Blancpain reissues the mythical Air Command in a limited run of 500 pieces that remains true to the original.
The Air Command
On a fateful Sunday, the 28th of April 2019 to be exact, while we were at the Phillips Watches Hong Kong May sales preview in Singapore, the auction house’s Head of Watches in Asia, Thomas Perazzi pointed out to a rather unusual chronograph from inside the showcases.
Lot 814, as it would seem, looked much like a Fifty Fathoms with chronograph pushers. The story as it is known, is that following the success of the Fifty Fathoms as a dive watch with the American Navy, Blancpain sought to provide a timepiece suitable for the Air Force in the late 1950s.
The watch that was therefore created took all of its DNA from the Fifty Fathoms and had the added advantage of a flyback chronograph. This experimental watch was provided to the Air Force pilots through Blancpain’s distributor in the US, Allen V. Tornek but it was never quite adopted for use. Further down a year or so, a version of the watch with a slightly different dial was offered to the Columbian army and here, it’s said that no more than a dozen were produced.
Needless to say, this rare object of horology has long been a point of fascination for lovers of the Fifty Fathoms and a grail quest of the highest order, given the air of mystery that hangs over the watch. Lot 814 at the coming Phillips & Blackbird: Sports sale in Hong Kong, is this very watch: The Air Command.
If, however, you’re not the sort with the patience and perseverance to chase an elusive timepiece, fear not, Blancpain has you covered. In 2019, the brand will be issuing the Air Command in a very special recreation of just 500 exclusive pieces.
Keeping to the original, the 2019 reissue is 42.5mm in steel with a steel bi-directional bezel fitted with a ceramic insert. Numerals and markers on the bezel are filled with Super-LumiNova, as are the Arabic numeral hour markers as well as the hour, minute and the tip of the chrono seconds hand.
All in all, a super strong introduction from Blancpain that stays true to a timepiece from deep, deep within its unique military history.
Self-winding caliber F388B; hours and minutes; flyback chronograph with centre seconds and 30-minute and 12-hour totalizer; 50-hour power reserve
42.5mm stainless steel; steel bi-directional bezel with ceramic insert; water resistant to 30m
Patinated calf leather strap with pin buckle
Limited series of 500 pieces
Fifty Fathoms Barakuda
The Air Command isn’t the only reissue that Blancpain is announcing this year. In the wake of the success of the Fifty Fathoms with elite military forces in the 1950s, the following decade saw special forces from many other countries seek out the watch for their own use. Particularly, the German Bundesmarine obtained the Fifty Fathoms for their service personnel thanks to a local company focused on production and marketing of technical diving equipment called, Barakuda.
Barakuda used the opportunity to introduce a civilian version of the dive watch at the same time that had these very distinct two-tone hour plots. It had luminescent hands and a date display at 3 o’clock.
That very same watch is now being reissued in a limited edition of 500 pieces. Made in stainless steel the 40mm timepiece will have the same block, two-tone hour plots and the unidirectional bezel.
Self-winding caliber 1151; hour, minutes and center running seconds; date; 100-hour power reserve
40mm stainless steel; water resistant to 300m
Tropical rubber strap
Limited series of 500 pieces
Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de Combat
In tribute to a long-standing relationship with the French Combat Swimmers unit, Blancpain has announced the Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de Combat.
Created in the typical 45mm steel Fifty Fathoms case, the watch features two symbolic additions as a nod to the partnership it celebrates. First, with the French army’s blessings, Blancpain has engraved the Combat Diver Qualification Badge on the caseback. Next, the dial of the watch has the number “7” printed at 6 o’clock, signifying the seven-meter depth that combat divers are able to dive using pure oxygen. It is known that diving beyond this depth using pure oxygen causes it to become poisonous for breathing.
Self-winding caliber 1315; hours, minutes and center second; 120-hour power reserve
45mm stainless steel; water resistant to 300m
Rubber lined fabric strap
Fifty Fathoms Automatique
The fundamental Fifty Fathoms is also receiving two non-limited additions this year.
First, we have the satin brushed 18k rose gold version featuring a blue sun burst dial in ceramic. The unidirectional bezel on this one is in sapphire with luminescent markings.
The second version is in titanium with likewise the sapphire unidirectional bezel.
Both pieces are powered by the ever-familiar self-winding caliber 1315 with 120-hour power reserve.
Self-winding caliber 1315; hours, minutes and center seconds; 120-hour power reserve
45mm 18k rose gold or titanium; water resistant to 300m