with a mostly high polish finish but light brushing is seen on the center links. I would have liked some more attention paid to the finish on the bracelet to better match the case. Removable links are held by pins. There is a butterfly clasp. The crown and caseback are similar to the other two watches described above.

Overall I enjoyed wearing the Accutron Legacy watches. I appreciate the thoughtful design and execution that stays true to their heritage. The decision to stick with a vintage size gives these examples a compactness and wearability that I associate with vintage watches. When I wore them day to day I felt as if I was wearing a vintage watch. I am just really glad to finally see a watch company embrace the trend towards smaller sizing rather than just taking vintage designs and blowing them up to a 40 mm plus size. If you like the comfort and style of vintage but want the convenience and reliability of a modern watch, the Accutron Legacy watches are for you.