Is Sterling Cooper & Partners About to Enter the Space Race? Accutron’s Role in the Moon Landing.

Slate's Culture Blog
April 14 2014 1:46 AM

Is Sterling Cooper & Partners About to Enter the Space Race?

Don Draper in Mad Men
The season premiere paired SC&P with a product closely tied to the moon landing.


The season premiere of Mad Men Sunday night began with a pitch, not for Sunkist or Ford or any of the other accounts that generated so much excitement for Sterling Cooper & Partners last season, but for the Bulova Accutron. Why did “Time Zones” spend so much time on a wristwatch?

The answer may lie in the Accutron’s connection to perhaps the biggest event of 1969, the year in which this season is set to take place: The Apollo 11 space mission and man’s landing on the moon.

As many watch collectors know, the Accutron, introduced in 1961, was a watch long associated with the Space Race. Bulova gave free watches to test pilots in order to forge a connection between their watches and spaceflight in the American imagination, and the Accutron played an important role in the computer systems of NASA spacecraft. This in turn helped the Accutron move from Americans’ imaginations to Americans’ wrists and in 1969, Bulova was determined to place the first watch on the moon.

The company (spoiler alert) didn’t succeed—that honor went to the Accutron’s rival, the Omega Speedmaster, which became the official astronaut’s watch—but Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong did leave a Bulova timer on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility.


Accutron's July 1969 ad campaign


This was enough for Bulova to continue to tout its role in the July 1969 moon landing, and their clever marketing campaign boosted sales. “Until now, we were merely the most accurate watch in the world,” ran their newspaper advertisement later that month in papers around the country. They called the Accutron “The most accurate watch in the universe.”

It remains to be seen what Matthew Weiner and co. might do with Accutron’s connection to the Space Race. Perhaps Sterling Cooper will make the doomed push to get the Accutron around Neil Armstrong’s wrist, or perhaps their efforts will echo the space race more obliquely. Regardless, it will be hard for them to come up with an ad slogan as good as that.

Read all of Slate's coverage of Mad Men.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 



Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B


Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.