The Air Command is one of Blancpain’s rarest pieces, the kind of watch that most collectors would consider grail level. Produced in the 1950s, it was designed for the US Air Force and, as it didn’t go into fully-fledged production, is a seriously rare find. By rare I mean only a dozen were ever actually made. The last to go under the hammer achieved in excess of £75,000.
When next one goes to auction however, it’s likely to achieve far higher, considering that the tiny run of pieces is the inspiration behind Blancpain’s latest archival release the Air Command Flyback Chronograph Limited Edition.
Cosmetically the new watch looks a lot like the original. In fact, aside from an obvious lack of age it’s an almost-mirror image. There are subtle differences; it actually declares that it’s a flyback for one, which the original kept hush-hush. The subdials have been moved further away from the tachymeter and the numerals are slightly larger to increase legibility, but they’re the kind of changes you can only see when the two are side-by-side.
The case too is similar, with just a .5mm gain on the original 42mm model (that’s a 42.5mm stainless steel case if maths fails you). Other than that it really is a faithful reproduction of the original. Hell, these may even be changes would have made it in if the Air Command Flyback ever made it into production; it’s impossible to say.
Where there is a big point of difference though is the movement. As with all but the most exclusive of collector’s releases, Blancpain have equipped the Limited Edition with a modern movement, namely the Blancpain caliber F388B automatic chronograph. It’s a stunning piece of horology, counting as finely as 1/10th of a second.
That movement has been equipped with a propeller-shaped rotor, a not-so-subtle link to the watch’s aviation history that is certainly not in the original. Still, it’s a charming touch, if a little on-the-nose. Even if it’s a bit blunt for some, it won’t stop this being one hell of a successful watch for Blancpain. It’s less limited than the 12-strong original at 500 examples, but unless you’re quick you’ll be almost as likely to get your hands on one as the other.
Price & Specs:
Model Name: Blancpain Air Command
Case/Dial: 42.5mm diameter x 13.77mm thickness, polished and satin-brushed stainless steel, sunburst black dial, tachymeter scale, two-way rotating steel bezel with ceramic insert and Super-LumiNova markers, sapphire crystals front and caseback
Water Resistance: 3 bar / 30m / 100ft
Movement: Cal. F388B, in-house automatic column-wheel flyback chronograph
Functions: Hours, minutes, flyback chronograph, 30-minute counter, 12-hour counter
Power Reserve: 50h
Frequency: 36,000 vph
Strap: 22mm brown calf leather
Price: CHF 18,500, limited to 500 pieces
More information at www.blancpain.com