Many are familiar with the “Fifty Fathoms” collection by Blancpain, but shortly after they introduced that model, along came the “Air Command”. The reason one is a well-known timepiece, while the other had been forgotten, is a wrong Blancpain now intends to correct. But, although reissuing classic watches has been a current trend in the horology industry, there are many factors that need to be kept in consideration.
As aforementioned this watch is a re-issue of the vintage collectible specifically built for the US Air Force in the late 1950’s. It was designed by Allen V. Tornek, who was the same designer of the “Fifty Fathoms” model line, which was also manufactured by Blancpain for the US Navy. But, despite the success of the “Fifty Fathoms” among the US Navy, which led the US Air Force to request something be created with them in mind. When all was said and done the US Air Force ended up backing away from the deal and did not adopt the “Air Command” models. Later on a slightly tweaked version was offered to the Colombian army, but only a scarce number of these watches reached that destination; hence the increased collectability of this particular watch.
This timepiece is so rare that is has rarely been seen in public. One online publication that researched this could only find one recent instance, which dates back to May 2016 when a vintage “Blancpain Air Command” was sold by Phillips at auction.
This new reissue comes in a 42.5mm case made of stainless-steel with a screw-down sapphire crystal exhibition case back, which allows to view the inner workings of the mechanical movement. Right away it deviates from the original “Air Command” that was slightly smaller at 42mm and had a solid screw-down case back that also housed a different movement non in-house caliber movement.
On this new sapphire flip-side besides the view we encounter an 18k rose-gold rotor shaped as a propeller, hovering over the silicon hairspring, as a very cool reference to this watches “Air Force” origins.
Mounted to the case is a bi-directional ratcheted rotating countdown bezel made of black polished ceramic and luminous hour markers, unlike the “count up” bezel used on the “Fifty Fathoms” model.
The lugs on this updated edition also seem to be thicker than the drilled lugs found on the vintage model. All topped by a boxed sapphire crystal, instead of acrylic as the vintage edition. Water-resistance on this watch can reach up to 30 meters (96 feet).
Time is exhibited on a black sunburst dial with Arabic numerals, followed by a white printed 60-minute scale; while a 1000 tachymeter scale is on its other side nearing the periphery of the dial. There are two sub-dials: a 30-minute counter at the 3 o’clock position and 12-hour counter at the 9 o’clock position.
The central steel pilot-style hands and Arabic numerals have all been fitted with a radium superluminova coating, for an enhanced legibility. This luminescence gives off an “ecru” (that means “raw” or “unbleached”) that resembles a faux-patina like color, as seen on the bezel markings, which gives this watch a vintage look.
Although this dial is a very close to being exactly as the original there are some differences: the sub-seconds has been replaced with a 12-hour counter, there is a thinner font on the rotating countdown bezel and Blancpain has used a different font for the “Flyback” wording above the 6:00 position.
Blancpain Air Command Chronograph
This “Blancpain Air Command Chronograph” (Ref#: AC01-1130-63A) is powered by the self-winding mechanical movement, caliber F388B with 35 jewels, 297 components and 36,000 vph. While the original 1950’s model was powered by Valjoux 222 caliber. Power reserve on this watch can last up to 50 hours, when fully wound.
Mounted to the watch is a brown patinated calf leather strap, secured to the wrist by a steel buckle. This is a limited edition of only 500 manufactured pieces. For more up to date information visit the official Blancpain website here.
MSRP: CHF 18,500
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