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Blancpain - Into the Blue

Blancpain Into the Blue

Focus on the Air Command and the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet

Air Command in true Blue

In the mid-1950s, after supplying Fifty Fathoms diving watches to the U.S. Navy, Blancpain designed a pilot’s watch for the U.S. Air Force. Presumably produced in very limited quantities, it is now one of the most sought-after military chronographs of its era. Some examples have reached stratospheric prices at auction. The model’s appeal led Blancpain to launch a contemporary collection, which kicked off with a 500-piece limited edition presented in 2019. Since then, it has incorporated a men’s and ladies’ glowing blue version in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Like the original, the modern Air Command features two timing systems: a flyback chronograph and a countdown bezel.The flyback function, which is particularly useful for pilots enables them to stop, reset and start a new measurement instantly, with a single press instead of three as required by a conventional chronograph. The countdown, which measures the time remaining until the next destination, is done via a marker, to be placed opposite the minutes hand, and a counterclockwise graduation on the rotating bezel. The tachymeter scale for measuring ground speed is also present.

Air Command In True Blue

Air Command © Blancpain

The characteristic blue of the new models is spread across all the elements of the exterior: first of all on the dial where it plays on contrasts with a sunburst decoration on the base and a snailed finish on the counters. The latter take the form of a 12-hour counter and a 30-minute counter which, like its predecessor, is distinguished by elongated batons marking the first three-minute increments. The dominant color extends to the scratch-resistant ceramic of the bezel and the leather strap with white stitching. The vintage look continues in the shape of the luminescent hands and numerals, the glassbox-type configuration of the sapphire crystal and the piston-type chronograph pushers.

The new Air Command watches are housed in cases – 42.5mm in diameter for the men’s version and 36.2mm for the women’s version – made of red gold or grade 23 titanium, a rare quality in watchmaking. They are driven by self-winding movements – Caliber F388B for the men’s model, F188B for the women’s model – featuring free-sprung balances regulated by inertia screws, which facilitates fine adjustments and increases shock resistance; and from silicon balance springs that are insensitive to magnetic fields, which guarantees increased precision throughout the power reserve. These movements are equipped with column-wheel chronograph mechanisms with a vertical clutch that ensure perfect starting and stopping without the stuttering occasionally produced by horizontal constructions. At Blancpain, a staunch defender of mechanical engineering, flyback chronographs have a prominent place in the women’s range. In 1998, the brand was the first to introduce a model of this kind. In 2022, it continues on the course it has set with the Air Command, the sportiest of all. 

Two new looks for a watch with twin identities

Underwater DNA and urban DNA have always met and mingled in Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe. In 1953, with its famous 42mm Fifty Fathoms, Blancpain responded to the needs of professional divers and set codes that were subsequently adopted by the entire watch industry. Three years later, Blancpain presented a version for the general public, with a smaller 37mm diameter, a thinner bezel and a useful daily function, the date. This was the Bathyscaphe, named after the underwater exploration device invented by Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard. Since its return in 2013, the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe has incorporated various complications, notably including the complete date with moon phase, which is now the subject of two new editions.

Air Command In True Blue

Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape Quantième Complet © Blancpain

Water-resistant to 300m, with a unidirectional rotating bezel, excellent legibility and the ability to withstand all manner of tests involved in underwater use, the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune is a true diver’s watch likely to please deep sea explorers. With its calendar, it also has something liable to appeal to everyone, especially since the complication is perfectly secure. It is indeed possible to modify any indication at any time, without risking damage to the movement. This is not the case for many calendars that prohibit any adjustment over long time periods, before and after midnight, while the date-change process is underway.

At Blancpain, the complete calendar is a stellar complication, not only for its usefulness, but also for its very distinctive configuration: a date display via a central hand, which is always distinctive, pointing to the dates on a circle drawn inside the chapter ring, along with the day of the week and the month in apertures at 12 o’clock. This calendar is usually complemented by a moon phase, a complication that the Manufacture in Le Brassus returned to the forefront of the watchmaking scene in 1983. In the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, where it made its debut in 2018, the complete calendar with moon phases harmoniously shares the spotlight with the hour-markers and main hands – rectangular just like in the 1950s Bathyscaphe,– all coated with Super-LumiNova® to ensure legibility in the depths.

For 2022, the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune adopts two new looks. One leans toward the underwater DNA with blue symbolizing Blancpain’s commitment to ocean protection: a satin-brushed red gold case, bezel with shiny blue ceramic insert and Ceragold™ graduation, sunburst blue-gradient dial, gold hour-markers, gilded hands and moon. The other leans toward the urban DNA with subtle shades of gray: a satin-brushed grade 23 titanium case, bezel with anthracite ceramic insert and Liquidmetal™ graduation, anthracite sunburst dial, gold hour-markers, rhodium-plated hands and moon. On the 6654.P self-winding movement visible through the back, the rotor of the red gold model is itself made of red gold, while that of the titanium model comes in anthracite NAC-treated gold. As far as the wristband is concerned, there is a choice between a NATO or sailcloth strap – and for the titanium watch, a bracelet in the same metal.

 

As a WorldTempus reader, we are delighted to offer you the latest digital version of this GMT magazine that you can download here as well as the Geneva Watch Tour insert. Happy reading!

Spécial Salons Horlogers 2022

GMT Magazine n° 77 © GMT Magazine

 

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