The Bulova Lunar Pilot is oft referred to as “the other moon watch”. Why?
It is a commemoration towards one of only two watches to ever be strapped to the men who stepped foot on the moon – and the Omega Speedmaster always gets the most recognition.
The Lunar Pilot is a striking watch, with a beautifully timeless vintage look. Bulova has also fitted it with their high-performance quartz technology for unparalleled accuracy to seconds per year.
The inspiration is from the Bulova chronograph worn by Apollo 15’s mission commander in 1971, and it’s no surprise that it also bears a resemblance to the first watch on the moon. It is an “official” commemorative edition to that original chronograph; with details of the flight to the moon on the caseback.
But does it meet the £499 RRP? Is it a worthy alternative to the Omega Speedy? Let’s check it out.
- Dimensions: 45mm diameter x 14mm height x 52.5mm lug to lug
- Weight: 169g
- Water resistance rating: 5ATM / 50m
- Movement: Bulova proprietary 262 kHz Calibre “high-performance quartz”; Calibre 8136
- Accuracy: 10 seconds per year
- Lug width: 20mm
- Warranty: 3 years
- Price: RRP £499, available around £375
- Buy here: https://amzn.to/3dOHLb8
- Bulova site: https://uk.bulova.com/96b258.html
The video review
First things first, it’s certainly larger than I imagined – I don’t usually go for watches over 44mm and the Bulova Lunar Pilot measures in at 45mm. I’d certainly say if you have a wrist that’s smaller than 7”, you’d struggle to pull this off. Saying that, the 14mm height feels surprisingly snug when taken into consideration, and wearability isn’t as tough as I thought it would be thanks to the sudden dip of the lugs. The shape oozes vintage, and takes heavy recognition from the original watch; a tonneau style shape being the main reason behind this.
You’ll notice that all three regular types of finishing are present on the Lunar Pilot. The case main is primarily a rugged tool-like bead blasted finish. However, the bezel is brushed, and the pushers are crown are polished – a lovely array which keeps things interesting. The quality of the finish is neat and precise all over.
The raised flat sapphire crystal offers a beautiful clear view of the dial below. Whilst sapphire is highly scratch-resistant, it can tend to chip if hit hard enough. So whilst it looks great to have the edge exposed like it is, be careful.
I feel as if the long, slender pushers are a defining yet unusual component of the Bulova Lunar Pilot. Indeed, I didn’t appreciate the shape of them until I held the watch in my hand. There are cute screws located at the pivoted corner below on the caseback. The length of them means they’re extremely easy to use. The push-pull crown is on the large side, but the fact that it’s set deep into the case means it doesn’t stick out overly, nor does it feel out of place. The grip is suitable, with a deep-stamped Bulova logo on the end.
The caseback is a mini-history lesson for us all, thanks to the commemoration of the Apollo 15 mission. In the centre we have some key details: firstly, the dates and length of the mission (July 26th – August 17th 1971). Then, the date of the EVA3 spacewalk (Extra-Vehicular Activity), when they made the landing on the moon – August 2nd 1971. Finally, it informs us of the Hadley Rille gorge – this is on the moon adjacent to the landing spot, and the Apennines is the region on the moon. The detailing throughout the caseback is very well thought out and is very pleasing to look at.
The clean, classic and uncomplicated dial design makes it timeless; it’s simple and easy to read. The black with white marking means it’ll go with anything, in any situation.
It’s multi-layered; the raised tachymeter is at the highest point, to a lower minute track, then raised back to the main dial, with subdials lowered. The date window is rather deep. There’s also plenty of subtle detailing, with concentric circular patterns on the subdials and the lowered minute track.
The tachymeter provides a detailed framework to the dial, which is subtly designed yet functional.
The subdials are as follows: running seconds at 6, chronograph 10th of a second indicator at 3, and 60-minute chronograph at 9. The big seconds hand is the chrono seconds.
I love seeing thick, deep applied hours markers – to me they display high build quality – and I’m pleased to see this is the case with the Lunar Pilot. They’re all straightforward batons, with a square at 12. I like the touch of the parallel batons (almost as if they’ve been rotated at 90 degrees) at 3, 6 and 9. The date wheel matches the dial colour, but seems to be rather low.
The hands are very simple, the hour and minute in a pencil shape, with a shapely arrow at the tip of the chrono seconds. The subdial hands are all straight batons
The lume is rather lightweight; fairly average and nothing to write home about. It’s a turquoise colour which doesn’t particularly glow very well.
Now, this is a key thing you should be aware of when shopping for a Bulova Lunar Pilot: the bracelet version and the strap versions have the lug holes in different positions. That means that you can’t fit the bracelet on the strap version, but you can fit a strap on the bracelet version. This seems an incredibly weird thing for Bulova to do, but it’s a no-brainer for me; I’m always going to go for the bracelet version.
Another thing that may annoy you is how the finishing doesn’t match. The bracelet is vertically brushed, yet the case is the blasted finish mentioned previously. Personally, it’s not a deal-breaker for me – but it could be for some.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that there is no micro-adjustment due to the concealed butterfly clasp. However, the links are half-link size so you can get a pretty close fit.
Whilst this might seem like a log of negatives, the bracelet as a whole is sensational build quality. Thick links, very comfortable, and immaculate finishing.
The hidden butterfly clasp features the Bulova logo on one side and is easy to use and reassuringly secure.
The movement is known as Bulova’s “high-performance quartz” which vibrates at an ultra-high frequency of 262 kHz – making it insanely accurate to 10 seconds per year. They don’t share too much info on it (probably because it contains propriety technology), but it’s made in Japan, has no jewels, and is named the Bulova Calibre 8136.
262 kHz equates to 16 ticks per second but sadly you only get to see that smooth sweep on the chronograph seconds hand. I really would have loved to see that sweep on the running seconds hand (such as it does on Bulova’s Precisionist line), which appears to run at 2 ticks per second. It has a 4-year battery life if you use the chronograph for 1 hour per day.
This is one of the key selling points of the watch; and if you were going to go for affordable quartz, this is the one (notice I say affordable, as the Grand Seiko would be the best quartz to go for).
I’m going to just say it how it is – there are a few pitfalls to this watch. There’s the exposed crystal edge; and the sheer size of the watch. That’s not to mention the bracelet: different finishing between it and the case, as well as strange lug hole positioning just seems to be a very weird thing to do.
Yet, despite these things, it’s still a wonderful timepiece – that I adore. The design is timeless, charming and elegant. The vintage vibes come through (you can tell it’s inspired by a 70’s watch), but it still looks modern. The movement itself is another reason why this is superior to alternatives with the same specs, in the same price range. And finally, the build quality is top-notch from top to bottom; it truly is a watch that delivers.