Originally produced by Blancpain in the 1950s, and supposedly intended for use by the US Air Force (USAF), the Air Command collection is inspired along the lines of the brand’s Type 20 spec and produced in a limited batch of 12, offered to USAF pilots through Blancpain’s US distributor, Allen Tornek. A highly sought-after 1950s Blancpain chronograph on the auction market, the brand’s first re-edition in 2019 sold out quickly, and so for 2021, the Blancpain Air Command Flyback Chronograph returns with more modern aesthetics in Titanium – just in time for Christmas.
Featuring sophisticated styling and a distinctive sun-ray finished dial, the new Blancpain Air Command Flyback Chronograph in titanium offers two distinct timing modes: a chronograph with flyback function and a countdown bezel. Born in the mid-1950s, the Air Command chronograph is probably the rarest Blancpain watch of its era. With only a few rare appearances at auction, the only existing traces of its past are the few snippets of information sporadically gathered at auctions a Philipp’s catalogue notes: “Blancpain was hit by the quartz crisis and … had to sell many of its assets, including some unfinished watches. With only a handful of specimens of this mythical model known to have survived, it is hard to determine what the exact specifications of the Air Command are.”
Indeed, Blancpain Air Command chronographs have fetched stratospheric prices – and so a model in titanium, fully reflecting the spirit of the vintage pilot’s watch rather than another cynical re-issue (read: money grab), basically shows an “alternate reality” instead of the one where “no orders were placed and the Air Command project was not pursued”. Sharing similarities in the design with the original model, the titanium Air Command Chronograph is equipped with a 42.5 mm steel case, a bi-directional bezel, a black dial with luminous Arabic numerals and hands, a tachymeter scale on the dial. It features a flyback chronograph and a countdown-type rotating bezel. The flyback function is a valuable element for pilots, as it enables them in a single press to reset the current timing operation and start a new one while the chronograph is running. With a conventional chronograph, each new measurement requires three presses – on two separate pushers – to stop, reset and restart the mechanism. The purpose of the countdown bezel is to indicate the time remaining until the destination is reached. Its numerals or hour-markers run counter-clockwise, unlike those on the bezel of a diver’s watch. The Blancpain Air Command also has a tachymeter scale indicating ground speeds, a 30-minute counter with three elongated markers marking three-minute increments and a 12-hour counter.
Departing from its 2019 limited edition, the latest Blancpain Air Command chronograph is a technical-looking serial production model in titanium with a sumptuous blue dial. Blancpain has chosen to highlight these indications by means of a deep blue colour that energises the character of the watch, instilling the perfect touch of modernity and elegant sophistication. The dial is enhanced by a fine sunburst pattern, while the chronograph counters are finely snailed, heightening the legibility of the timepiece. Aided by use of Super-LumiNova on the bezel, hands and hour-markers, the new Air Command Chronograph is optimal for both day and night operations. Further intensifying a connoisseur’s nostalgia, Blancpain has equipped both sides of its Air Command model with a “glass box” sapphire crystal, a strong aesthetic element of 1950s models.
Available in red gold or grade 23 titanium – a high-end variety rarely used in watchmaking – the 13.7mm case with alternating brushed surfaces and polished accents on the sides of the lugs, results in a highly refined timekeeping instrument with a sportier outlook, for sure the aesthetics are vintage but the hues of titanium give it a contemporary countenance which plays up the contrasting elements.
Powered by a column-wheel actuated high-beat Manufacture F388B movement (a variant of the F385), distinguished by a free-sprung silicon balance oscillating at a frequency of 5 Hz, this Blancpain Air Command doesn’t showcase running seconds but instead features 30-minute and 12-hour counters. The free-sprung balance-and- spring assembly regulated by inertia screws was conceived to facilitate fine adjustments and increase shock-resistance. Compared to generally used metal balance-springs, the silicon balance-spring is insensitive to magnetic fields and guarantees greater precision throughout the power reserve. The 5 Hz frequency not only contributes to improved accuracy, but also enables a clear division of the seconds into 1/10th intervals.
New Blancpain Air Command Chronograph in Titanium Price & Specs
Case 42.50mm Grade 23 titanium case with 30 metres water resistance
Movement Automatic Manufacture Calibre F388B with 50 hours power reserve