In the early 1950s, the French Ministry of Defence was looking for a high-precision chronograph capable of meeting demanding specifications. The watch to be selected must have a black dial with luminous hour-markers and hands to maximise legibility. The movement must be equipped with a flyback function, as well as a small seconds hand. A few years later, other armed forces began looking for a similar instrument. Blancpain, which had already won over the American Navy with its Fifty Fathoms diver’s watch, drew inspiration from it to develop a chronograph for the United States Air Force. This timepiece was offered to American military pilots through the distributor Allen V. Tornek, for whom Blancpain is thought to have created a dozen watches.
Renowned as the most sought-after military chronographs of the late 1950s, Blancpain reproposes this historical model with a limited edition in vintage style faithful to the original. In keeping with its forerunner, it is equipped with a ratcheted “countdown” two-way rotating steel bezel with ceramic insert. Once set before flight, this feature enables instantaneous reading of the exact time when the fuel reserve is no longer sufficient for the plane to continue its trajectory. The time scale of the bezel, as well as the dial hour-markers and hands, are made of “old radium” type Super-LumiNova, reproducing the orange hue of the original chronograph indications. The model bears a 30-minute totaliser at 3 o’clock and a 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock, while a tachymeter scale running around the chapter ring indicates speedsbased on a 1000-metre distance.
In order to enhance the readability of the information and accentuate the nature of this watch, Blancpain has improved the dial opening compared to the original model. On the back of the 42,5 mm steel case is possible to admire the automatic movement with 50 hours of power reserve and the propeller-shapedred gold oscillating weight.
The new Blancpain Air Command is powered by the F388B movement, whose frequency of 5 Hz allows each second to be divided into tenth-of-a-second intervals. This high frequency ensures greater accuracy, especially when timing events. Another advantage of the F388B movement is a vertical clutch that provides the chronograph seconds hand with a smooth start, as well as optimally seamless stop and start functions. It has a column-wheel system, which remains the exclusive preserve of high-end chronographs, particularly because it gives a velvety feel when starting or finishing a measurement and returning the hands to zero. The flyback function enables instantaneous zero-resettingand restarting.
The Blancpain Air Command is a limited edition of 500 pieces and is combined with a patinated calf leather strap. (Price CHF.18.500)