At the recent Swatch Group Time to Move summit in Switzerland, we got to go hands on with some of the amazing new timepieces making their way to stores now. While I got to visit the Blancpain Manufacture — more coming on that soon -and see all of the new watches for 2019 first hand, it was the new sport watches that intrigued me. I love the newest Villeret watches coming out (more on those soon), but more importantly, I also really enjoyed talking with Marc Hayek, CEO of Blancpain, about the newest sport timepieces. Today, we take a closer look at one of those two key watches: the new Air Command chronograph that joins the brand’s legendary Air Command pilot watch collection.
Blancpain Air Command Chronograph
Blancpain has a long history in the world of aviation — with pilot watches dating back to the early 1950’s. This year, the brand revisits that past with a re-issue of the legendary Blancpain Air Command chronograph. Being created in a limited edition of just 500 pieces, the 42.5mm watch deftly recalls a timepiece the brand developed for military pilots. In fact, in the early 1950’s, most ministries of defense needed a high-precision chronograph with a black dial and luminous hour markers for optimal legibility. Other requirements included a flyback function and a small seconds hand. Blancpain had already developed a strong relationship in America with its Fifty Fathoms Dive watches (used by the American Navy), so it developed a chronograph for the US Air Force. That Air Command watch was offered to American military pilots through the distributor Allen V. Tornek, for whom Blancpain created limited edition (maybe as few as a dozen) watches as prototypes.
Now, the brand recalls that special timepiece. The new Air Command Chronograph is crafted in stainless steel and features a black dial that is larger than the original thanks to a box-style sapphire crystal. The dial boasts an “old radium” style orange SuperLumiNova numerals and markers for easy reading, and offers a tachymeter scale on the outer dial flange for measuring speeds based on a 1000-meter distance. The bi-directional bezel is ratcheted and offers a countdown via ceramic inserts. The self-winding movement boasts a bi-compax (two counters) flyback (instantaneous zero reset and restart) chronograph with 12-hour and 30-minute totalizers.
The high-frequency movement, F388B, beats at 5 Hz and enables timing in tenth-of-a-second intervals. The watch is equipped with a column-wheel system with a vertical clutch.The flyback function enables instantaneous zero-resetting and restarting. The rotor is shaped like an aircraft propeller. All of that beauty is visible via a sapphire caseback.
The watch is highly functional, and has incredible vintage looks. In fact, the re-issue is practically exact, but with a few tweaks to make the new piece more readable and functional. This highly exclusive watch is finished wit ha patinated calf-leather strap that further underscores the Manufacture’s 1950’s military aviation expertise. One look at it on the wrist and lovers of pilot watches are most likely going to soar pretty high. It has a pretty incredible profile on the wrist, as well. Sadly, just 500 pieces are being made. The Air Command retails for $19,800.