Last month was a time of giving for many. Gift giving is an act of love between people. It’s a way to show appreciation for one another while showcasing how well you know their taste. Good gifts strengthen relations between the giver and the recipient. Great gifts inspire the recipient to achieve incredible things. One gift of an Accutron Spaceview watch sparked a creative movement in architecture, which in turn inspired some of Nike’s most iconic styles.

Bulova’s Accutron Spaceview

What is an Accutron Spaceview? These watches are famous in their community, but few people rely on wristwatches for timekeeping nowadays. In 1960, the Accutron by Bulova was the first fully electronic wristwatch on the market. It utilized tuning forks to keep time, which allowed the watch hands to move smoothly instead of ticking. 

To demonstrate how the technology worked to customers, an “open dial” model was created for salespeople. Yet customers loved their look into the watch’s inner workings so much, they clamored for a fully open window model. Bulova responded to their demands by releasing the Accutron Spaceview in 1961. Accutron watches were popular gifts for years after that.

Roger’s Pompidou Centre

In fact, architect Richard Rogers received an Accutron Spaceview watch as a gift from his mother in the 1970s. According to Rogers, he liked the gift because “it wears its machine on the outside… in a way, it encapsulates what I do.”

Richard Rogers is well known as an architect for his work on the Pompidou Centre in Paris, France. Located in the 4th arrondissement, the building is famous for its “inside out” appearance. All ductwork, electrical conduits, and plumbing is on the exposed exterior of the building. It is intended to appear transparent with column free spaces for added flexibility. The open window of the Accutron Spaceview is credited for the wider cultural movement towards transparency and exposed inner workings. 

At first, the Pompidou Centre’s design was met with controversy. Its contemporary, high-tech style clashed with nearby traditional buildings, including medieval-era church Notre Dame. Over time, however, the Pompidou Centre’s fans came to outnumber its critics. In 2007, the design won the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Hatfield’s Air Max 1

It didn’t take decades for the Pompidou Centre’s fans to make their mark on history, however. One of the early supporters of the Pompidou’s design was Tinker Hatfield, a then-corporate architect for Nike. He says that “the Centre Pompidou was one of my must-sees when I was in Paris… this large almost machine-like building sort of spilling its guts out into the world… I remember being super influenced by it.”

Hatfield was so inspired by his trip to Paris that he changed careers. By 1987, he switched to designing shoes. It was in his role as a shoe designer that Hatfield created some of Nike’s most iconic styles. The first Hatfield design to hit it big was the Air Max 1. 

As any sneaker fan can tell you, the Air Max 1 was the first in what became the Air Jordan series. The Air Max 1 was visually distinct from other shoes on the market in that it had a visible air bubble on the sole. According to Hatfield, “the shoe was designed to breathe, be flexible, and fit well,” and the air bubble was the customer’s window into how the effect was achieved. The inner workings of the shoe were directly visible, just like they were in the Accutron Spaceview. 

Today, the Air Max 1 is considered by many to be one of the greatest sneakers in history. It marries function with fashion and gave rise to culturally relevant norms that have resonated among sneaker heads for generations. While Air Max 1’s originally retailed for $75, a pair in good condition appreciates 28% every year. Some of Nike’s most revered and coveted collaborations centered around this shoe.

Giving gifts to innovators has the potential to spark revolutions that cross industries and even decades. Good ideas are never siloed into one application. After all, showing off the Accutron’s tuning fork technology inspired one of the most distinguished building designs in Paris. The Pompidou Centre inspired the most lasting shoe designs in Nike history. Nike’s status as a cultural mainstay was built on Hatfield’s trip to Paris.