A Closer Look At The Bulova Lunar Pilot 50th Anniversary Limited Edition
This handsome Pilot Chronograph Commemorates the Apollo 15 Mission and the Historical Bulova Timepiece Worn on the Moon
When aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket, 82-year-old pilot Wally Funk became the oldest person ever to go into space, it only rekindled our dreams of one day traveling to the Moon and back. But until we can hitch a ride with a billionaire, watch enthusiasts will happily settle for a version of a timepiece worn on the Moon.
Many brands have made it to the Moon, but Bulova’s history with NASA and its missions are especially interesting. Not only did the brand play an important role in 46 space missions, but on August 2, 1971, Apollo 15’s mission commander David Scott became the seventh man to walk on the Moon and the first to drive the Lunar Rover, all while wearing his personal Bulova chronograph – the Lunar Pilot.
To celebrate that historic moment, Bulova is now releasing the Lunar Pilot 50th Anniversary Limited Edition timepiece – a reinterpretation of the only privately-owned watch to make space history.
NASA’s association with Bulova goes back to the 1950s when the agency first met with the brand to create watches, instrumentation panel clocks, and timekeeping mechanisms to help with their exploratory efforts. This partnership lasted until the ’70s, with NASA utilizing the brand’s innovative Accutron tuning fork movements to provide state-of-the-art precision timing.
Crafted for astronomical conditions, the original Lunar Pilot was initially only intended to track time so that no one on the mission ran out of oxygen, water, or battery power in the portable life-support-system backpack. But the Lunar Pilot was also used to back up the on-board timers for the critical re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
So, how did the Lunar Pilot get its day on the Moon?
While, officially, Omega Speedmasters were issued to all three astronauts aboard the Apollo 15, the crew was also allowed to bring some personal effects. David Scott brought along his Bulova.
Scott’s original Lunar Pilot was specially customized for lunar conditions by Bulova engineers and produced only as a prototype. And its story remained relatively unknown until Scott put it up for auction in 2015. That auction created a lot of buzz because it was the only known privately owned watch that had been on the Moon (the government-issued Omega Speedmasters are considered government property).
So, even though it was not the officially issued timepiece, the Lunar Pilot made it to the surface of the Moon when the crystal popped off Scott’s Speedy. While there, it met the challenges of the changing atmospheric conditions, fluctuating temperatures, and gravitational shifts.
The same year Scott put his Lunar Pilot up for auction, Bulova released a modern remake of the astronaut’s chronograph. It came with an exclusive high-performance quartz movement with a frequency of 262 kHz for precision timing, super-luminous hands and markers, anti-reflective sapphire glass, a tachymeter, and a calendar.
Introducing Bulova’s Lunar Pilot 50th Anniversary Limited Edition
Six years on, Bulova is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 15 mission with another update. This time, the new watch has a special 45mm titanium grade-5 case with gold-tone accents and pushers. It’s a big watch, measuring 45mm in diameter, 13.5mm thick, and 52mm lug-to-lug, but the elegant silhouette and the inobtrusive crown and pushers mean that it doesn’t look too bulky. And its high-frequency quartz movement (accurate to about 10 seconds per year) makes it lighter than your average mechanical watch.
We’re happy that the Lunar Pilot has kept its elegant dial layout and flat sapphire crystal with blue AR coating. Plus, the supple grey leather NATO strap is a nice complement to the design while also deemphasizing the size of the watch. And to help ensure a 50m water resistance, it also has a screw-down caseback engraved with an individually numbered lunar relief design.
Now available for pre-order, the Lunar Pilot 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is confined to 5,000 pieces and comes in special packaging with a storybook and a commemorative NASA coin. Even with all that, it is, amazingly, only priced at $995.
For more information about the Lunar Pilot 50th Anniversary Limited Edition, visit the Bulova website.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)