Blancpain Blancpain’s vintage wings
The Le Brassus brand is reissuing one of its rarest models: the Air Command. This will be very welcome news to fans of vintage military.
In the mid-1950s, Blancpain enjoyed great success with underwater professionals, thanks to its Fifty Fathoms model. This pioneering modern diving watch, which set the standard for many that followed, found its way onto the wrists of combat divers from several countries, including France and the United States. Hoping to extend this commercial success beyond the Navy, Blancpain tasked its American importer, Allen Tornek, with introducing a new chronograph for Air Force pilots. This model was to be the Air Command. In the end, however, the Air Force declined, and the watch remained a prototype. During the recent Time 2 Move event, Blancpain unveiled an updated version that remains aesthetically very close to its ancestor, in a limited edition of 500 pieces.
This launch is significant because the original watch enjoys a rather special status. First, it’s a Blancpain from the ’50s and, thanks to the reputation of the Fifty Fathoms, this type of watch has a very receptive audience. Also, only around 12 of the original Air Commands were ever made. This kind of watch attracts a very select circle of admirers who remain on the lookout, chequebook at the ready, for the appearance of another “unicorn”. The Air Command is so rare that Marc Hayek, President of Blancpain, and the man in charge of all the watch activities of the Swatch Group’s high-end watches, wears his with undisguised pride.
Air Command © Blancpain
Air Command © Blancpain
The original Air Command, an instrument watch intended for aviators, is a flyback chronograph with a knurled two-way rotating bezel, hour markers and tachymetric scale. These three elements provide the tools aviators need to perform their calculations. The bezel is somewhat unusual in that it’s flat, and it surrounds a top-hat style glass, placing it in the same family as the Fifty Fathoms. The Arabic numerals are generous and coloured beige. Finally, the Air Command stands out aesthetically from the other pilot’s watch of the period, the Type XX, by its more meticulous finishing.
The new model bears a strong resemblance to its forebear. It is only very slightly larger – the 42 mm diameter of the original would not present any problems for today’s pilots. The bezel is now made of ceramic. In the quest for modern functionality, the calibre that drives it is a far cry from the original hand-wound Valjoux movement. Blancpain has replaced it with its own calibre F388, an automatic flyback with vertical clutch, without a date, which beats at a high frequency of 5 Hz. On the wrist, the 42.5 mm timepiece doesn’t look at all bulky and, whether you’re a vintage fan or not, it’s undeniably handsome. Those 500 limited edition pieces won’t last long.
Blancpain is the archetypal Manufacture: with a watchmaking heritage dating back several centuries, it has successfully preserved its watchmaking tradition, whilst welcoming a spirit of innovation.Find out more >
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