Home Watch Types GMT Hands-On Review of the Luminox P-38 Lightning

Hands-On Review of the Luminox P-38 Lightning

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Editor’s Note:  Today, we are taking a look at a brand that we have not had on our pages for some time – Luminox – courtesy of one of our long-time readers, Ken Nichols.  If you like his stuff, you can check him out on Instagram and Twitter.

Look up. It’s a bird, a plane. No, it’s a Luminox P-38 Lightning 9421 GMT watch. This large 44 mm brushed stainless steel bad boy is easy-to-spot on the wrist or, in my case, on the shelf of a local retailer.

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Luminox created a niche’ with its luminescence Navy SEAL watches in 1989. The watch maker builds off that military connection with this “air” family series. This particular model is named after the fighter plane of the Second World War that flew 100 mph faster than any plane at the time and was a versatile menace to anyone in its sites. It was a dive bomber, night fighter and interceptor. Its dual fuselage gave it a unique shape and fitting nickname: the “forked-tale devil.”

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This watch is no devil but it does have an uncommon cushion case that deceptively hides its quartz movement. I have to believe this watch aspires to have the same mechanical heart of its big brothers in the same family series. Still, its dual time-zone function and aviator theme make a favorable first impression.

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The cushion case of brushed stainless steel contrasts nicely with a glossy, black aluminum 24-hour bezel. I have a large hand and wrist (two, actually) and it looks appropriately sized for me, but its height at 14 mm still resists shirt cuffs. I really like the detail on the flared case on both sides and have seen a similar design on a high-end Swiss collection from Akrivia.

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The sapphire crystal with a screw-down crown and case back are impressive too. The crown at 3 o’clock is a railroad style button that is rugged and easy to grasp. The case aligns nicely with a centered groove in the crown. The watch gives you 200 meters of water resistance, which is twice what I’ve seen on smaller brands with the same movements. Still, this isn’t a dive watch, so don’t get any bright ideas.

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Look into the black dial and its three concentric rings create a dial-depth which looks more like an amphitheater than a watch dial. The raised Arabic numerals are large and visible in an aviator’s eye-chart way, but I don’t mind the size. The inner dial closest to its center is the 24-hour time indicator and its markers are spaced between the even numbers. The applied logo is as reflective as the hour and minute hands too. I like most of these dial details, but I’m a symmetrical guy (you know, one hand, one wrist on each side) and so I get a little uncomfortable when the date window at 3 o’clock cuts off half of the number three.

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The missing 3 is a design limitation dictated by the Swiss Ronda Powertech 515.24H movement. They have to put that date somewhere. It has a hack setting feature and the functions are pretty easy to set: turn counter clockwise to unscrew it; pull one click and turn counter clockwise to set the second time zone; or clockwise to set the date; and pull the crown two clicks to set the time.

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The baton hour and minute hands are aluminum with the luminescence tubes in the hand’s center. After going through the entire watch, it finally hit me that the hour hand for the second time zone was the closest design element to the twin-boomed fighter plane. Its “ice blue” tip is surrounded by the sides of the aluminum which could be the right and left twin tales of the fighter plane. Ok, ok – I guess Luminox can name the watch after the most widely used fighter in WWII.

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The luminescenceworks well to support the Luminox name which Latin roots come from lumi (for light) and nox (night). The outer-most-dial-ring markers glow yellow, as do the hour, minute and 24-hour hands. The marker above the 12 is blue, or ice-blue if you go by the specs. It’s important to note that the numerals do not glow, but this doesn’t limit the readability too much. The bottom line: it’s not going to be your nightlight, but it will let tell time in the dark.

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The case back has a raised outline of the war plane giving you a flyover at 400 mph. The plane’s designer, Lockheed Martin, also got its logo on the back. The black leather strap (no bracelet available) is as wide as an airplane wing at 28 mm, but it looks essential in keeping the case on the wrist. It is comfortable but you still can’t forget it’s there, and you better have the large wrist to put it on.

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Overall, this watch has decent functions for the price if you consider another time zone and date essential. I don’t, but I’m still a sucker for a cushion case and black dial. This watch has a few missions in it. It would wear well in the casual world in which most of us spend our time, but that’s about it. I don’t see this under your business suit. It’s not quite as versatile as the original P-38 plane.

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If I had to take that same $800 to my favorite watch retailer, I’d find an aviator watch with a mechanic movement for about the same price (for example, Hamilton , Archimede, or Laco ) Sure, you may forfeit the dual time zone, have to remember what date it is, or even settle for an Asian movement, but you could get the aviator look and classic, mechanical dependability that’s been around before airplanes got cool names. luminox.com

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Watch for review provided by Levy’s Fine Jewelry (Instagram)

Watch Overview

  • Brand & Model: P-38 Lightning 9421 GMT
  • Price: $795
  • Who we think it might be for: This is for someone who wants the big-watch look and unique case design along with a hassle-free life of a quartz watch. The two time zones helps you know when to call your wife when she’s traveling.
  • Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: I would not buy one for myself but would take the same money and either buy two of the simpler, original models in a different Luminox family (sea, land, space) or one of their mechanicals in the “air” family. I really like the brand’s look.
  • If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: I would recommend Luminox consider making the case height smaller.
  • What spoke to me the most about this watch: I liked the dial elements and the cushion case.

Specifications

  • Series: P-38 LIGHTNING 9420 SERIES
  • Family: Air
  • Movement (technology): Ronda 515 second time zone with special HH Quartz
  • Size of case diameter (mm): 44 mm
  • Height of case: 14 mm
  • Weight: 120 g
  • Case material: Stainless Steel brushed
  • Case Back: Screwed
  • Crown: Security Screw-On
  • Crystal/Glass material: Sapphire glass anti reflective coating
  • Water resistance (m/ft/atm): 200 / 660 / 20
  • Strap/Bracelet material: Genuine Leather
  • Illumination: Night Vision Tubes (25 years)

2 COMMENTS

  1. That was a great review with witty comparisons and wonderful photos. That one of the case back is the bomb. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

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