The 666 range of Bulova models began in 1963 with the Bulova Snorkel. This all steel cased watches with an automatic 11AFACD movement were Bulova’s entry into the skin diver category. Skin diving is swimming without a wet suit or breathing apparatus – snorkeling around a reef or casually diving under to pick up sea life.
The 666 relates to the 666 ft of water resistance or 200 metres. At the time many watches were simply 600 ft but these extra 66 make it the number of the beast – hence why they are known as devil divers.
It’s a clean design and was available with either a black or grey dial. It featured a rotating diving bezel and clear and easy to read aesthetic. Bulova tested each watch individually to ensure they were water resistant. Note it states waterproof on the dial – these denote the early watches. As time went on it this wording is removed – unsure if this was from international organisation for standardisation prohibiting the use of the term ‘waterproof’. This means watches are created water resistant to a certain level – but not all watches are equal. The original Snorkel featured an armoured crystal, screw down case back and a gasket seal on the crown.
Bulova also produced less extreme variations that show 333 ft on the dial – or 100 metres water resistance. The marketing provided by Bulova for these watches was very much aimed at the normal activities you undertake during the day – like showering or fishing a goldfish out of a bowl. This made it accessible to the normal person.
Enter the Accutron Deep Sea
Bulova was already achieving great success with it’s Accutron movements. Combining their water resistant dive watch cases with their revolutionary tuning fork movement was a no brainer. The 218 calibre found it’s way in to a myriad of colourful dive watches ranging from super compressors to this – the Bulova Accutron Deep Sea.
Note that the Bulova name and logo do not appear on the dial or front of the case. The only signs are the counter weight on the sweep second hand, the crown and the engraving on the case back. Accutron was its own entity and it carried huge weight. The sweeping second hand on this watch with the little Bulova logo is as always totally mesmerising. It looks like complete magic as it rotates its way around the dial.
Original models from 1968 feature an all black bezel producing a monotone look for the watch. The red splash of colour on these later bezels really makes the whole piece pop. It has a sunburst brushed top of case with polished sides. The crown is at 4 o’clock as per other Accutron movements of the time – for a diver this makes more sense as it is out of the way and less susceptible to being knocked. I was surprised to find that it is not a screw down crown – using only a couple of o-rings and a snug fit to stop water seeping in.
The one thing about this watch that brings me back everytime are the dimensions and shape. It’s 40mm across and 46mm tall. More importantly – the svelte 218 calibre Accutron movement is thin and allows for a shallow silhouette and the curved lugs hug the wrist. It fast became a go to watch that I can wear in any weather. I know that sounds stupid but when it’s hammering it down I won’t be exposing a 50s dress watch to the English weather – this Accutron Deep Sea just doesn’t care.
I love the 18 mm lug width because it allows for a wide variety of bracelets and straps to be used. It looks good on aged leather, with a jubilee or oyster bracelet. As it’s suddenly got here in the UK over the last few weeks I have slapped it on a rubber deployment clasp strap. It’s genuinely comfortable and fits well with the diver look.
The crystal on this watch is a little scuffed and tatty. I will get round to giving it a polish and bringing it back to a better condition. It’s nice that it has the original crystal with integrated cyclops – such a great way of avoiding the ugliness of a protruding cyclops. The dial itself is missing a few minute indices between 7 and 8 o’clock but it’s hardly noticeable.
I love the fluffy lume spots – however I do not love how the lume dust has covered the dial making it look dusty! It’s certainly not my favourite date wheel – silver colour with black numbering does the job but is not very exciting!
the dial is rough to look at which produces this matt finish. It’s hard to capture in photos but this makes it incredibly easy to read in any light – something gloss dials really suffer from.
For a watch that’s now 50 years old it has some battle scars. I hope this beauty go to see some sun soaked reef action or even just some gentle swims before it was designated a desk diver.
Crisp black and red bakelite bezel in fantastic condition. I believe these are not unidirectional and feature no ratchet mechanism. This means they were originally friction fit and could turn either way. This does mean that some models will have a free floating bezel that will spin whenever it fancies – not a good look that will need attention to fix.
Gently curved crystal does reflect a lot of light when under strong sun. There are actually three hand styles for this watch. These are the most common and I call them the daggers. The first other are much more broad and feature an arrow tip on the hour hand. The second are really out there and quite desirable and not often seen – a lollipop second hand, a bulbous hour hand that looks like an olive on a cocktail stick and a long gladius style minute hand. These are actually replacement hands as the originals were incredibly tatty and the lume was falling away.
Thankfully this Accutron movement is still running strong and only loses a few minutes over some months.
What do you think – nice diver or out dated timepiece? Have you got one of these? Let me know with a comment!