HANDS ON: The new Accutron Astronaut Bulova Lunar Pilot models celebrate their place in the space race HANDS ON: The new Accutron Astronaut Bulova Lunar Pilot models celebrate their place in the space race

HANDS ON: The new Accutron Astronaut Bulova Lunar Pilot models celebrate their place in the space race

D.C. Hannay

Why do watch fans love a good historical reissue? I can think of two reasons. First off, horological history has such a deep trove of interesting, important references to draw from, with a ton of classic models and innovative designs waiting to be discovered by new generations of fans. Secondly, they’re cool as hell, and we keep buying them, so naturally, they keep making them. Bulova and Accutron have a long list of classic models and technical achievements, and corporate parent Citizen is going hard into their history with their archival collections. And the latest additions to that list are the new Accutron Astronaut, and two new versions of the Bulova Lunar Pilot. Let’s have a look at what’s what in these new releases.

Accutron Astronaut

Bulova and Accutron’s history with NASA runs deep, having supplied flight instruments for missions as far back as the 1950s. The Accutron Astronaut is one of the most important models from the brand, utilised by both the U.S. space program and the CIA. Its innovative tuning fork movement was a precursor to quartz-powered watches, and it was prized for its durability in the face of the tremendous stresses endured by test pilots. The Astronaut flew with NASA’s Mercury program, as well as aboard the hypersonic X-15 rocket plane and the CIA’s supersonic A-12 reconnaissance aircraft (the predecessor of the SR-71 Blackbird). Limited to 300 pieces, the new version of the Accutron Astronaut isn’t a one-to-one reproduction of the original, but a modern rethinking that captures the Space Age feels of the early models while adding some welcome updates. In fact, it’s Accutron’s first official re-edition.

The Swiss-made Astronaut’s biggest change is to the movement, with Sellita’s SW-330-1 automatic caller GMT movement replacing the original’s battery-driven model. I’m sure the folks at Accutron went back and forth over whether to stay true to the 1968 ‘T’ model, but the Sellita is a reliable choice, widely available and easily serviced, and the GMT functionality is perfect when your aircraft is able to fly across the four time zones of the North American continent in around 70 minutes.

The case aesthetics of the Astronaut keep things properly vintage-leaning, with the original’s rounded body and short, distinctively angled lugs a welcome throwback. Case size is 41mm in diameter and 13.85mm deep, as opposed to the original’s 38mm diameter, with both brushing and polishing on the sides. Water resistance is a perfectly adequate 100 metres. The dial evokes the vibe of the original Astronaut, with subtle but sufficiently vintage-looking Super-LumiNova lumed markers, but with the addition of applied indices. The fonts used on the dial are period-correct, and the faceted handset is somewhat more refined than the pencil-style originals. The lumed pointer of the 24-hour hand does mimic the original Astronaut’s, however. The bezel is a highly legible 24-hour day/night design in black and silver, and a retro-licious double box sapphire crystal is the perfect design cue to cap off the face of the watch.

Around the back, you’ll see the Sellita movement visible through the display caseback’s half-circle window, as well as the limited edition number inscribed along with the usual specs. The half window is an interesting choice, but doesn’t really detract from the overall package in any meaningful way, at least not to my eyes.

The three-link “bullet” bracelet deserves special mention, as it’s an exceptionally attractive one. It features a look that evokes Rolex, but with distinctively angled outer link edges. A mix of alternating brushed and polished finishes offer a refined look.

The new Accutron Astronaut is a limited edition of 300 pieces, priced at US$3,500, and available now.

Brand Accutron
Model Astronaut
Case Dimensions 41mm (D) x 13.85mm (T)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 100m
Dial Black
Crystal Sapphire, double domed
Bracelet Stainless bullet bracelet
Lug Width 22mm
Movement Automatic SW330-1 caller GMT
Power Reserve 42 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, GMT
Availability Now, limited edition of 300
Price US$3,500

Bulova Lunar Pilot

The original Bulova Lunar Pilot chronograph has unimpeachable street cred when it comes to watches worn in space. It was actually the personal backup for Apollo 15’s mission commander after the crystal popped off of his NASA-issued Speedmaster, and was one of the only other watches worn on the lunar surface. Bulova celebrated the 50th anniversary of the mission in 2021 with a limited edition Archive Series Lunar Pilot, and for 2023, the model gets further refinement, with a downsized case diameter matching the original. Two versions are on offer, a black-dialled edition, and a new blue-on-white panda model.

The new reduced case size does wonders for wearability, and I’m glad Bulova addressed this. When first introduced several years ago, the first Archive Series versions were pretty hefty at 45mm, although a later black-cased version mitigated the size somewhat. The new version keeps the softly rounded contours and proportions of that first edition, but in a more wearable size at 43.5mm in diameter and 13.21 for the case height. The unique chrono pushers are wide and easy to actuate, and the two-tone version’s feature a tricked-out blue finish to match the dial accents. Water resistance is 50 metres, so hopefully your splashdown is an easy one.

Dial finishing is nice at the price, with the black getting a gentle sunray, and the panda featuring a stippled texture in a light parchment colour. Bulova has wisely gone with the vintage logo on both versions, something I believe is becoming a standard feature on all their Archive Series releases. The inclusion of the modern Bulova logo on the first Lunar Pilot re-edition was my biggest sticking point upon its release, and honestly, this looks so much better. The date window is happily absent, and the one concession to modernity is the “262 kHz” wording on the 6 o’clock subdial. The movement is definitely modern compared to the mechanical chrono in the original. Bulova’s NP20 High Precision Quartz chrono runs at the aforementioned 262 kilohertz, claiming eight times greater accuracy than a standard quartz (measured in seconds rather than minutes per year). Since the price point is quite reasonable, I’m perfectly fine with this choice, as I’m sure a mechanical chrono movement would push the retail well into four figures.

Both versions include matching three-link bracelets with alternating brushed and polished surfaces, and also come with their own distinct strap as part of the package. The black gets a black leather “NATO-style” version, and the two-tone receives a blue one, and they feature latched springbars for easy swapping. Between the weight reduction and vintage looks, this might be a case where I prefer the included strap over the bracelet, but both options are attractive.

The new Bulova Lunar Pilots retail for US$875, and are available now.

Brand Bulova
Model Lunar Pilot
Case Dimensions 43.5mm (D) x 13.21mm (T)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 50m
Dial Black, white/blue panda
Crystal Sapphire
Bracelet/Strap Stainless bracelet/black or blue leather NATO-style
Lug Width 20mm
Movement NP20 high precision quartz
Power Reserve 3 years battery life (approximate)
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, chrono
Availability Now
Price US$875