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How A Simple Gift Inspired Creative History

Sometimes, you just never know how one person’s seemingly simple actions at the time may play a role in the greater history of a major event. Such is the case with the simple gifting of an Accutron wrist watch, which led to spark a revolutionary creative movement in both building architecture as well as an iconic sneaker brand. Does this sound to be a larger than life statement? Well, it actually happened. Let’s dive into the story of how Accutron influenced design history below.

In the 1960’s, the Accutron watch – the first fully-electronic watch – was released. The first demonstration models featured an open dial style which was developed as a sample for salesmen. However, jewelers requested more of these sample models as more consumers were interested in viewing the inner workings of their devices. The watch quickly became popular, with famous wearers including Joe DiMaggio and Elvis. But the watch wasn’t just a fashion statement. 

After the success of the Accutron’s first model, the Accutron Astronaut was developed in order to meet the demands of high speed flight and space travel during the Apollo missions. Accutron was used for the in-flight instrument timers, panel clocks, navigation instruments, and were even used in all 5 lunar orbiter satellites! The technology was even adopted by other government programs like the US Air Force and the CIA.

Back on Earth, Accutron was gaining more popularity, and by 1976 over 5 million watches were sold worldwide. The unique design even started inspiring other creators to start new projects of their own.

Two of these creators were architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. These men went on to design the Centre Pompidou, a contemporary building that featured all conducts on the exterior of the building. While the public was hesitant to accept this building into their space at first, the Centre Pompidou has become widely renowned and admired as one of the top sights to see in Paris. One admirer of the design was another architect, Tinker Hatfield. 

Hatfield designed buildings for Nike before switching to designing shoes in the 1980’s. Inspired by the Centre Pompidou, he designed a shoe that was breathable and flexible, and that’s inner workings were visible through a transparent window at the sole. Sound familiar? This design was the Nike Air Max 1, one of the most iconic sneakers to date. 

The sneaker gained an immediate following, and numerous other designs have stemmed from the original including the very popular Jordan line. Nike sneakers that allowed the original Air Max were well received due to their functional as well as fashionable uses. Even today these sneakers are popular within the hip-hop and gabber subgroups. 

The style of the Accutron watch sparked a creative movement that reached much farther than just watch designs. With iconic buildings and shoes stemming from the unique inside-out design, there is no doubt that the Accutron left an important mark across all creative outlets. To learn more about the iconic design and how it has impacted design today, take a look at the infographic below:

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