The Blancpain Air Command chronograph belongs to the circle of legendary watches whose rareness exacerbates their appeal to collectors. While its creation remains something of a mystery and has generated a variety of stories, its military vocation is a certainty. And to the delight of watch enthusiasts, the manufacturer has now decided to reissue this legendary model in a 500-piece vintage style edition.
In the early 1950s, the French Ministry of Defence was looking for a high-precision chronograph capable of meeting demanding specifications. A few years later, other armed forces began looking for a similar instrument. Blancpain, which had already won over the American Navy with its Fifty Fathoms diver’s watch, drew inspiration from it to develop a chronograph for the United States Air Force. The total production of these watches was very limited.
Today the Blancpain Air Command model has now been given a new lease to life. The new edition exudes a style that is singularly faithful to that of the original from the 1950s.
In keeping with its forerunner, intended at the time for pilots, the new Blancpain Air Command is equipped with a ratcheted “countdown” rotating bezel. Once set before flight, this feature enables instantaneous reading of the exact time when the fuel reserve is no longer sufficient for the plane to continue its trajectory. The time scale of the bezel, as well as the dial hour-markers and hands, are made of “old radium” type Super-LumiNova, reproducing the orange hue of the original chronograph indications. The model bears a 30-minute totaliser at 3 o’clock and a 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock, while a tachymeter scale running around the chapter ring indicates speeds based on a 1000-metre distance.
In order to enhance the readability of the information and the nature of this watch, Blancpain has improved the dial opening compared to the original model. The face of the new Air Command is protected by a sapphire box-type crystal, a distinctive characteristic of the watches from this period that also appears on the back of the watch – a first for Blancpain. The 42.5 mm-diameter steel case thus reveals a snailed movement notably graced with a contrasting propeller-shaped red gold oscillating weight.
A legendary timepiece deserved an equally prestigious calibre. The new Blancpain Air Command is powered by the F388B movement, whose high frequency of 5 Hz is perfectly adapted to its functions, since it enables each second to be divided into tenth-of-a-second intervals. This high frequency ensures greater accuracy, especially when timing events. Another advantage of the movement is a vertical clutch that provides the chronograph seconds hand with a smooth start, as well as optimally seamless stop and start functions. The flyback function enables instantaneous zero-resetting and restarting.
The Blancpain Air Command is limited to 500 pieces and fitted with a patinated calf leather strap.