TC-9 LunarScope

TC-9 has raised their game. Now, don't get me wrong; I've liked their previous models, particularly the 1972 Bronze Diver I reviewed earlier this year. It's just that with the LunarScope Mechanical Chronograph, the company has taken a step away from their familiar tool watch themes and created something different, nuanced, and utterly charming.  

TC-9 LunarScope Chronograph cream

The LunarScope didn't get its name from any moon-spotting capabilities, but rather from the H.G. Wells novel, "The First Men in the Moon." It answers the question, "What would an Omega Speedmaster moon watch look like if designed in 1900? It is not a question I have ever asked, but it certainly a fun launch pad for a design concept. I'm pleased to see that they steered clear of any steampunk clich├ęs and instead landed on a tasteful, old-world, instrument aesthetic. 

TC-9 LunarScope Chronograph cream

Let's start with the heart, a SeaGull ST-19. This hand winding, column wheel unit was originally the 1940's vintage Venus 175. In 1961, the Tianjin Watch Company bought the design from the Swiss firm, and it has been in service ever since. I have encountered it in several microbrands over the years, and it powers three watches in my collection today: the SeaGull 1963 Chinese Air Force Reissue, the Magrette Moana Pacific Chronograph, and the Marloe Lomond Chronoscope. The ST-19 will run 40 hours when fully wound, and features some lovely finishing, including blued screws, gold wheels, and Geneva stripes, all of which you can ogle through the sapphire display caseback. TC-9 gives each one a two-week evaluation to ensure accuracy.

TC-9 LunarScope Chronograph cream caseback

Protecting the movement is a 42mm case constructed from the same distinctive red bronze alloy (not CuSn8) as the other TC-9 watches I have reviewed. It has flat sides, a brushed finish, and curved, tapered lugs. This particular review sample had been around a bit, so it got a good polish before it was shipped. Based on my previous experience, I know that without assistance it will develop a mellow reddish-brown patina. My only issue is that the edge of the bezel and inner edges of the lugs were on the sharp side. None of them touch your skin, so it is hardly a dealbreaker, but it does make the case feel slightly unfinished. I have taken issue with TC-9's tendency to finish the crowns on their bronze watches in black, but I liked the way it worked on the 1972 Diver, and I like it even more on the LunarScope. The crown and both pushers are black, which ties them to the black caseback ring, strap buckle, and bezel insert. There is nothing to complain about here; it all just looks so right.

TC-9 LunarScope Chronograph cream crown

The LunarScope is 42mm wide, 49mm long, and 14.5mm thick from its caseback to the peak of the domed crystal. It's an athletic piece, but its tapered and curved lugs allowed it to tuck in against my 6.5" wrist just enough to maintain a healthy wrist presence without appearing oversized. Water resistance is 50m, which is sufficient for a sport/casual watch, if shy of what one might consider a tool watch. This is fine, because, in spite of its rugged case, the LunarScope is so pretty you will want to show it off in more genteel environments too. 

TC-9 LunarScope Chronograph cream wrist shot

The bezel is fixed and sports a glossy black ceramic insert engraved with a telemeter index. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing that can make a ceramic insert better is lume and TC-9 comes through. Will I ever use a chronograph in total darkness? Probably not, but who cares? It looks absolutely magnificent. 

TC-9 LunarScope Chronograph lume

The cream-color dial is spot on; rich and understated without veering too far into yellow or gold. It is a lovely complement to the bronze case, faceted rose gold hour markers, and long, lumed pencil hands. The 60-minute and 30-second subdials are silver, recessed, and textured. The subtle, low contrast cream and silver tones really complement each other. Their indicators are black, as is the second hand and tachymeter index that rings the dial. I love the fact that they engraved the logo instead of printing it. The "ghost" effect is yet one more detail that makes this watch so enjoyable.  

TC-9 LunarScope Chronograph cream

In true vintage fashion, the LunarScope has a Hesalite box crystal. Sapphire has its place, but if you really want a retro feel, only plexiglass will do. I prefer its warmth, authenticity, and the fact that you can easily polish out the inevitable dings and scratches. 

TC-9 chose lightly padded, tan Horween leather for the strap. It is the ideal material for this watch in that it is durable, well-tailored, and develops great character as it wears in. The buckle is black and engraved with the brand's logo. 

TC-9 LunarScope Chronograph cream

So, the LunarScope has an appealing retro vibe, a quality mechanical movement, a lumed ceramic bezel insert, a domed plastic crystal, and a premium leather strap. If you were to assemble a list of things The Time Bum wants in a watch, it would look just like this. Best of all, it is affordable. The 500 unit run sells for £425 (about $552 USD). The watch is in stock now on the TC-9 web store. ⬩

TC-9 LunarScope Chronograph cream

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