A legendary 500-limited piece pilot’s chronograph watch, faithfully recreated from the US Air Force’s legible airborne companion from the 1950s –Blancpain Air Command Limited Edition Black Dial Rubber Strap Watch – AC01 1130 63A.
Back in the 1950’s the US Air Force had already utilized the Fifty Fathoms diver’s watch – an archetypal diving tool whose initial design was submitted by Captain Bob Maloubier of the French “Nageuers de combat” team. Blancpain soon realised that a chronograph designed to this specification would be well-utilized by the US Air Force, and began developing what we would come to know as the Air Command watch. Twelve of the original Blancpain Air Command watches were supplied to USAF pilots through Blancpain’s US distributor, complete with a flyback chronograph function and plexiglass lens that is now incredibly rare to stumble across.
Today, Blancpain’s take on the Air Command watch is ever so slightly larger than is predecessor, measuring 42.5mm as opposed to the 1950s version which measured a mere half a millimetre less. The purpose behind the Air Command, however, was based on the design and functionality of the Type 20 watch. The French Ministry of Defence demanded a highly precise chronograph with a legible black dial and a flyback mechanism. The rest, as they say, is history.
The newer Blancpain Specialites Air Command has slightly larger Arabic numerals and a slightly bigger sized crown. Other features such as the new positioning of the chronograph pusher located at 4 o’clock (in comparison to vintage models with the pusher featuring further down the side of the case), highlight the differences in the modern Air Command variation, whose robust stainless steel case holds the Calibre F388B at its centre. In addition to this, the Blancpain Specialites Air Command watch now has no running seconds. Taking its place instead is a 12-hour totalizer for effortless control over aggregate timings of up to 12 hours. Despite these differences, the watch is a faithful extension to the rare and highly sought-after original, even down to the shape of the central hands and the design of the legible 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock.
Features of the Blancpain Specialites Air Command:
- From a functional aspect, one of the highlights of the Blancpain Specialites Air Command limited edition watch is its legible black sunburst dial with luminous coated Arabic numerals styled in the fashion of its original sibling. The bicompax layout of the chronograph 12-hour and 30-minute counters at 9 and 3 o’clock respectively, provide an appealing balance that, in many ways, supports a straightforward approach to timekeeping. In addition to the luminous treated central hour and minute hands, the dial of the Air Command watch is also equipped with a tachymeter scale around the periphery.
- The in-house made Calibre F388B, which sits inside a 30-meter water-resistant steel case provides a 50-hour power reserve and is put on show via a transparent sapphire crystal glass caseback. It is here, in fact, where the Blancpain Specialites Air Command really succeeds at capturing the charm and character of the military-inspired timekeeping tool of its past. The propeller-shaped rotors animate the movement and have been finished in rose gold for a beautiful effect.
- On top of the watch’s dial is a box-type sapphire crystal glass lens, designed to imitate the plexiglass coating of the original Air Command watch. To enhance the vintage look of the dial that sits beneath it, Blancpain has chosen to coat the appliques with an old-style radium-like luminous material that echoes the age-old look of the original design.
- The Air Command watch is completed on a brown barennia leather strap with white contrast stitching down the sides and a traditional stainless steel pin buckle. It attaches to a steel case that has retained its original shape and chamfered lugs perfectly. The bidirectional pilot’s bezel in black polished ceramic bezel can be rotated both anti-clockwise and clockwise, and assists with measuring any time-related events such as elapsed time whilst up in the air.
One of the most appealing factors about the Blancpain Air Command is its somewhat concealed history. We know little about the legacy of the original Air Command and it would be a mistake to pretend that the intrigue and mystery of this new iteration aren’t heightened all the more by the rarity and probably very limited supply of its ancestor. You can view the full spec and details of the limited edition Blancpain Air Command watch here at Owen & Robinson.