Image: Blancpain

Blancpain Revives One Of The World’s Rarest Pilot’s Watches

A revival with a few modern touches.

Blancpain, the world’s oldest surviving watch brand and part of the upper echelon of Swiss luxury watchmaking, is perhaps best known for its dive watches – having invented the world’s first modern dive watch, the famous Fifty Fathoms.

But Blancpain isn’t a one-trick pony. In its 286-year-long history, Blancpain has produced everything from ultra-flat pocket watches to field watches to some of the most refined dress watches on the market. Another type of timepiece you can add to that list is pilot’s watches… Such as the legendary Air Command.

In the 1950s, the US Air Force commissioned a small number of Blancpain Air Commands – no more than a handful – examples of which these days are incredibly rare and command stratospheric prices (if you’ll pardon the pun). Back in 2019, Blancpain caused a stir by reviving the Air Command with a short limited edition model run, which were all quickly snapped up by collectors, leaving many watch fans high and dry.

Thankfully, in 2021, Blancpain has decided to bring back the Air Command collection for good, launching its revival with the handsome Air Command Flyback Chronograph: a stunning watch that’s a faithful tribute to those desirable 50s models, but with a few crucial twists.

Image: Blancpain

The first twist is that unlike the original 50s models (or the 2019 limited edition), the Air Command now comes in grade 23 titanium as standard – a high-end variety of the metal rarely used in watchmaking. Titanium, of course, is tougher yet lighter than steel, making it the perfect material for a tool watch such as the Air Command. For even more luxury, it’s also now available in red gold, too.

The second twist is what’s under the hood. The Blancpain Manufacture F388B movement, with its free-sprung silicon balance, not only resists magnetic fields plus is more accurate and hardy than the original’s movement but also features a superior 50-hour power reserve. That’s to say nothing of its flyback chronograph feature – a valuable complication for pilots. It might look old-school but it’s a thoroughly modern mechanical watch.

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The final twist is its colour scheme: a rich, deep blue in contrast to the original’s black look. This not only pays homage to modern Blancpain’s nautical focus but adds an additional touch of luxury. The dial’s subtle sunburst finish and the scratch-resistant ceramic countdown bezel are other luxurious touches.

L-R: the Blancpain Air Command Flyback Chronograph in titanium (ref. AC02 12B40 63B) and red gold (ref. AC02 36B40 63B). Images: Blancpain

The new Air Command Flyback Chronograph comes in at AU$26,500 for the titanium model and AU$42,500 for the red gold model. They’re not cheap, but they’re a damn sight cheaper than a 50s example – and a whole lot of watch for the money. Find out more at Blancpain’s website here.

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