Taking A Ride With The Luminox P-38 Valjoux Automatic 9461 Chronograph

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Luminox is best known for their no-nonsense three-handed quartz models with unique Tritium tubes on the hands. These amazingly bright and compact watches are popular with military and police. But what about WWII era fighter pilots? Who will build a watch for them? Now the company has their back.

The Luminox P-38 Valjoux Automatic 9461 (let’s just call it the P-38 Chrono) is a brand new model that commemorates the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. It’s a traditional chronograph in black and white with a tachymeter around the edge and a standard running seconds, minutes, hours layout with central seconds. It also has a day/date window and is controlled by two hidden buttons over and under the crown. It’s quite thick and comes on a thick leather strap.

The watch costs $3,000 which is actually a steal for a Valjoux chronograph. Valjoux is a Swiss maker of watch movements and their 7750, which Luminox uses in this piece, is a classic and is becoming increasingly more difficult to find. It’s a departure for Luminox to add such a storied and expensive movement and it signals that the company is moving into a more rarified territory.

The real draw here, however, is Luminox’s tritium tube placement. In the dark this watch glows like a flashlight. While the small chronograph hands aren’t given the lume treatment, each hour pip and the hands glow green. This luminescence in these tubes lasts 25 years and remains bright without exposure to light.

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I’ve always liked Luminox although I’ve avoided their pieces simply because they’ve focused, thus far, on quartz movements. The decision to go automatic is an exciting one and mirrors the same moves by Swiss Army and other formerly quartz-centered brands. Higher-end watches are popular and given the future looming presence of the Apple Watch over Switzerland, watchmakers need to offer slightly more than just a quartz movement in a cheap case.

This watch isn’t particularly unique – 7750s are all over the place these days – but it does offer something new from Luminox and the lume is excellent. While the design is derivative of the Omega Speedmaster and I’d love to see some luminescent tubes on the smaller hands, the price, size, and build quality are excellent. If you’re looking for a watch you can easily read in the dark, looks great, and won’t break the bank (much) then this P-38 is a mighty fine ship.

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