Bulova Accutron II Snorkel Review

By: Jason Tricoli

The first time I saw the Bulova Accutron II Snorkel I was mesmerized by the movement and its accuracy. 57.6k beats per hour (bph) with a smooth sweeping second hand that most other quartz watches just don’t offer – incredible.

The majority of mechanical watches operate at around 21.6k to 28.8k bph. This translates into three to four small movements of the second hand per second. At 57.6k bph, the Accutron II Snorkel makes 16 small movements of the second hand each second, so the second hand has a really smooth sweeping action. The sweeping seconds hand was actually the reason I discovered the Accutron Snorkel.

After scouring the internet to figure out why quartz watches don’t have that smooth sweeping motion, I stumbled upon both the answer (sweeping movements use too much battery power), and the solution (a big ass battery).

Now that I found a quartz movement with a sweeping second hand, I had to find an Accutron II model that it came in that I liked. Initially, I wasn’t drawn to any of the models, until I saw this Bulova Accutron II Snorkel on Instagram, and fell in love. I agonized over the different colorways, finally settling on the orange, white and black (this particular model reference # is Bulova 96B208).

With its retro, supercompressor styling, internal rotating bezel, twin crowns, and smooth second hand sweep, the Accutron Snorkel is a really fun piece.

Case:

While I don’t think this particular Bulova Snorkel is considered a reissue, the watch is heavily inspired by the 1969 Bulova Accutron Deep Sea.

The modern version features a stainless steel cushion style case measuring 43mm across and 48mm lug to lug. Accutron II Snorkel case is gently brushed on its face, with a nice contrasting polished chamfer on both sides. The case has a gentle curve that ends in angular lugs. I don’t know if it is just me, but I can’t help but see Batman’s ears when I look at this Bulova’s lugs.

The Accutron II Snorkel features two crowns: one at the 2 o’clock that controls the inner rotating bezel, and a second crown at the 4 o’clock to control the time and date. The bottom crown, which is screw-down, is signed with the Bulova tuning fork symbol, a motif that is present in a number of places on the watch. Interestingly, the top crown is neither signed, nor screw-down. Both of the crowns sit deep in the case, and while the bottom crown is easy to unscrew and re-thread, I find it very difficult to use the top crown while it is on the wrist. Fortunately, the butterfly clasp makes it easy to pop on and off, but more on that later.

The back of the Bulova Accutron Snorkel II is screw down, mostly unadorned, save for a script on branding, water resistance and a few reference numbers. The watch is rated to 200 meters water resistant, but is not ISO certified. I don’t think I would take it diving, especially considering the top crown is not screw down. In fact, as an Oris rep once said, I would not get this watch wet (Editor’s Note: Reviewer is referencing an experience from Wind Up 2016 where an Oris Rep instructed TBWS to not get the Oris Diver 65 wet because he (the rep) didn’t trust the water resistance… talk about bonkers).


 
 

Finally, we have a domed mineral crystal. The dome extends about a millimeter and creates a nice distortion effect on the dial when viewed from the side. The dome also adds to the retro feel of the Accutron II Snorkel.

Dial:

The inner rotating bezel and the movement are my two favorite things about this Bulova Snorkel (96b208). The inner rotating bezel is white and orange, which is a great contrast to the black dial. The bezel is bi-directional, and moves smoothly when the upper crown is turned. The black dial actually has a very slight sunburst effect. It features an inner circle with “Bulova” and “Accutron II” written in white script, and an outer circle with applied indices and minute hash marks. The Accutron Snorkel’s twelve o’clock indice is the Bulova tuning fork, which is fun. At three o’clock is a white date window. The date window and indices are all edged in silver, which plays with the light, and makes them easier to read.

The Bulova Snorkel’s hour and minutes are baton hands, and the hour hand is the perfect length to run along the edge of the inner circle. The orange second hand, which complements the orange section of the rotating bezel nicely, is very long, almost reaching the bezel. The inner end of the second hand is the Bulova Tuning fork. I enjoyed the inclusion of the tuning fork on the second hand, because it reminds me of the Christopher Ward trident second hand, and it gives the watch character.

The hour and minute hands, as well as the indices and the 12 o’clock triangle are all lumed. I am not sure what lume is used on the Bulova Accutron II Snorkel, but it is definitely one of the weak points of this watch. It doesn’t seem to charge very well from ambient light, and fades rather quickly. Here it is pictured against an SKX007, which, as you may know, has magic, radioactive Seiko lume.

Overall though, the dial is very nice. These modern Bulova Snorkels are offered in a variety of other colors, but I prefer the white, orange and black of the Bulova 96b208 model. The date window adds utility, and doesn’t throw off the balance of the dial.

The Accutron II Movement:

This watch is quartz, but it’s Bulova’s special flavor of quartz. An updated version of the original Accutron technology developed in the 1950s, the movement uses a high frequency tuning fork that oscillates at 360 kilohertz. The original also apparently produced a telltale hum; sadly, this new version is silent as far as I can tell.

The original Accutron technology was used by NASA in instrumental panels and timekeeping mechanisms. The movement is also in the Bulova “Moon Watch” which pays homage to the original Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph–the only privately owned watch on the Moon. As the story goes, the crystal on Dave Scott’s Omega Speedmaster (the watch officially issued by NASA) popped off during the Apollo 15 Mission. Luckily, Scott had brought his personal Bulova, and strapped it on instead. That watch was auctioned off in 2015 for $1.6M!

Of course, some people will still dislike the watch because it is quartz. While I am a sucker for a mechanical movement, the Accutron is a neat piece of technology, an innovation in timekeeping and played an interesting role in the Space Race. Plus, at the end of the day the Bulova Accutron II’s movement is very accurate. It is rated to about 15 seconds per year. Mine has gained about three seconds since I last set it in December, so it is on pace to be within its accuracy rating. The Bulova Snorkel also hacks, which assists in setting the time very accurately.


 

The Bracelet:

The bracelet on this particular model is mesh with a butterfly clasp. From the pictures I saw online before I bought the watch, I had planned on immediately switching out the strap for a Nato. But when it arrived, I decided to give the stock bracelet a try and it quickly grew on me. Sizing was done by removing links near the clasp itself, and while there are no micro adjustments on the Bulova Snorkel’s mesh bracelet, I was able to size it for my 6 and ¾ inch wrist. The links are held in with standard friction pins.

The bracelet is actually quite comfortable. There is some play in the links, but it is by no means cheap feeling. It also fits the diving theme of the watch. On the bracelet, the Accutron II Snorkel comes in at 120g. For reference, my SKX007 comes in at 135g on the stock jubilee. There is some nice detail on the deployment clasp: a small Bulova symbol, and stainless steel engraved on the hinges. The clasp seems pretty sturdy, and locks in with satisfying clicks. To open the clasp there are two pushers on either side. I find it easy to use and satisfying. I can quickly pop the wrist watch off whenever I want to set the interior rotating bezel, and have it back on in a few seconds. If you don’t tend to like bracelets, I don’t think this one is going to win you over, but it grew on me.

A quick note for anyone planning on switching to a Nato strap. The spring bars are very close to the body of the watch. I initially bought an orange and black Blushark Alphashark Nato, but it was way too thick. I was able to force it onto a more standard Nato, but I would recommend curved spring bars if you do want to put the Bulova Snorkel onto a NATO and wear it regularly that way. Otherwise, I think the stress of the strap would bend the spring bars over time. The watch definitely works well on a NATO.

Final Thoughts

I bought the Bulova Accutron Snorkel II online without ever trying it on, and it does wear large. Admittedly, it is at the very upper range of my preference, and some might say it is too big for my 6 and ¾ inch wrist.

However, I think the styling, smooth second hand sweep, and internal rotating bezel are all things that make this wrist watch a lot of fun. The date window is well done with the white background and fits into the layout of the watch nicely. It terminates along the inner circle on the dial. I know dates on divers are often considered superfluous, but I like the added utility.

The things I don’t like about this watch is the size. The Snorkel’s cushion case is quite large, and it feels like it wears bigger than it is. While there is a gentle curve to the lugs, there isn’t any getting around the fact that this is a big piece of steel. The only other place this watch is lacking is that the crystal is not sapphire. With the crystal being domed and slightly pronounced I worry about scratching it on something, and sapphire would have been nice. However, at this price point, mineral glass is to be expected on a timepiece like this.

If you are looking for something quirky, with a retro vibe, and a very accurate and fun quartz movement, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Bulova Snorkel.

Normal MSRP for these models varies between $499 – $650. However prices for this Orange Bulova Accutron II Snorkel (ref: 96B208)* tend to shift – especially also for the other color offerings like Blue/Silver (96B209)*, Red/Silver (96B210)*, and Grey/Black (98B219)*. So they are much cheaper in the wild.


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