Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph Review:
Why I Sold Mine & Why I’ll Probably Buy Another
By: Michael Penate
The Bulova Lunar Pilot chronograph is a watch that has plagued my mind for such a long time, I figured it was time to get my thoughts down and share them with the community. Close to a year ago, I pulled the trigger and purchased it from a small family jeweler selling the watch well below MSRP. It had been such a long time since the watch was officially announced that I was floored to finally get it (Bulova took forever to start shipping these after making the official announcement). Shortly after, the honeymoon phase died down, the watch was sold, and now, it’s on my mind again (the newer, all-black model) so I’m taking some time evaluate what Bulova is offering here. For now though, let’s get into the specifics of the first generation Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph.
There’s something really special about a chunky, black dial sports chronograph on a steel bracelet. Really, it’s practically everything you need but when you throw something like Bulova’s 262kHz quartz caliber into the mix, the package just gets better. That’s mostly what attracted me initially and it really takes the whole grab-and-go quartz concept to a new level. But there were still some things that didn’t sit well with me (minor things) which lead me to sell the watch. I guess we should start by getting that all out in the open.
At 45mm wide, a great deal of folks were doubtful when the ‘Bulova Moon Watch’ was first announced. It just seems unnecessarily large but like all watches, you can never really tell if it’ll work for you until you get it on wrist. The case itself is 316L stainless steel with a soft, almost bead blasted effect that results in somewhat of a muted tone. Annoyingly, the bracelet is finished differently and was the only option that made the watch wearable for me… but we’ll get to that later. The case is also around 13.5mm thick and 52mm lug-to-lug, which is probably still the biggest deal breaker for watch enthusiasts considering the Lunar Pilot.
Once again, while that 52mm measurement might seem daunting, there is a fine degree of fluidity existing between lugs and the bracelet. This allows for a surprisingly balanced fit and I maintained that specific configuration for most of my time with the watch. Over at 2 and 4 o’clock, we get a fun set of really satisfying and truly unique chronograph pushers with a simple push/pull signed crown in between. Water resistance is 50m and the watch is fitted with a simple screw-down caseback. Looking at the case from the side, we really get a sense of how playful the case architecture is, with its large cylindrical bezel and a tall box sapphire crystal.
In my eyes this is the part of the watch that’s executed perfectly. The dial itself is deep black and extends well into the case’s extremities. In other words, Bulova made great use of the space provided by a 45mm case. As a result, legibility is excellent and so are the proportions. Just look at the hand length pictured above. Each one extends adequately to its corresponding track, whether it’s the small white batons in the sub-dials or the primary hour and minute hands. There’s also quite a bit of depth on display here with various layers serving to aid the display of information.
From the outermost tachymeter ring, we step down to a grooved, fully graduated layer with a 1/5 second scale and larger ticks for the minutes. Closer to center we have our main dial display, which is raised and features an assortment of lumed rectangular indices for the hours. Finally, the three sub-dials—all adequately spaced apart—exist on what appears to be the same layer as the minutes track just under the tachymeter scale. There’s a simple date window at 4:30 and the sub-dials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock handle the 1/10th second counter, running seconds display, and minute totalizer respectively. It’s all big, really easy to read, and text is kept to a minimum—no complaints here.
This version of the Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph comes with a brushed (ugh) 20mm stainless steel bracelet that is just exceptionally handsome. It’s hefty, doesn’t add excessive weight, and I just love how seamless it looks with the butterfly clasp closed. I just for the life of me can’t make sense of difference in finishing. This is one of the nicest bracelets you can get in this price range and it’s a shame that it looks like some kind of bad aftermarket mix-up. And for me, this watch didn’t play well on other straps, which really did accent the 45mm case size in a bad way. Swapping wasn’t an option and now that I think of it, I wonder if it would have been worth it to just bead blast the bracelet somehow.
• 45mm x 52mm x 13.5mm – strong architecture and fluidity makes the larger dimensions very wearable
• Deep black with excellent proportions and depth – very legible and visually balanced
• 20mm bracelet is brushed and features no taper, which isn’t to my taste – other strap combos can be hard (also available in leather)
• 262 Khz high performance quartz movement – incredible accuracy at -/+ 10 seconds per year
There is also no taper, which looks hilarious now that I’m reviewing the photos again. All those issues aside, while the bracelet might seem like the root of all my issues with the watch, it is in fact very impressive. It’s my understanding that there are some differences in case architecture between this version and the one that comes with the faux carbon fiber looking strap. But unless you’re really into strap swapping, I think this is the version to get if you don’t have an issue with the unmatched bracelet finishing.
This is by far, the star of the show and enough of a reason to even have the watch in the collection. In fact, I think it’s what I miss the most about the Bulova Lunar Pilot and the absurd performance is really the best feature. Inside, the 262 kHz quartz movement is accurate to about 10 seconds per year and operates at a higher frequency than most common quartz movements. Bulova also refers to this as “High Performance Quartz,” a topic we discussed in more detail on the podcast here. It’s also cool to notice that the running seconds operate with a kind of pseudo sweep, as the hand “glides” along beating at about 2 times per second.
“I still think Bulova has created something very special here. I hope to see more variations in the future and maybe, just maybe, a 40mm version.”
It’s hard for me to say where I really stand with the Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph at this point. I know it’s a hell of a watch, but some things were just unforgivable. Currently, I’m considering the 2017 update, which features a black ion plated case finish, traditional Bulova wordmark, and no-date dial configuration. Many have claimed that the black case results in a more compact look, but that’s something I’d definitely have to see in person. As it stands, it looks like I might give it a shot because I still think Bulova has created something very special here. I hope to see more variations in the future and maybe, just maybe, a 40mm version. Hey now that we have a stainless steel Pepsi bezel Rolex GMT Master II, anything can happen, right?
Price for the Bulova Lunar Pilot Chronograph on the steel bracelet is $675, however the actual price is hundreds of bucks lower than that on Amazon for both the Chronograph with the Bracelet* and the version with the leather strap*- so be sure to check them out.
Michael Peñate is an American writer, photographer, and podcaster based in Seattle, Washington. His work typically focuses on the passage of time and the tools we use to connect with that very journey. From aviation to music and travel, his interests span a multitude of disciplines that often intersect with the world of watches – and the obsessive culture behind collecting them.