Let’s get closer to what may very well be the superstar among the new Blancpain timepieces, the new Air Command ref AC01-1130-63A, a 42,5mm stainless steel no date aviation chronograph based on the iconic original from 1957.
Amongst collectors of vintage timepieces the Blancpain Air Command is a legend and also a myth. No one can tell for sure how many original Air Command timepieces were produced in the late 1950s. Let‘s listen to puristspro moderator and highly experienced vintage watch collector Nicolas Fondaneche, who kindly supported this report with his passion and knowledge:
„The Air Command is a mysterious piece. A 42 mm chronograph with a Valjoux 222 which is a flyback chronograph and hacking seconds.
The case seems to be borrowed from the Fifty Fathoms, with drilled lugs. The insert is very specific, and the hands are, too, at the exception of the chronograph seconds hand which is also borrowed to the Fifty Fathoms. Most probably produced in the late 50’s , early 60’s.
Now, the big question is to know how many were made. I only saw three in the reality, and the same number in pictures. And all of them have case numbers which are very close to each other. An argument in favor of an extreme rarity. Most probably much less than 100 were made.
And the other big mystery is to know for which market it has been done. It has been said that it was sold through some PX, but nothing is sure.“
As to Nicolas‘ last point, the research by Blancpain indicates that following the success with the Fifty Fathoms becoming an official U.S. Navy intrument, North Amercian Blancpain distribution agent Tornek tried to pitch the Air Command as an official watch to the U.S. Air Force in 1957. This attempt was not entirely successful, but a small yet unknown number of Air Command timepieces were subsequently sold in so called PX stores in U.S. Air Force bases, at least in Germany. The Air Command however was indeed confirmed an official military aviation watch with the Colombian Air Force.
From 1957 to 2019
Now that you have seen the vintage Air Command, let me show you the amazing re-edition:
The new Air Command sticks very close to the vintage timepiece, the dial configuration is the same, the hands are true to the original, the ceramic bezel looks astonishingly close and is executed in fantastic way with very fine engravings for the countdown indications.
The case shapes are following the watch of the mid 1950, albeit in slightly larger size with 42,5mm at 13,77mm height.
Let’s get closer to the dial: the fonts are mirroring the vintage piece with the main arabic numerals just being a bit larger. Obviously the Blancpain signature has changed over time, and the word Flyback has been added to the dial.
The Luminova used is mimicking dark aged Tritium or Radium, the same goes for the bezel. Whether you like „fauxtina“ or not… the color of the Luminova clearly adds a lot of warmth to the appearance of this utterly beautiful watch.
I cannot show you the caseback of the Air Command with own photos since the prototype I photographed did not yet have the correct rotor assembled. What I can tell you is that you will see the automatic calibre F388B, which is based on the F385 but changed for the bicompax chrono layout and the absence of a date function, through a brilliantly executed sapphire case back. Once I can take photos of a finalized watch I will update this section of the report, until then you can see the back in the official press release below to get an idea.
The new Air Command comes on a dark brown distressed Barennia strap with polished tang buckle. And with a moderate size of 42,5mm it wears very comfortably even on smaller wrists like mine.
I applaud Blancpain for not having taken the easy route by using the slightly larger Bathyscaphe case for this watch. A lot of attention has been paid to be faithful to one of the most iconic heritage timepieces of the Manufacture, and that is immediately recognizable in this watch.
If you are as excited about the new old Air Command as I am, don‘t wait too long: it is limited to 500 pieces worldwide and probably the closest you will ever get to the vintage icon.
I hope you enjoyed the introduction and the photos. A heartfelt Merci Beaucoup goes to Nicolas Fondaneche for his insights and contribution to this report, and of course to Blancpain for giving me the opportunity to see the watch and take photos!
Below you will find the official press release and the technical data of the Blancpain Air Command.