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Blancpain Air Command Chronograph Watch

Blancpain Air Command Chronograph Watch Watch Releases

Tackling the re-release of a classic is risky business. Oftentimes, I feel major brands get too cute when trying to rebirth an icon from their past. There seems to be pressure coming from somewhere in these big organisations to make changes, when sometimes it just isn’t necessary. In fact, a lot of the time, it’s completely counter-intuitive to bring back a powerful design and mess it up for the sake of novelty. What should be new about these re-imaginings is the level of quality we’re able to achieve with modern technology. That should be enough. And with the Blancpain Air Command, back at least after many years in the cold, it seems that the world’s oldest watch brand has hit the nail on the head.

The Air Command has an interesting parentage. It was born in the late fifties, following the success of the fifty fathoms. The US Navy had been so impressed with Blancpain’s famous dive watch, the Swiss manufacture decided to produce a very similar model for Airforce for use in the skies.

Blancpain Air Command Chronograph Watch Watch Releases

Stylistically, therefore, the Air Command is basically a Fifty Fathoms with a Flyback chronograph function, a tachymeter scale, and a countdown bezel as opposed to the count up bezel used on the Blancpain FF.

Although it may seem as if count down bezels would be more suitable for a dive watch, they are far less common in that field that count up timers (on which you set the zero point to the minute hand so you can see how long you’ve been underwater). Apparently, count down bezels were often used on military or pilot watches to coordinate strikes or to track an exact period of time since a bomb drop. They were often, as this one is, bi-directional so no good for ISO 6425, although one hopes that while piloting a plane that doesn’t become immediately, and unexpectedly relevant to your life (or the continuation thereof). And at any rate, the water resistance of this Blancpain Air Command is only 30 meters, so it wouldn’t do you much good in the shower, let alone the briny deep…

Amazingly, despite its handsome looks and excellent functionality the Blancpain Air Command was never adopted by the US Airforce. About a year after Allen V. Tornek, Blancpain’s US distributor, failed to convince the airforce to buy in to the project, a slightly different version was offered to the Columbian army, but only a handful of models ever made it into their hands.

As a result the watch became an instant grail for Blancpain collectors. Examples of the original have sold for around $99,000 at auction. Obviously, there are some collectors of fine things that will pay that kind of money for something just because it’s rare. But it sure helps when that thing happens to be excellently designed and very much deserving of its day in the sun.

Blancpain Air Command Chronograph Watch Watch Releases

Old (right) and new (left) side by side

Well, the Air Command finally has its chance to shine. Although not a general release, the 500 pieces being debuted will significantly bump up its presence in the world and in the minds of watch aficionados. And having stayed so incredibly faithful to the original, historians will no doubt be pleased. The biggest changes seem to be the increased case size, however marginal, from 42mm to 42.5mm, significantly chunkier lugs (albeit with a very similar profile), and the installation of a modern, high-end movement.

Blancpain Air Command Chronograph Watch Watch Releases

The Blancpain Air Command is powered by the F388B movement, which is based on the Frederic Piguet 1185. With an El Primero-matching 5Hz operating speed, this high-frequency flyback chronograph is not messing around. The super-cool propellor rotor puts on a show through the sapphire case back, as the silicon hairspring breathes away beneath it. The price of the Blancpain Air Command will be CHF 18,500 and it will be strictly limited to 500 pieces worldwide. blancpain.com

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  • SuperStrapper

    – Hey. We should release a new watch.
    – We could…. Or, I found an old one we haven’t re-released yet?
    – BRILLIANT!

    • Haha, it is nice though, isn’t it.

      • SuperStrapper

        No argument! But WhiteBread is certainly among the heaviest tokers on the Wayback Bong. I just feel like they are actually good enough to do a lot more new stuff rather than continually reach back. But, if it didn’t sell they wouldn’t do it so what the hell do I know.

    • Gokart Mozart

      Yes, but I think it is a cool looking batch, and deserves a new model.

      I personally love vintages watches just because I think most of them looked much better back in the day, and better than there modern counterparts.

      • SuperStrapper

        I don’t mind the vintage appeal, but I’m a haute kinda guy. I actually prefer rehashes to actual vintage watches because I can’t stand things like plastic crystals, etc.

  • I like it! Although it looks more like a Breitling Superocean Heritage.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    There’s a few things I like about this watch. It’s watch shaped, worn on the wrist, and tells the time, that’s were my fondness for it ends. From the hacked numbers to the strap gap and its inner ring to the Tackythingy it just annoys me. The propeller ( with an e ) rotor is a nice touch.

  • Nello Alexandri

    I thought the Piguet 1185 ran at 21,600?

    • WINKS

      Chronograph module on top of the 5Hz mov’t.

      • Nello Alexandri

        Nope. I don’t think so. Fully integrated chrono movement since the 1180 was produced.
        I guess I will do some reading on this “F388B”.

      • GalaxyGuy

        The base of this movement is the F385, which is an integrated chronograph movement, and not a Piguet 1185. My guess is that they just removed the date and running seconds from the F385 to get the F388.

  • Jerry Davis

    Like the overall look but I look at my watches all the time to double check the date. Prefer a large date window.
    Also, for 18 grand there are A LOT of options out there.

  • DanW94

    What a great looking watch. One of the cooler rotors I’ve seen. Don’t understand why companies don’t bump up the WR on these re-releases. It is a tool watch after all.

    • Joe

      I’m not normally one for “themed” rotors but I like what they did here.

      They placed more mass towards the edges (almost making it appear like a peripheral rotor) and cutout the main rotor so that it’s closer to a mechanical/manual movement in regard to visibility.

  • BNABOD

    lovely but so flippin pricey…..

  • WatchNeophyte

    Just too pricey, other than that a beautiful watch that I would happily accept as a gift. I also agree with some others below, the water resistance could certainly be a bit better, especially considering the Breguet Type XXs are rated at 100M.

  • spice

    Nice but rather pricey and for me, bracelet, 100m water resistance and date window at “6” would be useful.

  • Steve M

    There is so many other options available by other manufacturers at a much more affordable price.

    • Joe

      I guess this is just a way of saying “this watch doesn’t float my boat”?

      You could say the same thing for almost all mechanical watches these days 🙂

  • Simply gorgeous. Price be damned.

  • Joe

    I have the same thoughts as you.

    1) Even if I did want this watch, I don’t have a relationship with anyone working in their boutiques so very unlikely I could get one.
    2) If they mainly sell to their previous customers, how do they expect the brand to find new customers?
    3) They simply seem to be obsessed by Limited Editions. I really don’t understand why.

    I would definitely be interested in a 40/41mm non-LE FF – but not with the orangey fauxtina like on their Barakuda.
    All they need to do is to offer a FF at the right size (ie alternatives to the 43/45mm they already have), right price, non-LE and perhaps with a few colour variations and I think they could sell really well.

  • Ulysses31

    Looks sweet, but I could do without the tachymeter scale. Maybe that’s an essential element for a watch like this; for me though, it just looks bad.

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