Posted on: March 18, 2024 Posted by: mysun08481 Comments: 0

The New Bulova Lunar Pilot Meteorite Edition

There’s a famous line from one of John Ford’s later – and arguably one of his finest – films, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It’s also become one of the most misquoted lines in cinema, on par with “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” “Play it again, Sam,” “Luke, I am your father,” and “If you build it, they will come” (yes, I have intentionally misquoted each of these).

The line I am referring to closes the 1962 film and goes, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” I often think about this because it is infinitely applicable to the watch world. Think about the Rolex Explorer and summiting Everest as just one example. Myths, or legends, have the power to take hold of us to the point where we throw them around as hard facts. But sometimes, there are stories of a fantastic nature – true stories – that manage to slip through the cracks, overshadowed by stronger narratives. Such is the tale of Bulova and the Moon.
Nearly 10 years ago, Ben Clymer covered a uniquely special auction at the time. American astronaut Dave Scott’s personal Bulova chronograph ref. 88510/01 was set to cross the block. But this watch had a particularly special provenance. The legend goes that during the Apollo 15 mission, the crystal on Scott’s Speedmaster (the NASA-issued watch) broke, leaving him no choice but to wear his own Bulova, which he brought on board with him. It was actually quite common for NASA astronauts to bring personal watches with them, hence how Jack Swigert had his GMT-Master during Apollo 13.

No matter the real reason Scott strapped on his Bulova, the fact is that – and the 2015 auction confirms this – the Bulova and its NASA-issued velcro strap were all registered and documented to have been in-flight, and there is photographic evidence that shows Scott wearing his Bulova with his suit. The Scott Bulova sold in 2015 for $1.6 million. It was the first true watch worn on the lunar surface to become available to the public, as issued Speedmasters were property of the U.S. government.
This is a special story that is seldom told and has directly influenced Bulova’s creation of the modern homage to that very watch in the Lunar Pilot – at first a 45mm quartz chronograph that was later reduced in size to a 43.5mm – that brings the history of American watchmaking and American space travel together.

All of this is to say that I truly believe the modern Lunar Pilot to be one of the unsung watches with a real legacy in the business. The standard LP remains one of the best value propositions when you come to realize the deep-rooted history of Bulova and its bona fide ties to the Lunar Missions, specifically Apollo 15. And it’s not as if this story is lost on Bulova. The brand knows how to celebrate this story – and not just through the regular production Lunar Pilot – which brings us to today’s main topic.

Last month, Bulova announced a new addition to the LP fold via the limited edition (5,000 pieces in total) Lunar Pilot Meteorite Dial. And that name basically tells you everything you need to know about this one. What you get is another addition to the brand’s Archive series of watches, which is the subset of models that derive design inspiration from – that’s right, kids – the archives. The standard LP is executed in stainless steel, so the first place this LE departs from that model is by way of the case material.
The Meteorite is fashioned in grade-5 titanium with a sandblasted finish for added texture. But to my mind, it is a seemingly modest tweak that accentuates the connection to the cosmos. The speckles of the finishing of the sandblasting are (use your imagination) somewhat illustrative of the vast infinity of stars in the galaxy. Work with me here, people; I’m getting horologically emotional.

The 43.5mm sizing might seem like a modern affectation. After all, we still consider the Speedmaster to be a large watch for its time at 42mm. But 43.5 was the size of the original ref. 88510/01 and so the Lunar Pilot is faithful in its sizing. That original model beat with a mechanical chronograph movement, likely some form of Valjoux variety where the modern Archive series watches – including the Meteorite edition – is powered by the high-precision quartz caliber NP20.
This is a movement exclusive to Bulova, which is important to note because the brand falls under the greater Citizen Watch Group umbrella. And before you sound off about watch conglomerates, hear me out. Much like the Omega Speedmaster belongs to the Swatch Group and therefore benefits from the myriad resources such a group provides (especially in the creation of movements at scale), so too does Bulova benefit from Citizen’s know-how when it comes to precision watchmaking with quartz.

The NP20 features a three-pronged quartz crystal and beats with a frequency of 262 kHz. This is eight times greater than your standard-fare quartz, and the result is an accuracy of mere seconds per year. And to be honest, this is a critically underrated fact about this watch when you consider what it wants to represent: a historical homage piece and a fundamentally accurate tool watch.
Swinging back to the Omega-sized elephant in the room, we need only look to the X-33 to see that quartz is, and was, the easy decision when it came to updating the Speedmaster for modern times, so it stands to reason that Bulova would draw upon a key strength from Citizen and fashion the revived Lunar Pilot with a quartz movement.

But the movement and case dimensions again speak to features common across the Lunar Pilot collection. What makes this new edition so special, in addition to the aforementioned shift in case material, is the inclusion of a meteorite dial.
As you might expect from a limited edition run of meteorite dial, what we get here are 5,000 singularly unique executions of meteorite texture due to the process it takes to create this watches. So despite the rather large number of this limited series, you can be confident in knowing that no two watches are the same in this run. That’s all well and cool, but what about the execution of the meteorite?

It looks pretty darn cool for a watch that comes in less than $1,500. This is the sort of dial work you would be satisfied with in a watch with a five-figure value. And I can’t say I am surprised to see that Bulova was able to integrate sandblasted titanium, a meteorite dial, and a limited run of watches and still deliver what I consider to be a real value proposition.

Now, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of this one’s aesthetic standouts. The triple register display and the concentric pattern on each individual subdial in black is a carryover from the standard black LP. The same goes for the hands and the marker set, but there’s a real shift in the overall look in the Meteorite Edition in the way the metal surrounds blend into the grey coloration of the meteorite dial surface to make the markers and hands appear as a stark floating white. Not to get poetic and hyperbolic again, but it’s as if they float atop the dial in a zero-gravity environment. But don’t fret; they won’t be floating away.
Perhaps the most drastic shift (aside from the literal meteorite dial) is the new execution of the tachymeter scale. On the original LP, the tachymeter is done in a gloss black texture with white printing. Here, we get something truly cool that adds contrast by way of texture. The tachy scale is now in a tone-on-tone form where the text is raised off the backdrop in a dark gray. The entire internal bezel is finished in a highly detailed pattern reminiscent of the lunar surface. It also looks killer next to the texture of the case.

Rounding things out are the same signed crown and Bulova chronograph pushers. But turn the watch over, and remove the leather NATO-style utilitarian strap, and you are met with a really neat caseback engraving. It shimmers with more sandblasted texture with the illustration of Scott on the Moon with text that harkens back to Apollo 15 and the exact number of the watch. The 43.5mm sizing of the Bulova Lunar Pilot is true to its specs. This is not a small watch, which you can see in the photos Kasia took here. However, and I may be in the minority here, I see no issue with a legitimate tool watch having some size to it. And the lunar pilot is a legitimate tool watch. At the end of the day, the Meteorite Edition of the Lunar Pilot sent me back down the curiosity rabbit hole of watches in space. This is a watch that reignites a sense of imagination and works as a harbinger of history. If the Dave Scott story is one that’s new to you, I wish you well as you delve deeper into the horological history of the lunar missions and the amazing role Bulova played

This is one of those situations where the legend is the fact, making this much easier to print. The Bulova Lunar Pilot Meteorite edition, as previously mentioned, is limited to 5,000 pieces with a price of $1,495. It comes fitted to that leather NATO-style strap and is available now.