Luminox Honors Aviation Legends: The Lockheed Constellation & P-38 Lightning
“Seating capacity for 60, wingspan 123 feet, four double cyclone engines, her ceiling is twenty-five thousand feet”
“So what do you call her?”
So goes the exchange in Martin Scorsese's 2004 film, The Aviator in which Howard Hughes places the largest ever order of airplanes at the time, buying 40 of the then-new Lockheed Super-Constellations.
This year, Luminox pays tribute to this legendary aircraft and its military relative the P-38 Lighting with two new additions to its Air-Series timepiece line. While it's easy to dismiss that as mere drama – it's exactly how things played out back in 1940 between Lockheed and the eccentric Mr. Hughes. It also marked the beginning of a nearly 40-year reign for the Constellation as the Queen of the Skies until the aircraft’s retirement in the 1970s.
The Lockheed Constellation
Hughes was instrumental in pushing for the development of the Constellation – lovingly referred to as “Connie.” In 1940, Hughes placed an $18-million order for 40 planes – the single largest order ever at that time –which would represent over $380 million in 2022 dollars. To demonstrate the speed and comfort of Connie, Hughes himself piloted her from Burbank, Calif., to Washington, D.C. in 1944 – making the flight in under seven hours averaging airspeeds north of 330 mph.
Given the special connection shared between the Constellation and heritage carrier TWA, it was only right to take these new Luminox models to the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport for a visit to one of the last remaining Constellation aircraft in the region and experience these pieces hands-on.
In connection with Lockheed, Luminox honors the Constellation with the brand-new Constellation Automatic 9600.
The Constellation case is a comfortable 42mm (with a 14mm thickness) that wears extremely well on the wrist thanks to the quick downturn in the lugs. The dials have a beautifully stylized representation of the globe with the Constellation flying across it gracefully. The syringe handset and matte black rotating bezel add to the vintage charm of the piece. One of the most eye-catching design cues, however, is actually on the case back.
Done in high-relief, the engraving is a top-down view of the Constellation aircraft. The engraving makes it seem as though the plane is cresting the clouds – and yet when on the wrist you’d never know it was there!
Vintage good looks aside, everything in this watch is textbook modern Luminox: Fully Swiss made and powered by a Selita SW 200-1 (an appropriate workhorse of a movement to commemorate this workhorse of an aircraft). The watch, of course, uses Luminox Light technology to ensure bright burning lume for up to 25 years under any conditions.
Just like the original Constellation was painted in many liveries for the various airlines who used her in service (TWA, Pan Am, KLA, Lufthansa), the Luminox Constellation is offered in four different color ways, and with three different strap options. Each version has its own distinct look.
Personally, I prefer the all-black dial with its subtle red-tipped second's hand – but the light grey dial with its baby blue accents also has its own charms. Regardless of taste, there is bound to be something for everyone in this collection.
The P-38 Lightning: A Military Icon
Though you may not believe it at first glance, the wings of the P-38 Lightning and the Constellation are the same. They have more in common than you think! While the Constellation pulled both military duty and use for peacetime civilians, the P-38 never saw time peacetime use. It was, however, one of the most feared fighter planes in the American Air Force.
Known to be extremely fast and devilishly maneuverable at speed. Its twin-boom design and turbocharged engines made it capable of flying at speeds over 400mph, and its long-range and relatively quiet flying noise made it ideal for long-range bombing runs in the Pacific.
A Pilot’s GMT
The Luminox P-38 Lightning collection takes inspiration from the 1940s era of pilot’s watch, with an instantly recognizable triangle 12 o’clock hour indicator and stark white numerals on a black dial. However this watch also has another trick up its sleeve: It’s also a GMT. Unlike the Constellation timepiece, the P-38 watches are powered by a Swiss quartz movement.
Coming in your choice of black dial or cream dial – there is no wrong choice here, and the coin-edge bezel really helps to drive home that vintage aviation flair. The available straight-end link Milanese mesh bracelet would also be my recommendation. Not only does it look the part, but its incredibly comfortable to wear.
While the dial of the P-38 is emblazoned with a “P-38” logo – it's on the case back that you will get your top-down view of the iconic aircraft. It is not done in the same exact relief approach as the Constellation case back, but it is a very elegant reminder of the plane's majesty.
Pricing & Availability
The watches are available now on Luminox’s website, with the Constellation Automatic 9600 models priced at $1,095 on strap or $1,195 on bracelet The P-38 executions are available for $595 on strap or $645 on bracelet. No matter which configuration you choose, expect a great value and fitting tribute to two legends of American aviation from an official gear outfitter of the Americas armed forces.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)