Service: Bulova Accutron 2181

IMG_0728Richard sent in this Bulova Accutron, and it’s a very nice one. Quite unusual, with the blue dial, and I really like it.

The battery is empty, but it also hasn’t had a service for ages, and it’s about time.IMG_0730

A first look at the movement, and it’s not too bad. Quite a lot of scratches, but they don’t really matter when it comes to the performance of the watch.


You can see some metal debris on the fork – that’s where it will accumulate. Quite odd though, this shouldn’t be here.296-02

The pawl and index finger are looking good.296-03No idea why this scratch is here …

296-04With 40x magnification, you can see dirt on the pawl jewel – high time for a service!


I take the wheel bridge off, and you can now clearly see the wheel train. The index wheel with 320 teeth (!) is at the bottom, and you can see the pawl and index finger next to it. I have already swung the fingers away from the wheel, to protect the jewels and the wheel.IMG_0736

Coils and fork.IMG_0741

The top plate is almost clear.IMG_0743

And it’s time to turn the movement around.IMG_0745

The 218 date changer is simple, yet very good. Snappy!IMG_0749

Almost done.IMG_0750

Rust on the central arbor that holds the cannon pinion – that will need cleaning up as well.IMG_0753

The fork and pawl finger are cleaned manually outside the cleaning machine to avoid damage.IMG_0754

And the rest goes into the cleaning machine.IMG_0761

The central abor is now nice and shiny.IMG_0762

I start off with the cannon pinion and the jewel.IMG_0763

In order to get the wheels in, the start/stop lever has to be in place, and in run position.IMG_0765

The jewels are capped, and I use the Bergeon 1a oiler to oil them.IMG_0767The bottom plate comes back together.


With the bridge on, I can now adjust the pawl and index fingers under the microscope.IMG_0771

With a new battery, the movement goes back into the case.IMG_0772

With a new gasket, of course.IMG_0773

It’s a 1972 – N2.IMG_0774

I set the watch to atomic time (well, NTP time, really), as I will have to adjust it over the next couple of days.IMG_0775Lovely Accutron!





14 thoughts on “Service: Bulova Accutron 2181

  1. wow ! quite a difference on the last pictures… that Bulova is in great shape and looks like new after Christian’s super service.

  2. That big scratch you showed a close up of, between the two screw holes. My guess someone has tried to poke around in the watch with tweezers and they slipped….repeatedly.

    • I don’t know how a scratch would have ended up at that position; on some early 218 movements there is something screwed to the plate at that position (listed as a “casing spring” in the parts lists) but it would cover / protect the scratched area.

      I don’t know if the lack of spring on this movement suggests it has been lost over the years or if it indicates the movement might not be original to this case, but it seems to run fine without it 😉

      • So someone lost that part and slipped with the tweezers.

        I only suggested its tweezer damage because it looks very familiar and resembles scratches I’ve made on my practice movements at home when I’ve slipped…..I don’t know what else it could be… 😕

        • I don’t think this model had any part mounted there. I have serviced a couple of 218s, and none had anything there.

          To me, the scratches look like someone looking for something, but not knowing what 😉

          • Apparently the existence of the casing spring was very short-lived – there is a Bulova technical letter from July 1971 that states the following;

            “Due to a new development, most 218 ACCUTRONS no longer need a casing spring to hold the movement in place. If the models in your stock, or those in for repair, do not contain one, it was not because of an oversight but rather because it is not required.”

            Yup – I have been geeking 😉


  3. Nice watch and what a retro movement !

    I have a Tissot Tissonic myself which is quite similar.

    I love the way it hums and the way the second hand glides, once you own one of these tuning fork watches you will never part with it, a very cool watch indeed and I imagine much sought after now as good clean examples seem to be commanding much higher values these days, probably due to rarity.

    Great watch, great service, the owner should be extremely happy.

    • They do seem to sell at something of a premium, but I got this one at a pretty good price I think – especially given the cool dial 😉

  4. Many thanks Christian – I was beginning to feel a little bit lost without it as an option in the mornings!

    BTW – you don’t have WiFi in your workshop? A shocking oversight!

    • This is the watch I bought off eBay (for not a huge amount of money) after reading one of Christian’s earlier blog posts. I knew as soon as I saw the guts of the Accutron that I would love them, and I do! This one especially with it’s dark-sunburst (nightburst?) dial I think is great, and the hmmmmmm sound they make in operation is actually very therapeutic 😉

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