Bulova Lunar Pilot Meteorite

The past few years have been a fascinating time for exotic materials in watchmaking. While there has been an explosion of new experimental case and dial materials in the upper echelons of the industry, at the same time many materials formerly reserved for five-figure watches and above — like carbon, ceramics, and in some cases even sapphire — are quickly becoming staples of far more mass-market brands. There is one material, however, that has largely maintained its mystique amid this trend: meteorite. Meteorite dials are still a rarity in the current watch market, and this unique and dynamic extraterrestrial surface still carries a well-earned allure among enthusiasts. After all, what’s more exotic than outer space? For its latest release, Bulova aims to change this, making meteorite far more accessible to the average enthusiast in a package with a real spacefaring pedigree. The new Bulova Lunar Pilot Meteorite Limited Edition adds a sliver of the Muonionalusta Meteorite (which was found in northern Sweden and believed to be the oldest meteorite ever recovered at 4.56 billion years old) to its robust, technical quartz chronograph line, creating a compelling mix of extreme functionality, striking tool watch styling, and exotic allure in an impressively affordable package.

Bulova starts off the Lunar Pilot Meteorite with a 43.5mm wide case in matte-blasted Grade 5 titanium. From a design standpoint, this case is identical to the standard production Lunar Pilot, but the darker, moodier matte titanium material gives this form a markedly different character on the wrist. This is a rounded, elementally simple main case body, with slab case sides and short, contoured lugs that flow directly from the main case without any hard edges or chamfers. In brighter metals, this case has a tendency to come off as simplistic and oversized on the wrist, with a monolithic stance. The switch to titanium mitigates much of this impression during wear, both through the simple slimming power of darker colors and the lighter overall weight of the case. With that said, it’s still a large watch on the wrist – the Lunar Pilot is a design that (justifiably) draws frequent comparisons to the Speedmaster, but even in its ‘70s-accurate 43.5mm guise this watch carries a far more substantial presence than the classic 42mm Speedy. The other defining feature of the Lunar Pilot’s case is its long, fin-like hinged chronograph pusher design. With a fully polished finish that contrasts dramatically with the matte case, these elements add a more unique element to the case silhouette but can take some getting used to in practice. These pushers swing downward into the case before a light actuation click, and it takes a fair amount of time to overcome muscle memory and press the outer ends of the pushers rather than their centers. The narrow vertical bezel continues the polished finishing of the pushers, admirably breaking up the predominantly matte form and adding some much-needed brightwork on the wrist. As with previous limited-edition variants, Bulova finishes the Lunar Pilot Meteorite Limited Edition with an ornate engraved caseback commemorating the original Lunar Pilot’s use on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971. Crisp, deep, and richly detailed, this rendition of an astronaut on the lunar surface adds a wealth of character to the Lunar Pilot series, but the watch’s 50-meter water resistance rating remains a sizeable weakness.

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Of course, the Bulova Meteorite Limited Edition Lunar Pilot’s dial is its real centerpiece. Given that each example’s dial is made from a separate sliver of the Muonionalusta Meteorite, the chaotic pattern of Widmanstätten structures (crystalline formations in the metal formed over millions of years of cooling in space) shot through the iron and nickel dial surface is unique to each watch in the production run. There’s no denying the evocative power of this raw metal main dial surface, with its different metallic grains and textures forming a dynamic series of reflections on the wrist while acting as a window through billions of years of our solar system’s history. Setting aside the visual drama and exoticism of this material, the bare metal surface gives the overall design a stylish, low-contrast gray-on-gray look that helps to set it apart from its stablemates. Bulova riffs on the astronomical origins of the dial with the raised outer tachymeter ring, which features a grainy, almost lunar cratered medium gray surface beneath the raised and polished scale. The rest of the dial design should be familiar to fans of the brand — the recessed azurage minutes scale, the applied rectangular indices, and the simple, highly legible straight white handset are all Lunar Pilot staples — but the new dial backdrop makes these familiar elements shine in a new light. In particular, the Lunar Pilot Meteorite Limited Edition draws the eye towards its trio of black azurage subdials on the wrist. As the only pure black elements of the design, these stand out prominently from any angle, with crisp white printed scales that make even 1/20-second chronograph readings easily legible. Of course, the 6 o’clock running seconds subdial also stands out for another reason: With its once-a-second beat, this is the element that visually betrays the quartz movement within, which some enthusiasts may frown upon.

That said, the powerplant inside the Bulova Lunar Pilot Meteorite Limited Edition is no ordinary quartz movement. Bulova equips this watch with its in-house NP20 high-precision quartz chronograph movement, operating at a staggering 262.144 kHz frequency, eight times higher than a standard quartz oscillation. Beyond theoretically allowing for greater accuracy than a traditional quartz movement (Bulova does not provide accuracy figures for the NP20), this high frequency also allows the movement to use a mechanical-style smoother seconds hand sweep for its central chronograph seconds display. Add in 1/20-second chronograph functionality, and the NP20 becomes a tremendously capable quartz chronograph option. To complete the watch, Bulova fits the Lunar Pilot Meteorite Limited Edition with a black leather NATO strap. Although this strap arrangement adds thickness to the already substantial case, it’s a comfortable and casual strap selection that suits the overall look of the watch reasonably well.

While so many exotic watchmaking materials have been democratized in recent years, meteorite has largely been reserved for the upper echelons of horology – until now. The new Bulova Lunar Pilot Meteorite Limited Edition delivers a genuinely striking meteorite dial at a far more affordable price point than most, complete with a robust and capable sports chronograph design and solid finishing throughout. Although it commands a roughly 66 percent premium over the MSRP of the standard Lunar Pilot, the Lunar Pilot Meteorite Limited Edition remains both impressively accessible and genuinely charismatic. Only 5,000 examples of the Bulova Lunar Pilot Meteorite Limited Edition will be made, and the watch is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for this watch stands at $1,495 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.

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