A designated blog post on this timepiece is long overdue: the iconic Flyback 2185F in the stainless steel version on the fabulous X-71 bracelet. Let’s get up close and personal with a timepiece that is just as beautiful today as it was more than a quarter century ago.
The mid 1990s have been sort of a golden age for mechanical watches. New designs and technical innovations that influence even today’s novelties have surfaced.
In 1996 Blancpain introduced a watch that can rightfully be called one of the most sophisticated daily sports watches of the decade: the Flyback Chronograph 2185F.
Based on the newly created 2100 design, the chronograph came as the non-Flyback version Ref 2185 with similar dial aesthetics as the base 2100, and as the Flyback ref 2185F with a so called military dial.
The ebony black dial features large Arabic numerals with a lot of luminous material. The design of the numerals reaches back to military watches from the 1920/30s.
The finish of the stepped dial emphasizes the hour ring and sub dials, creating a contrast rich appearance. The date window is perfectly integrated in the small seconds sub dial over the 6 o‘clock position.
Fully lumed faceted white gold hands deliver excellent readability under all light conditions, further improved by an antireflective coating on both sides of the slightly domed crystal.
The central chronograph seconds hand with its red lacquered tip is a beautiful detail that adds some color and contributes to the readability. Only the 5th of a second marks between the minute indications make little sense with a 3Hz movement, the only „flaw“ with an otherwise close to perfect timepiece.
The case of the watch with its beautiful curves and the double ring bezel provide a timeless frame for the 2185F. With 38mm in diameter and only 11mm in height the watch is a perfect blend between elegance and sports watch qualities.
The screw down crown and chronograph pushers allow for a water resistance of 100m, the screw down solid case back supports this security. And of course there’s the Blancpain engraving on the case flank.
The case back shields the movement from view, which is a bit of a shame given the beauty of caliber F185.
The architect of its base, the famous FP 1185, is Edmond Capt. He invented a reliable solution for the vertical clutch, allowing for a rattle free start of the chronograph and eliminating negative effects on the amplitude of the movement.
Introduced in 1989, caliber 1185 instantly occupied the top spot of chronograph movements. With a diameter of 26mm and only 5.5mm in height it still is the smallest automatic chronograph caliber in the world.
The operation of the chronograph functions including the Flyback operation is as smooth as you can imagine. The pushers provide just enough resistance to avoid accidental activation, the haptic experience is unrivaled.
So we have an exceptional movement, a timeless case design and a beautiful dial… and there’s still more: the X-71 bracelet.
We know this bracelet for more than 25 years now from the Trilogy, Leman and Fifty Fathoms series. To fully understand it in the context of this Flashback essay one needs to know that it was brand new at the time the Flyback chronograph was introduced.
The X-71 is undoubtedly one of the best steel bracelets in the market. Its heft, its finish and its comfort are elevating it to the top in industry. The one thing that’s missing is a quick fine adjustment at the clasp, but with two shorter links that are approximately 40% of the full link length, a good fit for the wrist can easily be achieved.
The end links attach perfectly to the watch case and the shape of the lugs is nicely extended through the end links shape. The mix of brushed and polished finish works well with both polished and brushed cases.
There are two generations of the 2185F-1130: the early watches until around 1998 had Tritium as luminous material, the later specimen used SuperLuminova. Now that most 2185F are between 20 and 25 years old, the Tritium versions have changed, just as you would expect:
The watch shown above belongs to a fellow collector, who kindly allowed me to share his photos. You see how the color of the Tritium has changed over time.
All other photos are showing my 2002 watch with SuperLuminova, and you can easily see that there’s no sign of age at all. Let me show you this watch glowing a bit:
The Flyback Chronograph 2185F-1130-71 is no doubt one of the best known Blancpain timepieces of all time. It has re-defined the benchmark for high sportive watches in the mid 1990s, and one might argue that aside all hype it holds that benchmark position still today.
It combines outstanding horological and aesthetic value, a watch that deserves to be called iconic. Now, that we have seen the trend of ever larger timepieces come and go again, it is right in the sweet spot of watch enthusiast mind sets again with its 38mm diameter and all its luxurious details. And it will come as no surprise that the watch wears just amazingly.
The 2185F has now been discontinued for a while, so it doesn’t appear on the Blancpain website anymore. But caliber F185 does: here you can find the specifics of it. If you wish to dig deeper into this movement, find yourself a copy of Lettres du Brassus No. 3 and read Jeff Kingston‘s article „Michelangelo‘s Chronograph“, it’s absolutely worth it.
Find part one of my Leman anthology here, part two here and part three here in the blog. You are also kindly invited to read my essay on the Split Seconds version of the Flyback Chronograph with caliber F186 here and the Monopusher Chronograph with cal 1185 base here in the blog.
I hope you enjoyed this essay and the photos.